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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lula Wins Presidency In a Leftist Landslide

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a leftist former factory worker and shoeshine boy, won Brazil's presidential election in a landslide Sunday, riding a wave of popular discontent with unemployment and inequality in Latin America's largest nation.

With 94 percent of the votes counted, the man known universally here as Lula was defeating challenger Jose Serra of the ruling center-right alliance 62 percent to 38 percent.

"We are living a new moment in the history of Brazil,'' Lula said Sunday, his 57th birthday.

"Now we must remain peaceful, because Brazil is facing a difficult situation. We will help put Brazil right again.''

Lula won by promising social reforms for the poor and working people, including food subsidies, more spending on health and education, and an increase in the minimum wage. But he also formed alliances with groups traditionally hostile to his Workers' Party, including business leaders and evangelical Christians.

Those alliances, and a highly sophisticated media campaign, helped guarantee him a huge show of support -- more than 50 million votes.

The victory for the Workers' Party -- an amalgam of activists ranging from Marxists to environmentalists -- is the most important electoral triumph ever for the Latin American left.

"Lula told me the victory wasn't just for us but for a whole generation which fought for democracy in this country,'' Jose Dirceu, president of the Workers' Party, said Sunday after the first results came in. The party helped lead the movement to restore Brazilian democracy in the 1980s after two decades of dictatorship.

"Now we are already thinking about the future,'' Dirceu said.

Among other things, the Workers' Party has said it will push to seek better terms for Brazilian producers in negotiations with the United States over the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Lula has said the proposals amount to an "annexation'' of Brazil by the United States.

"This is a victory that goes even further back than the 20 years of the party's history, to the long wait for justice in this country,'' said Chico Alencar, a congressman-elect from the Workers' Party.

Lula will take charge of a country that has sunk deeper into economic crisis in the past year after almost eight years of modest economic growth. About 11 million Brazilian workers are unemployed.

Lula faces the challenge of trying to meet the demands of the millions of impoverished Brazilians who helped elect him.

"You can't win a presidential election in Brazil with more than 60 percent of the vote without having a massive number of poor people vote for you,'' said Adriano Lopes da Gama, a pollster with the Estado de Minas newspaper in Belo Horizonte.

"What poor people in Brazil want is jobs. And they expect Lula to provide them.''