Dilma (Delmar) Vana Rousseff Linhares (born in Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro in 1947) has served as chief-of-staff to Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva, former President of Brazil. Rousseff was elected as President of Brazil on Oct. 31, 2010 and her inauguration is planned to take place on January 1, 2011. Rousseff's management style has earned her the nick name of the “Iron Lady” – a name she detests. Rousseff married Claúdio Galeno Linhares, a journalist and fellow activist in 1968.
Family & Early Life
Rousseff was named after her mother, a schoolteacher from a ranching family. Her father, Pedro Rousseff, was a political exile from Bulgaria, where he had been a member and activist with the Communist Party of Bulgaria in the 1920s. In Brazil, he became a successful businessman. Dilma’s early education was at a boarding school run by nuns, with French the language of instruction.
Her political awakening began after she transferred to a public high school. Here she was influenced by the writings of French political theorist Régis Debray and by a teacher and future comrade who taught her Marxism. The school was a center of student activism against the dictatorship. In 1967, Rousseff joined a radical faction of the Brazilian Socialist Party. A number of her fellow activists from this period are also politicians today. Carlos Minc Baumfeld is the minister of Environment. Fernando Pimentel is a former mayor of Belo Horizonte and a Rousseff adviser. José Aníbal is a federal deputy representing the party of Rousseff’s presidential opponent, José Serra.
Activism & Guerilla Warfare
Taught Marxism in high school, Rousseff joined several revolutionary groups as a young woman, including Command of National Liberation (COLINA). She joined Marxist anti-government guerillas in the 1960s in armed struggle against the then military government. In early 1969, the police invaded the group’s house and the militants responded by using a machine gun, which killed two policemen and wounded another. Dilma went underground, later participating in the formation of the Revolutionary Armed Vanguard Palmares. After that group split, Dilma was sent to Sao Paolo, where she was charged with guarding the groups weapons-which she hid under bed.
Rousseff’s political faction of the Brazilian Socialist Party, Política Operária (POLOP) [ Worker’s Politics], split and they became part of a faction that favored armed struggle against the dictatorship. It soon joined with other militant groups to form Comando de Libertação Nacional (COLINA) [National Liberation Command]. Rousseff ended up in the cland estine Vanguarda Armada Revolucionária Palmares (VAR-Palmares) [Palmares Armed Revolutionary Vanguard]. In the 1960s and 1970s, members of such organizations seized foreign diplomats for ransom: a U.S. 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 alleged U.S. torture experts sent to train the generals’ death squads.
In 1967, the small COLINA group that Rousseff, then aged 19, was a member of in Belo Horizonte, carried out bank robberies, car thefts and a couple of bombings. In January 1969, during a police raid on a COLINA house, two policemen were fatally shot and one was wounded.
In this period, Rousseff instructed her comrades on Marxist theory and wrote for an underground newspaper. She denies carrying out any acts of violence during this period, and says she opposed such action and notes she was never accused by the military regime of violent acts. Among her “working names” at this time were Luiza, Wanda and Estela to avoid the authorities.
Around the time she became involved with COLINA, Rousseff met and fell in love with a man named Cláudio Galeno Linhares, an older comrade-in-arms. After only a year of dating, the couple married. When police broke up their guerrilla faction, the couple parted ways, with Rousseff leaving for Rio de Janeiro, where she would soon meet Carlos Araújo, who also had been imprisoned as a militant. A lawyer and leftist militant, Araújo told the newspaper O Globo in October that it was “ love at first sight ,” as Rousseff was beautiful, intelligent and “ devoted to political struggle .” Her split with Galeno was amicable and it is noted that according to Araújo, “Dilma never took up arms .” He says he only learned his lover’s real name because of her arrest. Seven months later, he too was arrested.
Capture & Torture
With her trademark pixie-short hair style and thick glasses, Rousseff became one of most Brazil’s most wanted and beautiful fugitives. After three years underground, Rousseff was captured in 1970 by Brazil’s military police, in a “sting” operation and was considered a big enough catch that a military prosecutor labeled her the “Joan of Arc” of the guerrilla movement.
She was submitted to several weeks of brutal torture while held in the Tiradentes prison. Charged with subversion by the right-wing military government, she suffered through the disappearance and torture of her Marxist companions, some of whom died or were killed by the military.
Rousseff told ISTOÉ magazine in 2008 that as a prisoner she was often tied up to the infamous Pau de arara [Portuguese for parrot’s perch ], a torture device used in Brazil by the Military and police in which the victim is suspended between two metal platforms by tying wrists to ankles, then suspending the prisoner off the ground by running a pole under their knees and over their biceps.
- "They gave me electrical shocks, a lot of electrical shocks,” Rousseff told ISTOÉ . “ I began to hemorrhage, but I withstood. I wouldn’t even tell them where I lived"
In a 2008 statement to members of the Brazilian Senate at a special session, Rousseff recalled that in 1970 she and another member of the group were arrested and brought to the headquarters of security officials, where, years later, a journalist would be tortured to death. Rousseff reminded the 2008 special session that she was beaten and given electric shocks,
- "I was 19 years old, I stayed three years in prison, and I was barbarously tortured."
After her release in 1972, the military government forbade her to engage in political activities. However, as a fighter for Brazil’s left-wing guerrilla movement in 1969, she exchanged a wedding dress for fatigues and remained in the underground. In an interview with the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper published in 2005, Rousseff commented on this time in her life,
- "We fought and participated in a dream to build a better Brazil."
