Brazil, Buoyed by Oil and Agriculture, Becomes a Global Power

Once a chronic debtor, the South American giant finds its groove under Lula, its charismatic president.

Under President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil's economy is booming, including construction in vibrant São Paulo.

Under President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil's economy is booming, including construction in vibrant São Paulo.

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Lula says he aspires to lead only his own country. Brazilian officials are intent on avoiding moves that stir up populist rabble-rousing against Brazil by neighbors. Such tendencies have flared at times in Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, and even Argentina. The lesson officials here take away: The neighborhood big guy needs to tread lightly. Brazil, they say, should stick with peaceable soft power.

And yet, the ever cautious Brazilians are finally permitting themselves some optimism, thinking their time may be at hand. Quips Fleischer of the University of Brasilia, "It's no longer the country of the day after tomorrow but maybe of tomorrow—or later tonight."