Lula says Obama presidency would be a watershed

SAO PAULO Sun Jun 15, 2008 5:12pm EDT

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SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on Sunday that a Barack Obama presidency would be a watershed moment for the United States, but he stopped short of endorsing the Democratic candidate.

Lula evoked the work of Jose Bento Monteiro Lobato, a famous Brazilian writer in the first half of the 20th century, to stress the significance of an African American becoming president of the United States.

"Monteiro Lobato wrote that one day a woman and a black candidate would run for the presidency of the United States, and that's what is happening with Barack Obama," he said in an interview with the newspaper Jornal do Brasil.

"I think that the American electorate is undergoing a revolution. If Obama wins it will be a huge step forward. It would be one of the biggest events in the last 100 years."

Lula, who became Brazil's first working-class president when he took office in 2003, joked that Obama is already an "indirect comrade" because of the Democratic candidate's ties to Brazil's minister of strategic affairs, Roberto Mangabeira Unger.

Obama took a course taught by Unger when he was a law student at Harvard University. Unger said in a recent interview with Reuters that he considers Obama a friend and that he respects his "moral and intellectual" qualities.

Lula praised Obama for advocating an increase in production of biofuels, one of the Brazilian leader's favorite causes. Brazil is the world's leading exporter of ethanol made from sugar cane.

"What he has already done for Brazil, with regard to renewable fuels, is an important step," he said.

But Lula, who often boasts about his friendship with President George W. Bush, stressed that he was not endorsing Obama over his Republican rival John McCain.

"McCain has also praised Brazil on several occasions," said Lula, adding that he hopes whoever wins the White House in November will adopt a "positive approach" to Latin America.

"The United States needs to stop viewing Latin America with a conspiratorial eye. There is no one left pushing for revolution in Latin America anymore," he said.

(Reporting by Todd Benson)

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