Before President Lula da Silva worked his magic she was an unknown, but that didn’t stop Dilma Rousseff seeking Brazil’s highest office. During her campaign the 62-year-old, an economist by profession, promised to continue the poverty busting policies introduced by Lula.
‘‘We represent the project of change. The same project that freed Brazil from the subordinate position it found itself in under the International Monetary Fund. We were the ones who lifted 28 million from poverty,’‘ Rousseff said.
The daughter of a middle-class Bulgarian immigrant father, Rousseff has been described as a steely, no-nonsense operator. She also said to have a short temper. It is not hard to see why. During the 1960s, she got involved in left-wing politics fighting Brazil’s military dictatorship. That saw her subjected to electric shock treatment and she spent three years in prison.
After joining the Workers Party she rose rapidly through its ranks, becoming Brazil’s energy minister in 2003. Only two years later she would be Lula’s chief of staff after a series of corruption scandals saw a cluster of ministerial resignations in the government. While critics simply say she is Lula’s choice, Rousseff has tried to step out of his shadow, promoting her economic credentials.
In a TV political broadcast Rousseff said: ‘‘I am an economist and I’ve learned that the economy can’t only move numbers, but it must also improve people’s lives.’‘
She’s been described as the ‘Mother of the PAC’ — the government’s ongoing programme aimed at lifting the living standards of Brazilians and ending the extreme poverty which still blights the country.
‘‘I would say that the biggest unsolved national problems are the issues of basic education, public health, sanitation and public security. Even though Brazil has developed, there are still serious problems in these areas.’‘
The size of the task facing Brazil’s next president are immense. Despite undeniable progress over the last eight years, huge problems remain. The UN says Brazil has the third-highest rate of social inequality in Latin America. Only Bolivia and Haiti are worse.