Oddly Enough

Huge Brazil oil field will bear Lula's name

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - To the list of accolades for Brazil’s wildly popular outgoing President Luiz Inacio da Silva, add the following: one of the country’s biggest new offshore oil fields will bear his name.

State-run oil company Petrobras said Wednesday its Tupi field, one of the crown jewels in Brazil’s so-called subsalt oil fields, would now be known as “Lula.”

The new nomenclature was made possible by a bit of creativity on Petrobras’ part.

The company has traditionally given its oil fields the names of aquatic creatures when they become commercially viable. As it happens, Lula also means “squid” in Portuguese.

“I’m proud,” Lula told reporters. “But it’s not my name -- it’s a (mollusk).”

The former metalworkers’ union leader, who rose to power despite having just an elementary school education, is set to leave office on January 1 with an approval rating of 83 percent. U.S. President Barack Obama bestowed him last year with the title of the “most popular politician on earth.”

During eight years in office, Lula’s stable economic policies helped lift millions of Brazilians out of poverty and made the country a darling among Wall Street investors. His advocacy also helped the country win the right to host the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament and the 2016 Olympics.

Lula’s last year in office, in particular, has become a kind of victory lap. His life story was portrayed in a film which will be Brazil’s submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2011 Academy Awards.

Brazil’s vast deep-water oil reserves have become a new frontier for energy exploration that could turn the South American nation into a major energy exporter.

Experts believe the country may have more than 50 billion barrels of oil buried as much as 7 kilometers (4.4 miles) below the ocean’s surface beneath a thick layer of salt in a region known as the subsalt.

Another subsalt field, Iracema, was renamed on Wednesday as well, to Cernambi -- another mollusk.

Reporting by Inae Riveras and Denise Luna; editing by Jim Marshall