Dilma Rousseff – first woman sworn in as president of Brazil

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    Dilma Rousseff. Photo: Isaac Ribeiro.

    The economist Dilma Rousseff, 63, became the first woman president of Brazil on Jan 1, replacing the popular Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who paid tribute with a call to deepen the social reforms of his government.

    Former member of the armed resistance to the military dictatorship (1964-1985), for which she paid for with torture and three years in prison, and a cornerstone of the government of Lula from two ministries, Rousseff assumed command of the eighth largest economy in the world with a tribute to her political godfather, who led her to the presidency.

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    “The greatest homage (to Lula) is to expand and advance the achievements of his government,” said Rousseff to members of both houses of Congress that gave a standing ovation.

    Rousseff said Brazil has the “opportunity” to become a “developed nation” with “Brazilian style” and a strong component of environmental sustainability.

    In order to do this, she called the union of the institutions to maintain the good foundations that supported Brazil’s growth in recent years, and called for special support for the “commitment to eradicate extreme poverty” in Brazil, where 20 of the more than 190 million people are in that situation.

    “There is still a poverty that shames our country”, she said during her first speech after taking office in Congress.

    “I will not rest as long as there are Brazilians in Brazil without food on their table, and poor children left to their own fate,” she promised, amid applause from lawmakers and heads of state present in Parliament.

    Rousseff also pledged to deepen Latin American integration.

    “We remain committed to deepening integration with our Latin American brothers,” she said before the plenary of the Brazilian Congress.

    The new Brazilian government will seek “to associate our economic and political development in our continent,” she said.

    “We will deepen the relationship with the United States and the European Union,” she added.

    Rousseff, elected to govern for four years, will occupy the principal office of the Palacio do Planalto in a time of sustained economic expansion, with predicted growth of 7.6% of GDP in 2011 and an unemployment rate of 5.7% in November – a record low.

    Lula, who leaves office with a popularity of 87% record after eight years in office, brought 29 million people out of poverty, according to official figures, but nearly half the population is still without access to sanitation and the rate of illiteracy is over 10%.

    Rousseff will be counting on part of Lula’s government team. Eight ministers of 25 of the current government were reconfirmed in their positions and three others remain in the cabinet but have a different function.

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