Brazil Elects the Worst of All

Former Marxist turned globalist sympathizer, Dilma Rousseff, is the first Brazilian woman to hold the presidential seat.  She will most likely continue the policies her Godfather, Luiz Inacio Da Silva implemented to sell the country off to corporations.

AP

Dilma Rousseff

A former Marxist guerrilla who was tortured and imprisoned during Brazil’s long dictatorship was elected Sunday as president of Latin America’s biggest nation, a country in the midst of an economic and political rise.

A statement from the Supreme Electoral Court, which oversees elections, said governing party candidate Dilma Rousseff won the election. When she takes office Jan. 1, she will be Brazil’s first female leader.

With 99 percent of the ballots counted, Rousseff had 55.6 percent compared to 44.4 percent for her centrist rival, Jose Serra, the electoral court said.

“I’m very happy. I want to thank all Brazilians for this moment and I promise to honor the trust they have shown me,” Rousseff told reporters who swarmed a car carrying her in Brasilia, her first public words as president-elect.

Rousseff, the hand-chosen candidate of wildly popular President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, won by cementing her image to Silva’s, whose policies she promised to continue.

She will lead a nation on the rise, a country that will host the 2014 World Cup and that is expected to be the globe’s fifth-largest economy by the time it hosts the 2016 Summer Olympics. It has also recently discovered huge oil reserves off its coast.

Rousseff was already speaking like a president-elect before the result was announced.

“Starting tomorrow we begin a new stage of democracy,” Rousseff, 62, said in the southern city of Porto Alegre, where she cast her vote. “I will rule for everyone, speak with all Brazilians, without exception.”

Silva used his 80 percent approval ratings to campaign incessantly for Rousseff, his former chief of staff and political protege. She never has held elected office and lacks the charisma that transformed Silva from a one-time shoeshine boy into one of the globe’s most popular leaders.

Silva was barred by the constitution from running for a third consecutive four-year term. He has batted down chatter in Brazil’s press that he is setting himself up for a new run at the presidency in 2014, which would be legal.

Despite Rousseff’s win, many voters don’t want “Lula,” as he is popularly known, to go away.

“If Lula ran for president 10 times, I would vote for him 10 times,” said Marisa Santos, a 43-year-old selling her homemade jewelry on a Sao Paulo street. “I’m voting for Dilma, of course, but the truth is it will still be Lula who will lead us.”

Within 20 minutes of Rousseff’s victory being announced, her supporters began streaming onto a main avenue in Sao Paulo, where eight years ago a huge gathering celebrated Silva’s win, the first time the Workers Party took the presidency. Police blocked off the road and workers were already constructing a stage for a party expected to last the entire night.

“We’ve been waiting for this dream for so long,” said Sandra Martins, a 40-year-old school teacher who was dressed in Worker Party red and waving a large Rousseff campaign flag. “It’s going to be the third term for Lula — except this time represented by a woman.”

Silva entered office with a background as a leftist labor leader, but he governed from a moderate perspective. Under his leadership, the economy grew strongly and Brazil weathered the global financial crisis better than most nations.

He is loved within Brazil by the legions of poor, who consider the nation’s first working-class president one of their own. His social programs and orthodox economic policies have helped lift 20 million people out of poverty and thrust another 29 million into the middle class.

Serra is a 68-year-old former governor of Sao Paulo state and one-time health minister who was badly beaten by Silva in the 2002 presidential election.

“I voted for Dilma because she is a fighter,” said Estevam Sanches, a 43-year-old pizza parlor owner in Sao Paulo. “What we need is a fighter in the presidency to continue, as she says she will, with Lula’s efforts to eradicate poverty and strengthen the economy.”

Rousseff was a key player in an armed militant group that resisted Brazil’s military dictatorship — and was imprisoned and tortured for it. She is a cancer survivor and a former minister of energy and chief of staff to Silva. She possesses a management style that earned her the moniker “Iron Lady” — a name she detests.

She is the daughter of a Bulgarian immigrant father, a lawyer who died when she was 14, and a Brazilian mother who was a schoolteacher. Her past points to an early political awakening.

In 1967, as a 19-year-old economics student, she joined a militant political group opposing the dictatorship. For three years she helped lead guerrilla organizations, instructed comrades on Marxist theory and wrote for an underground newspaper.

Rousseff denies carrying out any acts of violence during this period, says she opposed such action and notes she was never accused by the military regime of violent acts.

After three years underground, Rousseff was captured in 1970 by Brazil’s military police and was considered a big enough catch that a military prosecutor labeled her the “Joan of Arc” of the guerrilla movement.

She was tossed into the Tiradentes prison where she was submitted to brutal torture.

After being released, she moved to southern Brazil in 1973, where she reunited with her now ex-husband, Carlos Araujo, who was also an imprisoned militant. She gave birth to a daughter and finished an economics degree. As Brazil’s dictatorship began to loosen its grip, Rousseff became more politically involved and campaigned to get her husband elected to the state congress in 1982.

After holding appointed positions in city and state governments, Rousseff served for two years as the nation’s energy minister after Silva took office in 2003. She became his chief of staff in 2005, a position she held until resigning earlier this year to campaign.

Rousseff says her political thinking has evolved drastically — from Marxism to pragmatic capitalism — but she remains proud of her radical roots.

“We fought and participated in a dream to build a better Brazil,” she said in an interview published in the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo in 2005, one of the rare times she has spoken in detail about her militancy and torture endured.

“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.”

Is Brazil ready for more Socialism?