Overseeing an Arsenal for Militants
Military records indicate that President-elect Dilma Rousseff once oversaw a cache of weapons and ammunition for militants who opposed Brazil’s 1964 to 1985 military regime. The cache included Mauser rifles, machine guns, revolvers, dynamite and boxes of ammunition allegedly stolen from an army barracks in the São Paulo suburb of São Caetano do Sul in June 1969, the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper said, citing files released by the Supreme Military Court.
Rousseff’s alleged role as a safe keeper for the arsenal is described in a report detailing the 1970 interrogation of a fellow militant who was tortured while under custody. The weapons allegedly were discovered in an apartment on the outskirts of São Paulo that served as a group safe house.
Further Study and Govt. Position
Soon after her release, Rousseff moved to Porto Alegre, where Araújo is from and where he was imprisoned until 1974. Rousseff returned to studying economics, graduating in 1977. In 1976, she gave birth to Paula Rousseff Araújo, her only child [now a lawyer]. Around this time, Galeno returned from political exile, and with his new partner lived in the same house as Araújo and Rousseff. Rousseff lost her first job because of her subversive past and returned to university to pursue a master’s degree.
In the early 1980s, as the generals loosened their grip on the country, Rousseff and Araújo became active in the Democratic Labour Party of Brazil (PDT), led by Leonel Brizola, brother-in-law of João Goulart, overthrown in the 1964 coup.
The PDT won elections and Rousseff held a series of jobs as an adviser and bureaucrat at the local and state level. In 1993, the state governor of Rio Grande do Sul appointed her Energy secretary. She left that post the next year, as well as her relationship with Araújo after discovering another woman was pregnant with his child. They reconciled two years later but broke up again in 2000.
Without having completed her master’s degree, Rousseff enrolled in a PhD program but that too was interrupted. In 1999, she was appointed to her old job, now called Secretary of Mines, Energy and Communications.
Workers' Party of Brazil
Rousseff left government in 2002 to work on Lula’s successful campaign for president. Once in office, he named her minister of Mines and Energy. In 2003, Brazil was still reeling from electricity shortages, caused by a drought that affected hydroelectric dams and by decades of underinvestment in energy sources. Electricity rationing was widespread. Rousseff had frequent clashes with Environment Minister Marina Silva, as Rousseff sought successfully to increase Brazil’s power capacity. Silva ran against Rousseff for president in the first round of voting, as the candidate of the Green Party of Brazil.
In 2005 a scandal forced the resignation of Lula’s chief of staff, and he appointed Rousseff to that post. A few years later speculation began that Rousseff would be Lula’s choice to succeed him as president.
Then in 2009, Rousseff was diagnosed with lymphoma, which was treated with chemotherapy. After tests in August, cancer specialists in São Paulo pronounced her "cured of the lymphoma".
Rousseff told the press that Lula started to "joke around" about the possibility of her presidential run. This, she said, is "the only way that someone who is not thinking about becoming a candidate will get used to the idea".
In February, she began her first run for elected office. With little name recognition and without experience as a candidate, her campaign presented her as the one to continue Lula’s largely market friendly policies and social welfare programs. She told voters that she was "going to follow Lula’s path."
Following a March 2009 meeting with Barack Obama in the United States, Obama promptly asked his campaign strategists to reject a request by Brazil’s Social Democrats (PSDB) and to instead advise Dilma’s campaign.
Dilma Rousseff was elected as Brazil’s first woman president. She replaced former president and colleague, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. A member of Lula’s Workers' Party of Brazil and candidate of the coalition "To Keep Brazil Moving Forward," Rousseff breezed into power with 56% of the vote to 44% for Jose Serra of the centrist Social Democratic Party of Brazil, and the candidate of a right-center coalition.
Lula da Silva used his 80-percent approval ratings to campaign incessantly for Rousseff, his former chief-of-staff and political protégé.
Communist Party of Brazil Endorsement
In March, the Communist Party of Brazil endorsed Dilma Rousseff’s candidacy. The Communist Party has been allied to the Workers’ Party since 1989, and has held posts in the “Lula” Government since 2003.
Welcomed by the CPUSA
In March 2010, leading Communist Party USA member Emile Schepers, writing in the Peoples World, observed that “the the Rousseff victory in powerful and wealthy Brazil will be very welcome to the Latin American left and working class.” He also stated that Rousseff’s victory will continue the policies of the wildly popular former President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, "including the push for the horizontal integration of Latin American economies to make them less dependent on their relationships with the United States."
Applauded by Leftwing Governments
- "at stake is whether Brazil will continue on a progressive and independent course, or whether it will be brought back in line with U.S. desires... Brazil also annoyed the United States by joining with Turkey in trying to come up with a peaceful solution to the issue of Iran’s nuclear policy... In foreign policy, Brazil, under the leadership of Lula… has played a bold role that has been applauded by left-wing governments such as those of Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador."
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Dilma Vana Rousseff: Brazil’s New President, published by the Maldon Institute, Nov. 26, 2010
- ↑ Post-Western World: Who is Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s potential next President?, Feb. 21, 2010 (accessed on Dec. 2, 2010)
- ↑ People's World: Former guerrilla becomes Brazil's first woman president , Nov. 1, 2010 (accessed on Dec. 2, 2010)
- ↑ People's World: What’s at stake in Brazil’s election, July 22, 2010 (accessed on Dec. 2, 2010)