Dilma Vana Rousseff – WOMAN of ACTION™



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Dilma Vana Rousseff

Dilma Vana Rousseff (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈd(ʒ)iwmɐ ˈvɐ̃nɐ ʁuˈsɛfⁱ]} born 14 December 1947) is the 36th and current President of Brazil, in office since January 2011. She is the first woman to hold the office. Previously she was Chief of Staff to the President of Brazil, serving under President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, from 2005 to 2010.

Rousseff_infanciaThe daughter of a Bulgarian entrepreneur, Rousseff was raised in an upper middle class household in Belo Horizonte.

She became a socialist during her youth, and following the 1964 coup d’état joined various left-wing and Marxist urban guerrilla groups that fought against the military dictatorship. Rousseff was captured and jailed between 1970 and 1972 and reportedly tortured.

After her release, Rousseff rebuilt her life in Porto Alegre with Carlos Araújo, who would be her partner for 30 years. Both helped found the Democratic Labour Party (PDT) in Rio Grande do Sul, participating in several of the party’s electoral campaigns. She became the Secretary of the Treasury of the city of Porto Alegre in the Alceu Collares administration, and later the Secretary of Energy of the State of Rio Grande do Sul under both Collares and Olívio Dutra administrations.

In 2000, after an internal dispute in the Dutra cabinet, she left PDT and joined the Workers’ Party (PT).

In 2002, Rousseff joined the committee responsible for the energy policy of presidential candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who after winning the election invited her to become Minister of Energy. In 2005, a political crisis triggered by a corruption scandal led to the resignation of Chief of Staff José Dirceu. Rousseff took over the post, remaining in office until 31 March 2010, when she left in order to run for President. She was elected in a run-off on 31 October 2010. She is the first female elected President of Brazil, in addition to being the first economist to hold the office.

Early life

Childhood and youth

Dilma Vana Rousseff was born in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, on 14 December 1947, to Bulgarian lawyer and entrepreneur Pedro Rousseff (born Pétar Rússеv, Bulgarian: Петър Русев, 1900–1962) and schoolteacher Dilma Jane da Silva.

bulgarien-enHer father was born in Gabrovo, Principality of Bulgaria and was a friend of the Nobel Prize-nominated Bulgarian poet Elisaveta Bagriana. An active member of the Bulgarian Communist Party in the 1920s, Petar Rusev fled political persecution in Bulgaria in 1929, settling in France.

He arrived in Brazil in the 1930s, already widowed (he left behind his son Lyuben, who died in 2007), but soon moved to Buenos Aires. He returned to Brazil several years later, settling in São Paulo, where he succeeded in business. Pétar Rúsev adapted his first name to Portuguese and the last to French.

During a trip to Uberaba, he met Dilma Jane da Silva, a young schoolteacher born in Nova Friburgo, Rio de Janeiro, and raised in Minas Gerais, where her parents were ranchers. The two married and settled in Belo Horizonte, where they had three children: Igor, Dilma Vana, and Zana Lúcia (who died in 1977).

Igor Rousseff, Dilma’s elder brother, is a lawyer.

Pedro Rousseff was a contractor for Mannesmann steel, in addition to building and selling real estate. The family lived in a large house, had three servants, and maintained European habits. The children had a classical education, and both piano and French lessons.

After Pedro defeated the initial resistance of the local community to accept foreigners, the family began to attend traditional clubs and schools.

Education and early political awareness

Dilma Rousseff (center) with her parents and siblings.

rou schoolRousseff was enrolled in preschool at the Colégio Izabela Hendrix and later received primary education at Colégio Nossa Senhora de Sion, a boarding school for girls run by nuns, where the students primarily spoke French with their teachers.

Encouraged by her father, Rousseff acquired an ‘early taste for reading’.

Pedro died in 1962, leaving behind around 15 properties.

In 1964, Rousseff left the conservative Colégio Sion and joined the Central State High School, a co-ed public school where the students would usually make a great stir against the dictatorship established after the military coup.

According to Rousseff, it was in this school that she became aware of the political situation of her country, getting “very subversive” and realizing that “the world was not a place for débutantes.”

In 1967 she joined the Worker’s Politics (Portuguese: Política Operária—POLOP), an organization founded in 1961 as a faction of the Brazilian Socialist Party. Its members soon found themselves divided over the method to be used for the implementation of socialism; while some supported the struggle for the election of a constituent assembly, others preferred the armed struggle.

Rousseff joined the second group, which originated the Command of National Liberation (Portuguese: Comando de Libertação Nacional—COLINA). According to Apolo Heringer, who was the leader of Colina in 1968 and taught Marxism to Rousseff in high school, she chose the armed struggle after reading Revolution inside the Revolution by Régis Debray, a French intellectual who had moved to Cuba and became a friend of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Heringer says that “the book inflamed everybody, including Dilma.”

During that period, Rousseff met Cláudio Galeno Linhares, a brother in arms five years older than her. Galeno, who had joined POLOP 1n 1962, had served in the Army, participating in the uprising of sailors against the military coup, for which he had been arrested in Ilha das Cobras. They married in 1968 in a civil ceremony, after dating for one year.

Guerrilla activity

Dilma Rousseff during an interview.

Rousseff participated in the militant activities of the Comando de Libertação Nacional—COLINA (English: National Liberation Command) and advocated Marxist politics among labour union members and as editor of the newspaper The Piquet. Dilma’s role in this organization is unclear. According to the magazine Piauí, she handled weapons. This is, however, contested by most of the Brazilian media. She probably was engaged only in “organization tasks”.

rou Dilma_(2009)In early 1969, the Minas Gerais branch of Colina was limited to a dozen militants, with little money and few weapons. Its activities had boiled down to four bank robberies, some stolen cars and two bombings, with no casualties. On 14 January, however, after the arrest of some militants during a bank robbery, the rest of them gathered to debate what they would do in order to release them from jail. At dawn, the police invaded the group’s house and the militants responded by using a machine gun, which killed two policemen and wounded another.

Rousseff and Galeno then began to sleep each night in a different location, since their apartment was visited by one of the leaders of the organization that had been arrested. They had to go back to their home secretly in order to destroy the organization’s documents. On March 1969, the apartment was invaded by the police, but no documents were found. They stayed in Belo Horizonte for a few more weeks trying to reorganize what was left of Colina, but had to avoid their parents’ houses, aware that they were being watched by the military (Rousseff’s family had no knowledge of her participation in underground activities).

In addition to that, Galeno had to undergo facial plastic surgery or a similar procedure (although he denies this) after a sketch of him was released for participating in a bank robbery. Unable to remain in the city, the organization ordered them to move to Rio de Janeiro. Rousseff was 21 and had just finished her fourth semester at the Minas Gerais Federal University School of Economics.

