BRASILIA, Nov 1, 2010
Brazilians today celebrated the election of their first-ever female president, Dilma Rousseff, who pledged to extend policies implemented by popular outgoing leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, her mentor.
Lula’s tireless backing of Ms Rousseff delivered her 56 per cent of the ballots in a Sunday runoff against opposition challenger Jose Serra, the former governor of Sao Paulo state who scored 44 per cent.
While Mr Lula, 65, is required to hand over power in two months’ time, after completing two maximum two consecutive terms allowed, Ms Rousseff reassured many supporters of their ruling Workers Party that his influence would still be felt in her administration.
“I will knock on his door often, and I know it will always be open,” she said in her victory speech early today in Brasilia.
“The task of succeeding him is difficult and challenging. But I know I will honor this legacy and extend his work,” she said with tears in her eyes and her voice catching.
Ms Rousseff, a 62-year-old economist who served as Mr Lula’s cabinet chief before he handpicked her as his successor, swore she would she would make “eradication” of poverty her priority in government as she sought to “honor the trust” voters had shown her.
She also lambasted the world’s leading economies for devaluing their monies in a “currency war” that was threatening the exports of Brazil and other countries, but promised she would not put up more protectionist barriers around Latin America’s biggest country.
Her biggest immediate challenge as president, though, will be preparing the country to host the 2014 football World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, both awarded under Lula’s deft lobbying. Works are behind schedule, and solutions to Brazil’s endemic street crime will have to be found so tens of thousands foreign visitors feel safe.
At the same time, Ms Rousseff will have to find a way to deal with fractious currents in the ruling coalition — without the benefit of Lula’s commanding charisma or negotiating skills. (AFP)