By Mac Margolis
As Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva prepares to leave office, he still enjoys rock-star status at home and red carpets abroad. Granted, Brazil was poised to rise before Lula's 2002 election. But the former union boss was wise enough to recognize business as an ally rather than an enemy. Under Lula, Brazil morphed from the developing world's chronic underachiever to an emerging-market powerhouse. With a stable economy, clean-burning biofuels, giant new oil fields, a rising middle class, and falling inequality, Brazil today seems to have it all. While some critics now claim glory has gone to Lula's head—citing his recent overtures to demagogues such as Hugo Chávez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad—Lula has remained essentially a pragmatist, savvy enough not to gamble his country's newfound fortunes on a populist adventure. As a result, Brazil has soared on his watch. And in politics, that's all that counts.