There were a large number of people from Minas Gerais in the Rio de Janeiro faction of Colina (including former Belo Horizonte mayor Fernando Pimentel, 18 years old at the time), with the organization having no infrastructure to shelter all of them. Rousseff and Galeno stayed for a brief period in the home of one of Rousseff’s aunts, who thought that they were in Rio on vacation. Later they moved to a small hotel and then to an apartment, until Galeno was sent by the organization to Porto Alegre. Rousseff remained in Rio, where she helped the organization, attending meetings and transporting weapons and money, according to the magazine Piauí. At one of these meetings, she met the Rio Grande do Sul-born lawyer Carlos Franklin Paixão de Araújo, who was then 31 years old; they developed a sudden attraction to one another. Araújo was head of a dissident group of the Brazilian Communist Party (Portuguese: Partido Comunista Brasileiro—PCB) and sheltered Galeno in Porto Alegre. The breakup with Galeno was peaceful.

As Galeno said, “in that difficult situation, we had no prospect of being a regular couple.”

Araújo was the son of a prominent labor defense lawyer and had joined the PCB early. He had traveled through Latin America (having met Castro and Che Guevara) and had been imprisoned for several months in 1964. He joined the armed struggle after the issue of AI-5 by the dictatorship in 1968. On early 1969, he began to discuss the merger of his group with Colina and Popular Revolutionary Vanguard (Portuguese: Vanguarda Popular Revolucionária—VPR), led by Carlos Lamarca.

Rousseff attended some meetings about the merger, which was formalized in two conferences in Mongaguá, leading to the creation of Revolutionary Armed Vanguard Palmares (Portuguese: Vanguarda Armada Revolucionária Palmares—VAR Palmares). Rousseff and Araújo attended these conferences, as well as Lamarca, who thought that Rousseff was a “stuck-up intellectual.”

His perception was based on her defense of a revolution through the political engagement of the working class, in opposition to VPR’s military-based sense of revolution. VAR Palmar. 

We fought and participated in a dream to build a better Brazil, we learned a lot. We did a lot of nonsense, but that is not what characterizes us. What characterizes us is to have dared to want a better country. ” — Dilma Rousseff, in a 2005 interview with Folha de S. Paulo

Carlos Minc, who was also a VAR Palmares militant, denied Rousseff’s role as head of the clandestine organization.

Rousseff, in a 2005 interview with Folha de S. PauloCarlos Araújo was chosen as one of the six leaders of VAR Palmares, which claimed to be a “political-military organization of Marxist-Leninist partisan orientation which aims to fulfill the tasks of the revolutionary war and the establishment of the working class party, in order to seize power and build socialism.”

According to Maurício Lopes Lima, a former member of the Operação Bandeirantes (OBAN) search force (a structure which included the intelligence and torture services of the Armed Forces), Rousseff was the main leader of VAR Palmares.

According to him, he received reports defining her as “one of the brains” of the revolutionary schemes. Police commissioner Newton Fernandes, who investigated the clandestine organization in São Paulo and drew the profile of dozens of their members, said that Rousseff was one of the principal masterminds of the revolutionary schemes.

The attorney which prosecuted the organization called her “Joan of Arc of subversion,” saying that she led strikes and advised bank robberies. She was also dubbed as “the she-pope of subversion,” “political criminal,” and “female figure of sadly notable aspect.”

Rousseff ridicules such comparison, stating that she does not even remember many of the actions attributed to her. According to her former comrade and current colleague, Environment Minister Carlos Minc, her role in the group was sensationalized.

“Because she is a very important person, they’ll say anything about her.”

Rousseff has sometimes been described as the mastermind of the theft of a safe belonging to former governor of São Paulo, Ademar de Barros. The action was carried out on 18 June 1969, in Rio de Janeiro, and netted 2.5 million U.S. dollars. It became the most spectacular and profitable action of the armed struggle.Carlos Minc has denied the participation of Rousseff in the event, saying that the widespread version that she was the leader of the organization is rather exaggerated, since she was merely a member of no distinction. On at least three different occasions Rousseff herself also denied participating in the event. Testimonials and police reports indicated that Rousseff was responsible for managing the money from the robbery, paying the salaries of the militants, finding a shelter for the group, and buying a Volkswagen Beetle. Rousseff only remembers purchasing the car, and doubts that she was the one responsible for managing the money.

Os Carbonários, deskIn 1969, VAR Palmares allegedly planned the kidnapping of Antônio Delfim Netto, a symbol of the “Brazilian Miracle” and the most powerful civilian in the federal government at the time. This would have been carried out in December according to the book Os Carbonários, written by Alfredo Sirkis in 1981.

Antonio Roberto Espinosa, former head of both VPR and VAR Palmares, was reported to have said that Rousseff was one of the five members of the organization’s leadership aware of it. The kidnapping did not take place because the members of the organization were captured just weeks before. Rousseff emphatically denies that she was aware of the plan and doubts that anyone involved really remembers much about it. She also said that Espinosa fantasized about the event.

After learning about the quotes that were being attributed to him, Espinosa denied stating that Rousseff knew about the plan, which was vague in any case. He said that Rousseff never participated or planned any paramilitary actions; her role was only political.

Even with large amounts of money, the organization failed to maintain its unity. At a conference held in Teresópolis between August and September 1969, there was a major dispute among those who supported the armed struggle and who advocated working with the masses. Rousseff was in the second group. While the first group split into the paramilitary VPR, led by Lamarca, the second (including Rousseff) continued as VAR Palmares. There was a dispute over the money and weapons.

After the split, Rousseff was sent to São Paulo, where she was in charge of keeping her group’s weapons safe. She avoided the risk of keeping them in apartments by moving with a friend (Maria Celeste Martins, who would become her Chief of Staff assistant decades later) to a simple boarding house in the eastern zone of the city, where they hid the weapons under their beds.


Gateway of Tiradentes Prison in São Paulo city, where Rousseff was arrested during the military dictatorship.

rou _Dilma_DV_20100930183627José Olavo Leite Ribeiro, who met three times a week with Rousseff, was captured by the military. As Ribeiro reported, after a day of torture, he revealed the place where he would meet with another militant, in a bar on Rua Augusta in São Paulo.

On 16 January 1970, he was forced to go to the bar accompanied by undercover policemen, where his colleague was captured and, when they were preparing to leave, Rousseff unexpectedly arrived. Realizing that something was wrong, Rousseff tried to leave the place without being noticed.

The officers suspected Rousseff and searched her, discovering that she was armed. “If it was not for the gun, it is possible that she could have escaped,” says Ribeiro.

Rousseff was considered a big enough catch that a military prosecutor labeled her the “Joan of Arc” of the guerrilla movement.