Note: Former Guerrilla Leader and street fighter Dilma Rousseff is ready to become Brazil’s next president in an election to be held October 3rd. Rousseff, a former head of a revolutionary group during the military coup in the mis 1960’s is back. This time, she sided with the PT political party, the same socialist movement that took current president Luis Inacio Da Silva to power.

The New Independent

The world’s most powerful woman will start coming into her own next weekend. Stocky and forceful at 63, this former leader of the resistance to a Western-backed military dictatorship (which tortured her) is preparing to take her place as President of Brazil.

Brazil's president Da Silva campaigns with Dilma Rousseff.

As head of state, president Dilma Rousseff would outrank Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor, and Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State: her enormous country of 200 million people is revelling in its new oil wealth. Brazil’s growth rate, rivalling China’s, is one that Europe and Washington can only envy.

Her widely predicted victory in next Sunday’s presidential poll will be greeted with delight by millions. It marks the final demolition of the “national security state”, an arrangement that conservative governments in the US and Europe once regarded as their best artifice for limiting democracy and reform. It maintained a rotten status quo that kept a vast majority in poverty in Latin America while favouring their rich friends.

Ms Rousseff, the daughter of a Bulgarian immigrant to Brazil and his schoolteacher wife, has benefited from being, in effect, the prime minister of the immensely popular President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the former union leader. But, with a record of determination and success (which includes appearing to have conquered lymphatic cancer), this wife, mother and grandmother will be her own woman. The polls say she has built up an unassailable lead – of more than 50 per cent compared with less than 30 per cent – over her nearest rival, an uninspiring man of the centre called Jose Serra. Few doubt that she will be installed in the Alvorada presidential palace in Brasilia in January.

Like President Jose Mujica of Uruguay, Brazil’s neighbour, Ms Rousseff is unashamed of a past as an urban guerrilla which included battling the generals and spending time in jail as a political prisoner. As a little girl growing up in the provincial city of Belo Horizonte, she says she dreamed successively of becoming a ballerina, a firefighter and a trapeze artist. The nuns at her school took her class to the city’s poor area to show them the vast gaps between the middle-class minority and the vast majority of the poor. She remembers that when a young beggar with sad eyes came to her family’s door she tore a currency note in half to share with him, not knowing that half a banknote had no value.

Her father, Pedro, died when she was 14, but by then he had introduced her to the novels of Zola and Dostoevski. After that, she and her siblings had to work hard with their mother to make ends meet. By 16 she was in POLOP (Workers’ Politics), a group outside the traditional Brazilian Communist Party that sought to bring socialism to those who knew little about it.

The generals seized power in 1964 and decreed a reign of terror to defend what they called “national security”. She joined secretive radical groups that saw nothing wrong with taking up arms against an illegitimate military regime. Besides cosseting the rich and crushing trade unions and the underclass, the generals censored the press, forbidding editors from leaving gaps in newspapers to show where news had been suppressed.

Ms Rousseff ended up in the clandestine VAR-Palmares (Palmares Armed Revolutionary Vanguard). In the 1960s and 1970s, members of such organisations seized foreign diplomats for ransom: a US ambassador was swapped for a dozen political prisoners; a German ambassador was exchanged for 40 militants; a Swiss envoy swapped for 70. They also shot foreign torture experts sent to train the generals’ death squads. Though she says she never used weapons, she was eventually rounded up and tortured by the secret police in Brazil’s equivalent to Abu Ghraib, the Tiradentes prison in Sao Paulo. She was given a 25-month sentence for “subversion” and freed after three years. Today she openly confesses to having “wanted to change the world”.

In 1973 she moved to the prosperous southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, where her second husband, Carlos Araujo, a lawyer, was finishing a four-year term as a political prisoner (her first marriage with a young left-winger, Claudio Galeno, had not survived the strains of two people being on the run in different cities). She went back to university, started working for the state government in 1975, and had a daughter, Paula.

In 1986, she was named finance chief of Porto Alegre, the state capital, where her political talents began to blossom. Yet the 1990s were bitter-sweet years for her. In 1993 she was named secretary of energy for the state, and pulled off the coup of vastly increasing power production, ensuring the state was spared the power cuts that plagued the rest of the country.

She had 1,000km of new electric power lines, new dams and thermal power stations built while persuading citizens to switch off the lights whenever they could. Her political star started shining brightly. But in 1994, after 24 years together, she separated from Mr Araujo, though apparently on good terms. At the same time she was torn between academic life and politics, but her attempt to gain a doctorate in social sciences failed in 1998.

In 2000 she threw her lot in with Lula and his Partido dos Trabalhadores, or Workers’ Party which set its sights successfully on combining economic growth with an attack on poverty. The two immediately hit it off and she became his first energy minister in 2003. Two years later he made her his chief of staff and has since backed her as his successor. She has been by his side as Brazil has found vast new offshore oil deposits, aiding a leader whom many in the European and US media were denouncing a decade ago as a extreme left-wing wrecker to pull 24 million Brazilians out of poverty. Lula stood by her in April last year as she was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer, a condition that was declared under control a year ago. Recent reports of financial irregularities among her staff do not seem to have damaged her popularity.

Ms Rousseff is likely to invite President Mujica of Uruguay to her inauguration in the New Year. President Evo Morales of Bolivia, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and President Fernando Lugo of Paraguay – other successful South American leaders who have, like her, weathered merciless campaigns of denigration in the Western media – are also sure to be there. It will be a celebration of political decency – and feminism.