Lula in the Shadow of Chávez

To many on Wall Street, the US State Department, and the IMF, the specter of Ché Guevara and past legions of bearded, bandana-wearing commandantés is haunting Latin America. Not without reason. Left-leaning military officers have been on a roll lately. But another ghost haunts the continent: economic ignorance about Latin America in the capitals of the West.

Brazil's new President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was elected with the same great expectations that brought the ex-paratrooper and coup leader Hugo Chávez to power in Venezuela three years ago. But it would be unwise to paint President Lula as a dangerous populist just because his political base resembles that of the wayward Chávez.

President Lula's poorest supporters undoubtedly expect him to transform Brazil from the world's most unequal society into a modern social democracy. His middle-class backers are no less eager to see their living standards grow. But despite these expectations, Lula is unlikely to pursue anything like the chaotic "Bolivarian Revolution" Chávez unleashed.

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