Rousseff was taken to the OBAN headquarters, the same place where Vladimir Herzog would be tortured and killed five years later. She was allegedly tortured for 22 days by punching, ferule, and electric shock devices. As Maria Luisa Belloque, a cellmate, said “Dilma was shocked even with car wiring.” Some ex-military officers have dismissed Rousseff’s account, saying that she could not have survived that extent of torture.

Later, Rousseff denounced the torture she suffered in court proceedings, citing even the names of those who tortured her, such as Army Captain Benoni de Arruda Albernaz, mentioned by several other witnesses. Although she revealed the locations of some militants during torture interrogation, Rousseff managed to preserve the identities of Carlos Araújo (who would be arrested several months later) and Maria Celeste Martins. Rousseff’s name was on a list found at Carlos Lamarca’s home, on a list of the prisoners who would get priority in exchange for hostages, but she was never exchanged and served out her sentence.

Carlos Araújo was arrested on 12 August 1970. After Rousseff was captured, he had an affair with actress and fellow militant Bete Mendes. After his arrest, he met Rousseff on some occasions, during displacements regarding the military lawsuits both being prosecuted for. They were even a few months in the same prison in São Paulo, where during conjugal visits they reconciled, planning to resume married life after being released from jail. Rousseff was convicted in the first instance to six years in prison. She had already served three years when the Supreme Military Court reduced her sentence to two years and a month.

She also had her political rights suspended for eighteen years.

In December 2006, the Special Commission for Reparation of the Human Rights Office for the State of Rio de Janeiro approved a request for indemnification by Rousseff and eighteen other prisoners in law enforcement agencies of the São Paulo state government in the 1970s. In her request, a pivotal witness was Vânia Abrantes, who was in the same police car that transferred her from São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro (Vânia was Araújo’s girlfriend when he and Rousseff began to date).

Rousseff also requested compensation in the states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais, since she was arrested in São Paulo but taken for interrogation in the cities of Juiz de Fora and Rio de Janeiro. She also seeks indemnification from the federal government. The total compensation figure paid to victims of political persecution may be up to 72,000 reais. However, as her advisors have declared, the indemnification has a symbolic value to her, and Rousseff demanded the requests to be tried only after her departure from public office.

On 5 April 2009, Folha de S. Paulo published, on its front page, an alleged criminal record of Rousseff containing notes about various crimes allegedly committed by her. The document would have been part of the file of the Department of Political and Social Order (Portuguese: Departamento de Ordem Política e Social—DOPS), the military regime’s political police. Rousseff questioned the veracity of the file, claiming that it was a forged document, which led the newspaper to declare that it had not obtained the document from DOPS’ file, but rather via e-mail and, thus, could not guarantee its veracity. The record can be found on a far right-wing website which supports the regime.

Life in Porto Alegre

Dilma Rousseff in Porto Alegre

Rousseff left jail at the end of 1972.

Rosseff_security_fileShe was twenty pounds thinner and had acquired a thyroid disease.

She spent some time with her family in Minas Gerais in order to recover, visited an aunt in São Paulo, and then moved to Porto Alegre, where Carlos Araújo was finishing the last months of his sentence. She stayed in her in-laws’ house, from where they could see the prison where Araújo was.

Rousseff frequently visited her partner, giving him newspapers and political books disguised as novels. The Presídio da Ilha das Pedras Brancas was deactivated, and Araújo fulfilled the remainder of his sentence in the Presídio Central. The prominent lawyer, Afrânio Araújo, Carlos’ father, died in June 1974, prompting his friends to pressure the regime for the release of Carlos, which happened just a week later.

Punished for subversion in accordance with the decree number 477, considered the AI-5 of universities, Rousseff was expelled from the Minas Gerais Federal University and barred from resuming her studies at that university in 1973. She decided to attend a preparatory course in order to take the vestibular test for Economics at the Rio Grande do Sul Federal University. She was admitted in the university and graduated in 1977, this time not participating actively in the students’ movement. The year before, in March, she gave birth to her only child, daughter Paula Rousseff Araújo. After graduation, she got her first paid job after serving her prison sentence as an intern at the Foundation of Economics and Statistics (Portuguese: Fundação de Economia e Estatística—FEE), an organization linked to the government of Rio Grande do Sul.

Her political activism, this time within the law, was resumed at the Institute of Social and Political Studies (Portuguese: Instituto de Estudos Políticos e Sociais—IEPES) linked to the only legalized opposition party, the Democratic Movement (MDB). Even though she was not affiliated with the party, Rousseff organized debates at the institute, which received lectures from scholars such as Francisco de Oliveira, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and Francisco Weffort.

In 1976, Rousseff and Araújo worked in the campaign of Glênio Peres, a MDB candidate for the city council. Although elected, Peres’ term was revoked for denouncing the regime’s torture in a speech.

carlos araujo lIn November 1977, Rousseff was reported by the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo as one of the 97 “subversives” infiltrated in the public administration. The list was made by resigned Army Minister, Silvio Frota, who had summarized the political background of those he listed.

Rousseff, characterized as a Colina and VAR Palmares militant “cohabitating with the subversive Carlos Araújo,” was discharged from her job at the FEE, being pardoned later.

In 1978, Rousseff attended the Campinas State University, with the intention of receiving a master’s degree in Economics. At that time, she began attending a discussion group formed by other VAR Palmares former members, such as Rui Falcão, Antonio Roberto Espinosa, and eventually Carlos Araújo. Meeting once every three months, the group lasted a couple of years. They would read the works of Karl Marx, Nicos Poulantzas, and Louis Althusser, discussing what would be the right moment to resume their political activity.

Rousseff declared that she “attended the master’s degree program,” but did not finish it, failing to present her thesis. “That’s why I returned to university to pursue a doctorate. And then I became minister and did not finish the doctorate”, she said. Her academic credentials have been the subject of controversy as her official biography listed these master’s and doctoral degrees that she had never earned. She was, however, twice enrolled in the graduate program in economics at the State University of Campinas, without ever fulfilling the requirements for those degrees.

Later life

Dilma Rousseff with Lula during the 2010 presidential campaign.

Rousseff has been married twice.

In 1968 she married journalist Cláudio Galeno de Magalhães Linhares, who introduced 20-year-old Rousseff to the underground resistance movement against the dictatorship.

In the early 1970s, Rousseff separated from Galeno and started dating Carlos Franklin Paixão de Araújo, her common-law husband for almost thirty years, with whom she had her only child, a daughter named Paula Rousseff de Araújo in 1976. The couple separated in 1994, after Rousseff discovered that another woman was pregnant with Araújo’s son, and later resumed their relationship, finally divorcing him in 2000.

Detained in São Paulo, Araújo was sent to his home state of Rio Grande do Sul to finish his sentence. After she moved to Porto Alegre to resume her life with him, Rousseff became a teacher at the prison in order to see him. This work was unpaid.

