RIO DE JANEIRO, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Brazil's president waxed emphatically Tuesday that the 21st century belonged to South America's largest country, a claim that seems more hyperbole than reality considering how far Brazil has to go before even garnering first-world status.
In a ceremony reconvening the Supreme Federal Tribunal -- Brazil's highest court -- Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva extolled the virtues of the nation, saying it had "become more just for its people," a reference to the judicial reforms past by the Senate in November 2004.
After 13 years of debate, lawmakers passed a constitutional amendment making the judiciary subject to the scrutiny of external controls in the form of the newly created National Council of Justice.
President Lula said improving the efficacy of the judiciary -- along with a robust economy and other reforms -- would contribute to Brazil's ascension to the ranks of the world's elite nations.
"Just as the 19th century was Europe's time and the 20th century belonged to the United States, the 21st century will belong to Brazil," said the president.
"The year 2004 was marked by the approval of a constitutional amendment," he added. "Now we are working hard so that 2005 is recognized as the year we implement the reform."
Lula has other proposed reforms lined up for this year, including a desire to standardize Brazil's tax guidelines, which vary state-to-state. Another is labor reform, a move that would give unions greater negotiating power. Then the Congress still needs to vote on 14 separate points to the judicial reform, which some consider more important than the creation of the justice council.
All could prove difficult to pass given the president's recent political woes amounting to the loss of much needed allies.
The president and his ruling Workers' Party, or PT, lost a handful of coalition partners who expressed dismay with the administration, saying it had gotten away from its leftist roots and was more interested in appealing to big business interests.
Coalitions are particularly important in Brazilian politics, as there are more than 20 parties active in the Congress making alliances necessary to pass just about any piece of legislation. Since assuming office in January 2003, Lula has cobbled together parties from the left and right to form a coalition that hovers near the middle of the political spectrum.
More recently Lula has been beset by dissension within the ranks of the PT itself. The party is fractured into two camps over the upcoming appointing of a new leader in the lower house of Congress.
Lula and his backers have officially endorsed Federal Deputy Luiz Eduardo Greenhalgh to take the reins following the Feb. 14 vote. But members of the PT who consider themselves true to the party's far-left roots have their own possible candidate for congressional president, Sao Paulo Federal Deputy Virgilio Guimaraes.
Then there is the ever-nagging issue of agrarian reform and Brazil's activist who demand Lula do something to improve the lot of the landless.
According to Brazil's largest agrarian reform group, the Landless Workers Movement, or MST, 1 percent of Brazil's population owns half the country's private lands.
The MST had hoped Lula would make good on promises to distribute underutilized land to those who have none, but have apparently grown weary of waiting and have declared they would begin a new round of protests in the form of mass land seizures. The president has made some headway in recent months in terms of doling out land, just not enough to the MST's liking.
Spats, land grabs and fracturing coalitions could hamper Lula's ability to implement reform and climb higher among the ranks of the world superpowers.
But Lula appears to be banking on Brazil's recent economic turnaround following a dismal 2003 when the economy shrank by 0.2 percent. In 2004, record exports and a stronger currency resulted in 5.3 percent growth for the Brazilian economy, the best in a decade.
The numbers appear to have emboldened Lula to make proclamations like the one he made Tuesday and forget about the hurdles Brazil must still overcome before being considered a major player in the 21st century.
Some see his boasting as a rallying cry rather than a flat-out prediction that Brazil's time has finally come, that it might finally put to the rest to old axiom that "Brazil is the country of the future and always will be."
"This is something he says to appeal to Brazilians ... little bit of populist discourse while setting Brazil on a new path," said political analyst Christopher Garman with the Tendencias Consulting Group.
Whether it be simply rhetoric or reality remains to be seen though Lula seems certain that Brazil's ready to prove it's the latter.