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Brazil's Lula takes center stage in Latin America

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Chris Kraul and Patrick J. Mcdonnell report from São Paulo on the growing popularity of Brazil's President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

"Buoyed by a robust economy and his ability to work with leaders across the ideological spectrum, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has emerged as the chief power broker and mediator in South America.

"Lula's rise has paralleled the decline of U.S. influence in its 'backyard,' analysts say, a result in part of Washington's plummeting global prestige and the Bush administration's unremitting focus on the Middle East.

"A moderate with an unassailable leftist background, Lula has become the point man for healing regional crises such as the current turmoil in Bolivia and the recent escalation of tensions among Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador."

Click here for more about Brazil.

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City

Photo: Brazil's Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, second from the right, with Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, Bolivia's Evo Morales and Ecuador's Rafael Correa at the meeting in which they talked about regional integration in Manaus, Brazil. Credit: Antonio Lacerda / European Pressphoto Agency

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