Rousseff used the last name Linhares upon her marriage to Cláudio Galeno in 1967. The couple separated in their underground years, and an amicable divorce took place in 1981, when she was romantically involved with Araújo. Rousseff, however, continued to use the surname of her first husband until 1999, when she resumed using her maiden name, Dilma Vana Rousseff.

According to Rousseff, she enjoys history and is interested in opera.

In the early 1990s, she enrolled in a course in Greek theater taught by playwright Ivo Bender. Greek mythology then became an obsession for her, and, influenced by Penelope, she decided to learn how to embroider. Her favorite actress is Fernanda Montenegro. Her website claims she is an avid reader, citing Machado de Assis, Guimarães Rosa, Cecília Meireles, and Adélia Prado as her favorite authors.

Paula Rousseff

Paula Rousseff,Paula Rousseff, born on 27 March 1976, in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, is the only daughter of Dilma Rousseff and her former husband, Carlos Araújo.

Paula is a law graduate and holds the office of Labor Prosecutor in Porto Alegre.

Paula Rousseff, married business administrator Rafael Covolo, three years her junior, in Porto Alegre on 18 April 2008.

Gabriel Rousseff Covolo baptismOn 9 September 2010, Paula Rousseff, gave birth to Rousseff’s first grandchild, a boy named Gabriel Rousseff Covolo in the city of Porto Alegre, during the 2010 presidential campaign of her mother.

After the last debate with four other candidates, on 30 September 2010, in the city of Rio de Janeiro, which was aired on national TV, Rousseff flew to Porto Alegre for the christening of Gabriel in the Roman Catholic Cathedral on 1 October 2010.

Health issues

At a press conference on 25 April 2009, Rousseff revealed that she was undergoing treatment to remove an early-stage axillar lymphoma, a cancer in the lymphatic system, which was detected in her left armpit during a routine mammogram.

It was diagnosed as a diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, an intermediate grade type, but her chances of being cured were up to 90%. She was submitted to curative chemotherapy treatment for four months.

Lymphoma-1Non-Hodgkin-In mid-May 2009, she was hospitalized in the Hospital Sírio Libanês in São Paulo, with severe pains in her legs.

The diagnosis was a myopathy, a muscle inflammation resulting from the cancer treatment. In early September that same year, she revealed she had completed her radiotherapy treatment, claiming to be cured, which was later confirmed by her doctors.

She began to wear a wig due to hair loss caused by the chemotherapy.

After seven months of wearing a wig, Rousseff wore her natural dark brown hair at the launch of the 3rd Human Rights Program on 21 December 2009. She had announced in November that she would be retiring her wig as soon as her hair became more even. According to her, it was still “full of holes,” the reason why she “couldn’t take [the wig] off there in Copenhagen, Denmark.”

She first publicly admitted of wearing a wig back in May, when she jokingly referred to it as a “basic little wig.”

Political positions

Although Rousseff states that her political thinking has evolved drastically – from Marxism to pragmatic capitalism — she remains proud of her radical roots.

Rousseff is pro-life, supporting abortion only for pregnancies which endangers the life of the mother or are the result of rape, cases in which the current Brazilian legislation allows women to terminate their pregnancies.

Her present pro-life views have been criticized by sectors of the Roman Catholic Church in Brazil and other religious groups, due to her past support for the legalization of abortion. It was also a main target of criticism by José Serra’s campaign as well as conservative newsmagazine Veja, which emphasized Rousseff’s past and current positions on its cover.

When asked about the criminal prosecution against Flamengo goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes de Souza, accused of killing his former girlfriend Eliza Samudio, Rousseff said that she opposes the death penalty. According to her, “if it was effective, there would not be such crimes in the United States.”

Rousseff opposes gay marriage, but supports same-sex civil union. She said that “marriage is a religious issue. I, as an individual, would never say what a religion should do or not. We have to respect them.” About same-sex civil union, Rousseff said that “basic civil rights should be recognized in a civil manner.” She also opposes the legalization of illegal drugs, stating that “Brazil today is unable to propose the decriminalization of any drug.”

rou workers parryAs a member of the Workers’ Party, a social-democratic party which opposes Third Way politics, Rousseff was expected to be against privatization and neo-liberalism. The Nation, as an example of this thought, described Rousseff’s victory as a defeat for the Washington Consensus.

Rousseff, however, has an ambiguous position on issues that involve privatization. She is, for instance, “favorable to grant to private enterprise the construction of new power plants and roads, when it is cheaper to do them through grants than through public works.” Additionally, she favored the privatization of airports in order to prepare Brazil’s infra-structure for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

She also pledged to deepen the social welfare network inaugurated by the Lula administration, saying that, under her rule,

“Brazil will continue to grow, with social inclusion and mobility.”

Political career

With the end of the mandatory two-party system, in the early 1980s, Rousseff participated, along with Carlos Araújo, in Leonel Brizola’s efforts for restructuring the Brazilian Labor Party (of social-democratic President João Goulart, overthrown by the 1964 coup). After the Supreme Electoral Court gave the name registry to the group linked to Ivete Vargas (Getúlio Vargas’ niece), Rousseff and the group linked to Brizola founded the Democratic Labour Party (Portuguese: Partido Democrático Trabalhista—PDT). Araújo was elected state deputy three times for this party, in 1982, 1986, and 1990. He was also the party’s candidate for Porto Alegre mayor twice, losing to Workers’ Party members Olívio Dutra in 1988, and Tarso Genro in 1992. Rousseff got her second job in the mid-1980s as an adviser for the PDT members of the Rio Grande do Sul Legislative Assembly.

Municipal Secretary of Treasury

Rousseff and Araújo devoted themselves to Alceu Collares’ campaign for mayor of Porto Alegre in 1985. Much of his campaign and government plan was prepared at their home. After elected, Collares appointed Rousseff as the Municipal Secretary of Treasury; this was her first job in the Executive branch.

rou 220px-Dilma-julho2010According to Collares, Araújo influenced him on Rousseff’s appointment, but her competence also contributed on his choice.

In the gubernatorial campaign of fellow PDT member Aldo Pinto in 1986, Rousseff had an advising role. Pinto’s running mate was Nelson Marchezan, one of the most prominent civilians during the Brazilian military government. They would be defeated by the PMDB candidate Pedro Simon.

Twenty years later, in an interview, Rousseff attempted to justify the controversial alliance: “Marchezan was a leader of the dictatorship, but he was never an enraged (French: Enragé). The Marchezan wing was the wing of the radicalized small (rural) owners. And he was an ethical guy.”

Rousseff remained as Treasury Secretary until 1988, when she stepped out to dedicate herself in Araújo’s campaign for mayor of Porto Alegre. She was replaced by Políbio Braga, which says that Rousseff persuaded him not to take office. She would have said that she could “not control these crazy people” and that she was leaving “before it taints my biography.”

