On the up: Changing lives in Brazil

Just over ten years ago I went backpacking in Brazil for a month with some friends. We arrived in Rio de Janeiro, one of the world’s great party towns, at nightfall and found, to our dismay, that we couldn’t get a caipirinha for love nor money. It turned out that we’d landed on the day of the presidential elections and there was a blanket ban on sales of alcohol because the authorities were concerned that violence might erupt if politics mixed with booze.

Eventually we managed to persuade a man running one of the street food outlets on the Copacabana beach to sell us a beer. He told us that the winner of the election would be a man known as Lula. Lula, leader of PT, the worker’s party, went on to become perhaps the most popular president in the history of Brazil, introducing sweeping social reforms designed to lift millions of Brazilians out of poverty.