While Collares remembers Rousseff as an example of competence and public transparency, Braga disagrees, stating that “she did not even leave us a single report, and the Treasury Secretary was a chaos.”

Araújo’s defeat jettisoned the PDT of the local executive branch. In 1989, however, Rousseff was appointed director-general of the City Council, but was dismissed by councilman Valdir Fraga, president of the local legislature, after arriving late for work. As Fraga later said, “I dismissed her because she had a problem with the clock.”

State Secretary of Energy

In 1990, Alceu Collares was elected Governor, appointing Rousseff as president of the FEE, where she had been an intern in the 1970s. She remained in office until the end of 1993, when she was appointed Secretary of Energy and Communication through the influence of Carlos Araújo and his group. She remained in office until the end of 1994, the same time when her relationship with Araújo had ended, shaken by the discovery that another woman was pregnant with his child, Rodrigo (born in 1995). They later reconciled and remained together until 2000, when Rousseff moved alone to a rented apartment.

Dilma Rousseff

In 1995, after the end of Collares’ term, Rousseff departed from her political office and returned to the FEE, where she was the editor of the magazine Economic Indicators (Portuguese: Indicadores Econômicos).

It was during this break from public offices that she officially enrolled in the Campinas State University PhD program, in 1998. That same year, the Workers’ Party won the Rio Grande do Sul gubernatorial election with the support of PDT in the second round. Once again she was appointed Secretary of Energy, this time by Governor Olívio Dutra.

As he later recalled, “I already knew and respected her. I also appointed her because she was in a more left-leaning stance inside the PDT, less populist.”

During the first year of the Dutra administration, the PDT had gained some high-ranking offices, but Brizola felt that his party had very little space in the government, responsible for a tiny portion of the budget. Unable to get more space inside the administration, PDT members of the government were pressured by the party leadership to step down. The formation of the political alliance for the 2000 Porto Alegre mayoral election was also a cause of friction among the two parties. They ended up launching each own a different candidate; PDT’s was Collares and PT’s was Tarso Genro.

Rousseff defended the maintenance of the alliance which had elected Dutra, supporting Genro’s candidacy, and claiming she would not accept “neoliberal alliances with the right-wing“. Her critics said that she was being hypocritical, once she defended an alliance with Marchezan in the 1986 election. Genro defeated Collares in the second round and Rousseff, among other fellow PDT members, joined the Workers’ Party. Brizola accused them of being traitors.

During Rousseff’s management of the Secretariat of Energy in the Dutra administration, the service capacity of the electricity sector rose by 46%. due to an emergency program attended by state and private companies. In January 1999, Rousseff traveled to Brasília in order to alert the Fernando Henrique Cardoso administration that if the authorities responsible for the power sector did not invest in generation and transmission of energy, the power cuts that Rio Grande do Sul faced early in her administration would take place in the rest of the country.

Therefore, the electricity crisis at the end of the Fernando Henrique Cardoso administration affected millions of Brazilians, with the exception of those from the three southern states, where a rationing was not imposed, as there was no drought. There was, however, a voluntary energy saving, and Rousseff tried to obtain compensation from the federal government, as it was granted to other regions. The federal government did not grant it, though, and Rousseff had to compromise with the private sector.

According to Pedro Parente, Chief of Staff during the Cardoso administration, “she was pragmatic, objective and showed that she had a fluid dialogue with the business sector.”

Minister of Energy

Dilma Rousseff in Brasília.

The issues related to the area of energy on the government plan of candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva were discussed in meetings coordinated by physicist and nuclear engineer Luiz Pinguelli Rosa. Another highlighted member of the group was Ildo Sauer. Both of them were completely opposed to the privatization of the sector, which was, in their opinion, responsible for the energy problems that the country was facing.

Pinguelli invited Rousseff to join the group meetings in June 2001, where she arrived as a shy participant in a team formed by several professors, but soon stood out with her objectivity and good knowledge of the area. However, it was clear for everyone in the group that Pinguelli would become the Minister of Energy if Lula won the election.

It was a great surprise for everyone that, after elected, Lula chose Rousseff as the incumbent Minister.

The President elect declared: “Already near 2002, it appears there a comrade with a little computer in her hand. We started debating and I realized she had a differential characteristic from the others who were there, because she came in with the practicality of the assignment of running the Secretary of Energy of Rio Grande do Sul. Then I was like: I think I found my Minister here.”

dilma-lula2004-rtrinq1Another factor which would have weighed heavily on Lula’s choice was the sympathy that Antonio Palocci had for Rousseff, recognizing that she would have a much easier dialogue with the private sector than Pinguelli, in addition to her support of the Carta aos Brasileiros (English: Letter to the Brazilian People), agreeing with several market friendly changes in the Workers’ Party.

Dutra said he was consulted by Lula, and praised Rousseff’s technical merits while Secretary of Energy during his administration.

“I could have weighted the scale in her favor at that time, but from the transition government forward the merit is all hers,” he recalled.

After her appointment, she became very close to José Dirceu, appointed by Lula as the new Chief of Staff of Brazil.

Her management of the Ministry was marked by the respect of contracts made by the previous administration, by her efforts to prevent further blackouts and by the implementation of an electric model less concentrated in the hands of the state, differently from what Rosa and Sauer desired. Regarding the free market of energy, Rousseff not only kept it as she expanded it as well. José Luiz Alquéres, president of Light S.A., praised the approach taken by Rousseff; according to him, helping the segment as a whole. He criticized, however, the delay in the implementation of the new model, but said that this is the fault of the bureaucratic government machinery. Convinced that urgent investments in power generation were required so that the country would not face a general blackout in 2009, Rousseff entered in a serious clash with then Minister of Environment, Marina Silva, which defended the embargo on several construction sites, concerned with the ecological imbalance that they could cause. Dirceu had to create a team of mediators between the two ministers in order to try to resolve their disputes.

A close friend of Lula, Pinguelli was appointed as president of Eletrobrás, and found himself at odds with Rousseff on several occasions, considering an early resignation once. He was ironic about Rousseff’s alleged mood swings, being quoted as saying that “this lady formats her disk every week.”

Pinguelli eventually left the federal government on 2004.

Mauricio Tolmasquim, a member of the transition government which shared a vision of the energy sector similar to Rousseff’s, was invited by her to be the executive secretary of the ministry. He stated that once they got to know each other better, Rousseff started shouting with him occasionally. “It’s her way. It’s not personal. And in five minutes everything is okay,” he said.

Sauer, who took over the gas and energy department of Petrobras, also clashed with the minister, who repulsed his ideas of a statist model. Sometimes the clashes between them were so serious that Lula’s intervention was necessary. Sauer left the state oil company in 2007. Another one which had disagreements with the minister on energy issues was the former Congressman Luciano Zica. For him, “Dilma is the most democratic person in the world, as long as you agree 100% with her.” He recently left PT and joined the Green Party along with Marina Silva.

After becoming a Minister, Rousseff defended a new industrial policy from the government, ensuring that Petrobras’ platforms had a minimum domestic content, what could generate 30 thousand new jobs in the country. She argued that it was unthinkable that a billion dollar building was not being made in Brazil. The bids for the P-51 and P-52 platforms were then the first in the country to require a minimum domestic content. The requirement was heavily criticized, on the grounds that it would increase the costs of Petrobras, but Rousseff defended the country’s ability to produce ships and platforms, stating that the nationalization rates of the platforms, which varied between 15% and 18% rose to more than 60% after the requirement. Lula acknowledged that, from the perspective of the company, the costs did in fact go higher, but that Petrobras should not only target the immediate costs, but also the strengthening of national science and technologies. In 2008, the shipbuilding industry as a whole employed 40 thousand people, compared to 500 people in the mid-90s, in part because of the nationalization requirement. Brazil now has the 6th largest shipping industry in the world.

Luz para Todos program

Brazil_(orthographic_projection).svgRousseff proposed to accelerate the goals of universalizing the access to electricity, which had a deadline of 2015, suggesting that 1.4 million rural households would get electricity access by 2006. She argued that it was a social inclusion goal that should be a part of Fome Zero, (Zero Hunger) and that it was not possible to assume that such a program would provide a financial return.

During the Fernando Henrique Cardoso administration, a similar program, called Luz no Campo (English: Rural Electrification), was created to encourage agribusiness providing the funding by the recipient.

The goal of the program was to provide electricity to over a million households, but as of early 2003 only half of them had been electrified. According to Rousseff, the results of this program were higher in states where local governments subsidized it for the population. She defended, then, a program heavily subsidized by the federal government, which should not only subsidize, but cover the costs for the universalization of electricity. The subsidy, however, should be for the consumer, and not for the electric companies.

The program was launched in November 2003, under the name Luz para Todos (English: Electricity for All), focused in regions with a low Human Development Index and toward families with total incomes equaling, up to, three times the minimum wage. The goal of the program was to provide electricity for 2.5 million rural households (aproximately 12 million people) by the end of 2008. In October 2008, Rousseff acknowledged that the government would not be able to fulfill its goal in time, leaving 100,000 households behind. In April 2008, the government extended the program until 2010, in order to benefit another 1.17 million families. 49% of the program’s connections are concentrated in the Northeastern region of Brazil, which represented, from January 2005 to May 2008, 37.8% of all new wiring in the region, making the Northeast surpass the Southern region in power consumption for the first time. Despite being initially advertised as being funded by the Federal Government, 90% of its cost is actually paid for by electricity consumers, through several tariffs on energy prices.

Chief of Staff

Dilma Rousseff and Lula meeting Barack Obama in the White House on 14 March 2009, in Washington.

Dilma-e-Obama-259x300As Minister of Energy, Rousseff had the support of two key ministers of the Lula administration: Antonio Palocci and José Dirceu. After Dirceu resigned as Chief of the Presidential Staff due to his involvement in the so-called “Mensalão” scandal, instead of being weakened, Rousseff was chosen by Lula to be the new Chief of Staff.

She took office on 21 June 2005, becoming the first female to assume the position. As a former Energy Minister, she also holds a seat on the board of directors of Petrobras.

According to Gilberto Carvalho, the President’s private secretary, Rousseff caught the attention of Lula for her courage to face difficult situations and for her technical skills. Franklin Martins, another guerrilla fighter-turned-minister, said Lula was very impressed with Rousseff’s management of the Ministry of Energy, where she prevented another blackout.

“Lula realized that she kept things moving,” he said.

By choosing Rousseff, Lula also prevented the political dispute between Palocci and Dirceu to succeed him, while Rousseff did not have such ambition for being a new member of the Workers’ Party, and not belonging to any party faction, she moved about well in all of them. Rousseff said to Carvalho that being appointed as Chief of Staff was a much bigger surprise for her than being appointed as Minister of Energy. In the opinion of Rio Grande do Sul Senator and former Governor Pedro Simon, since Rousseff took office, “seriousness is being imposed” in the Presidential Staff.

After Rousseff took office, the U.S. Consulate General in São Paulo sent a long profile of her to the U.S. Department of State. It detailed several aspects of her life, talking about her past activity in guerrilla organizations, her tastes and habits, and professional characteristics, being described as a prestigious and detailed technician, with the reputation of a workaholic and a great ability to listen, but lacking political tact, turning directly to technicians rather than her superiors.

Presidential campaign

 Brazilian presidential election, 2010

Dilma Rousseff in the Workers’ Party National Convention.

Rousseff_Convenção_2010On 13 June 2010, after more than two years of widespread speculation, Rousseff launched her campaign as the official presidential candidate for the Workers’ Party in the 2010 presidential election.

At that time, former São Paulo State Governor José Serra, candidate for the center-right opposition bloc, had been at the top of the polls for over two years. With promises of maintaining Lula’s popular policies, Rousseff was able to surpass Serra in all the polls by late July. In spite of maintaining a wide margin over him, she did not receive 50% of unspoiled votes in the first round and had to face a run-off against Serra on 31 October, when she was elected with over 56% of the unspoiled votes.

Rousseff’s coalition, For Brazil to keep on changing, was initially formed by nine political parties, which gave her the largest amount of time for advertisement on television. This was the first time that PT got more television time than its main rival, the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB). However, according to electoral law, television time had to be equal on the run-off. Rousseff’s ads were noted for their professionalism and production quality, being rated as the best electoral program by 56% of voters.

Dilma Rousseff with her running mate for the 2010 Brazilian presidential election, Michel Temer.

Rousseff’s candidacy was also supported by notable international figures, such as Puerto Rican actor Benicio del Toro, First Secretary of the French Socialist Party Martine Aubry, and American filmmaker Oliver Stone, who recorded a message on her behalf. Singer Alcione,Portuguese Brazilian economist Maria da Conceição Tavares, and journalist Hildegard Angel (daughter of Zuzu Angel and sister of Stuart Angel) also recorded messages on Rousseff’s behalf. On 15 October, Tom Morello posted a message on his Twitter account supporting her candidacy, seen by him as representing “the poor, the working class and the youth.”

Rousseff gives her first public speech after being elected Brazil’s ‘first female president‘.

rousseff presidentOn 18 October 2010, Brazilian artists and intellectuals held an event in the Oi Casagrande theatre in Leblon, Rio de Janeiro, in order to show their support to Rousseff’s candidacy. Among them were Chico Buarque, Beth Carvalho, Alceu Valença, Elba Ramalho, Emir Sader, Oscar Niemeyer, Leonardo Boff, and Marilena Chaui.

That same day, she received a letter of support by prominent members of the European Green Party, such as Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Dominique Voynet, Monica Frassoni, Philippe Lamberts, Noël Mamère, José Bové, and Yves Cochet. According to the letter, Serra represents “the worst in our society: gender bias, sexism and homophobia, along with the most shady and myopic economic interests.”

Brazilian newspaper Brasil de Fato, as well as magazine CartaCapital both declared support for Rousseff’s candidacy. Rousseff won the Presidency by an approximate margin of 56% to 44%, and took office on 1 January 2011, as the first woman president of the country. She became the third female head of government ever in the history of Brazil, and the first de facto female head of state since the death of Maria I, Queen of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves in 1816.

During her presidential campaign, Rousseff underwent a makeover, replacing glasses with contact lenses, undergoing plastic surgery and adopting a different hairstyle.

Bulgarian reaction

According to state-owned Bulgarian media, Bulgaria experienced “Dilma fever.” The local media followed the presidential race in Brazil closely, interested in the election of a half-Bulgarian to rule over the 7th largest economy in the world.

In an interview for the 24 Hours newspaper, Rousseff said that she “feel[s] tenderness and love for Bulgaria. I can even say that to a certain extent I do feel like I am Bulgarian, even though I have never been in the country where my father was born. My father died when I was only fifteen years old and I did not have the chance to learn Bulgarian.”

On November 2010, an exhibition was held in Gabrovo about Rousseff’s origins.

After Rousseff’s election, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov promptly invited her for an official visit to the country. During her inauguration, he reiterated the invitation. Since her inauguration, Rousseff has received 21 letters from Bulgarian citizens.


Inauguration of Dilma Rousseff

Dilma Rousseff takes the oath of office of the President of Brazil

Dilma Rousseff receiving the presidential sash from Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva

Dilma Rousseff was inaugurated as President of Brazil on 1 January 2011.

The event – which was organized by her transitional team, the Ministries of External Relations and Defense and the Presidency of the Republic – was awaited with some expectation, since she became the first woman ever to preside over the country. Important female figures in Brazilian history were honored with panels spread across the Monumental Axis. According to the Military Police of the Federal District, around 30,000 people attended.

Until 21 December 2010, the publishing house of the Senate had printed 1,229 invitations for Rousseff’s inauguration. The National Congress expected a total of 2,000 guests for the ceremony. As reported by the press, between 14 and 17 heads of state and government had confirmed their presence.

Among them were José Sócrates, Juan Manuel Santos, Mauricio Funes, Alan García, José Mujica, Hugo Chávez, Álvaro Colom, Alpha Condé, Sebastián Piñera, Evo Morales, (later canceled due to last minute protests in his country) and Boyko Borisov. U.S. President Barack Obama sent Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to represent him. Former Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso also attended.

Itamaraty PalaceIn addition to the formal ceremony, Rousseff’s inauguration also featured concerts by five female Brazilian singers: Elba Ramalho, Fernanda Takai, Mart’nália and Zélia Duncan, and Gaby Amarantos. The Ministry of Culture organized the cultural part of the event, having provided a budget of 1.5 million reais (around 0.8 million U.S. dollars) for it.

The concerts started at 10:00 am and stopped at 2:00 pm, with the start of the official inauguration ceremony. The concerts continued from 6:00 to 9:00 pm. Rousseff did not attended, as she held a reception at the Itamaraty Palace for foreign authorities attending her inauguration.

Each foreign authority had the opportunity to talk to her for 30 seconds.

Cabinet of Brazil.
Main article: Cabinet of Brazil

rou 800px-Posse_Ministros_Dilma_2010

On 17 December 2010, Rousseff received from the Supreme Electoral Court a diploma attesting her victory in the 2010 presidential election, becoming the first woman in the history of Brazil to receive it. She was unable to name all members of her cabinet until that ceremony, as she had desired. Rousseff completed the appointment of all 37 members of her cabinet on 22 December 2010. Although she had projected that 30% of her cabinet would be composed of women, the females appointed eventually made up 24% of her cabinet. Rousseff’s own Workers’ Party (PT) comprised 43% of her cabinet, with 16 members, while 12 other offices were handed out to six out of ten political parties that formed her winning electoral coalition. The remaining 9 cabinet offices, among which were key offices such as the Presidency of the Central Bank of Brazil, the Ministry of External Relations and the Ministry of the Environment, were handed out to non-partisan technical names.

Since she took office, Rousseff has changed the members of her cabinet members four times. She has become the President which promoted the highest number of cabinet changes in the first six months of government. On 7 June 2011, Rousseff’s then Chief of Staff and influential PT leader, Antonio Palocci resigned from office due to a scandal involving his personal wealth evolution. On the same day, Paraná Senator Gleisi Hoffmann (also from PT) replaced him. Three days later, Ideli Salvatti – former Santa Catarina Senator for PT and Minister of Fishing and Aquaculture up until then – traded office with Luiz Sérgio – former mayor of Angra dos Reis and licensed federal deputy for Rio de Janeiro (both for PT) and Secretary of Institutional Relations up until that moment.

On 6 July, Alfredo Nascimento, then Minister of Transportation, left office after allegations that public works were being overbilled. On 4 August, Nelson Jobim left the Ministry of Defense after an interview he gave to the Piauí magazine criticizing both Hoffmann and Salvatti. Rousseff named Celso Amorim to replace him. Jobim had previously declared to have voted on José Serra for President. With the changes, the female presence in the cabinet increased to 26%, while the PT presence increased to almost 45%.


Rousseff’s presidency has seen a concerted push to complete a number of hydro electric dam projects in the Amazon River Basin, despite appeals from residents of areas that would be flooded, drained or otherwise affected, including indigenous tribes, and pressure from both domestic and international groups to abandon such projects.

Amazon River (10)Opposition to the dam projects, especially the Belo Monte Dam project, is driven by environmental, economic and human rights concerns, the latter concerning both the people to be displaced by the projects and the workers brought in from other parts of Brazil to build the dams.

Xingu (Kayapo) Chief Raoni Metuktire, along with members of other tribes that will be affected by hydroelectric dam projects proposed or already under construction; NGOs based both in Brazil and internationally, including Greenpeace, Amazon Watch and International Rivers; and international celebrities including director James Cameron, actress Sigourney Weaver, and musician Sting are all calling for the Amazon Basin hydro electric projects to be halted.

Working conditions for laborers involved in these projects – which Rousseff has insisted should continue, and even be accelerated, with some sites seeing multiple work shifts so that construction can continue more than twenty hours per day – are harsh, while pay is low despite high cost of living at the remote construction sites. This has led to strikes and other worker actions at the sites of several hydroelectric projects.

In spring of 2012, 17 000 workers at the Jirau Dam site went on strike for over three weeks, and later some began setting fire to dam structures and looting company stores, and even destroying some worker housing. Military troops were eventually deployed to quell the rioting and end the labor strike.

Meanwhile, multiple courts, offices and state governments continue to pursue judicial means of halting dam projects, with the status of the Belo Monte project having been reversed so many times via injunctions and appeals that only the Brazilian Supreme Federal Court remains — along with, theoretically, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CIDH), which is the judicial body of the Organization of American States (OAS), and has also called on Brazil to halt Belo Monte and other projects which are accused of human rights violations; but President Rousseff has already recalled the Brazilian ambassador to the OAS, and furthermore is withholding Brazil’s annual contribution to the CIDH, approximately US$800 000.

Dilma is less popular with the Brazilian LGBT social movements than expected from a left-wing president, and an often cited reason is that there are many instances in the government’s balance of power where disagreements with the right-wing factions may have side effects (for instance, despite the fact that Brazil is a secular state, religion in politics is openly discussed, with the best example being the bancada evangélica, a collective for the Evangelical and Pentecostal Congressmen).

While LGBT rights in Brazil are developing faster in the last ten years, including May 2011 Brazilian Supreme Federal Court’s rules in a unanimous 10–0 decision, with one abstention, to legalize same-sex civil unions, in the same month a spokesperson for President Dilma Rousseff announced that she has suspended an upcoming distribution of sex education videos through the ministries of health and education, saying that the “anti-homophobia kits,” as they are known, are “inappropriate for children” and do not offer an objective view of homosexuality. Most of it were stories about teenagers accepting their own transexualidade, as transsexualism is called in Brazil, or bisexuality, and it included a guide for teachers.

They were directed at high school classes, so that the average age of the Brazilian students presented to the kit would be between 14 and 18. Dilma further said in May 2011 that “the government supports education as well the struggle against homophobic practices. However, it will not be allowed for any government body to make propaganda for sexual options”, using the common albeit less educated and politically correct Portuguese term for sexual orientations”.

Since 25 May 2012, Dilma’s government has been facing a number of strikes of public service employees, especially University Professors. Dilma has been inflexible, and the strike has left millions of students without classes for months. According to O Globo, a Rio de Janeiro newspaper, Dilma believes private sector jobs should be prioritized by her government’s policies.
By Anastasia Moloney

rou women daisies“In Brazil, the president’s chief of staff and the ministers for environment, culture, social development and planning have one thing in common.

They are all women appointed by the country’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff.

Since coming to power just over a year ago, Rousseff has filled her inner circle and the corridors of power in Brasilia with women. Nine of her 24-member cabinet are women, compared to three under her predecessor, Lula de Silva.

The most high-profile and influential position in the cabinet is the chief of staff, a job now held by Gleisi Hoffmann, a former lawyer who wanted be a nun.

As chief of staff, Hoffmann is the president’s main advisor and is charged, among other things, with overseeing the funding of stadiums for the FIFA World Cup, the global football tournament Brazil will host in 2014.

The growing presence of women in the government is one key way that Rousseff – who enjoys around a 70 percent approval rating – has stamped her own identity on the presidency.

Brazil, though, still has a way to go to narrow the gender gap in politics. Despite a law requiring 30 percent of candidates running in parliamentary elections and for mayoral and governor posts to be women, it is not often applied in practice.

Brazil has fewer women in local and central government compared with some of its Latin American neighbours.”

rou march of daisies

Women still hold only nine percent of parliamentary positions and only 36 percent of lawmaker, senior official and managerial jobs, according to the 2011 World Economic Forum’s global gender gap report.

rou menBrazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, left, greets Eleonora Menicucci during her inauguration as Chief of the Secretariat of Policies for Women in Brasilia, Brazil on Feb. 10, 2012. (Ueslei Marcelino, Reuters / Landov)

Standing at the center of the beaming group is a curly-haired woman in a purple silk blouse, a lifelong women’s-rights advocate and activist, once a member of Brazil’s Communist Party, and now the cabinet member and minister who leads President Rousseff’s Secretariat for Women’s Affairs: Eleonora Menicucci.

Recently dean of her faculty at the University of São Paulo, she talks with the authority of a professor, has the expertise of a world-class political scientist (her research on women’s health is highly respected), and conveys the savvy of a political activist who’s seen it all. Menicucci is a lifelong feminist. She now runs a ministry in Brasília whose top priority she describes as an “obsession” of hers and President Rousseff’s: ending violence against women.

President Dilma and Minister Menicucci’s gender-equality portfolio goes well beyond stopping violence against women. It encompasses health, especially maternal, pre-, post-, and neo-natal care, including an effort to reach diverse populations, vis-à-vis race, class ethnicity, and sexual diversity. It includes equal pay, or what the minister calls “economic autonomy,” wage protection for women working in private- and public-sector jobs, and a major push to formalize job protections for domestic workers.

But in our discussion, Minister Menicucci repeatedly returned to the inroads she hopes to make into changing a culture that tolerates violence against women. Four decades ago the women who now lead Brazil cut their political teeth in clandestine movements to overthrow Brazil’s military regime. They have clearly decided that the best revenge against their own torturers, those who abused state power literally to break them, is to use the tools of democratic government they now lead to create the legal and institutional framework for justice for all Brazilian women, especially victims of sexual, physical, and psychological violence.

Despite widespread access to contraception, abortion rights remain limited in Brazil, the largest Catholic country in the world, and one that also boasts a growing and politically powerful evangelical church.

But the next time some American foreign-policy pontificator berates President Rousseff for not taking a strong enough position on human rights, I suggest taking a look at the example Brazil is setting for girls and women worldwide.


Rousseff_Receives_Woodrow_Wilson_AwardInternational recognition
List of presidential trips made by Dilma Rousseff

President Rousseff is awarded the Woodrow Wilson Award in New York City.

In October 2010, Rousseff was included in the Forbes’ list of the most powerful people in the world, at the 16th position. She was the third best placed woman on the list, after Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, and Sonia Gandhi, President of the Indian National Congress.

In August 2011, Rousseff was included in the Forbes’ list of the most powerful women in the world, at the 3rd position, behind only Merkel and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. She climbed from the 95th position on the 2010 list.

On 20 September, she received a Woodrow Wilson Public Service Award at the Pierre Hotel in New York City, a distinction which was also given to her predecessor in 2009.

On the following day, she became the first woman to open a session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Rousseff was featured on the cover of Newsweek magazine on 26 September 2011.

During her state visit to Bulgaria, on 5 October 2011, Rousseff was awarded Bulgaria’s highest state honour, the Cordon of the Order of Stara Planina.


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Source of Biography, thanks to Wikipedia.


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