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Dilma Rousseff - Brazil's Iron Lady

27 October 2014 / 20:10:56  GRReporter
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Polina Spartyanova,
Special reporter for GRReporter in Rio de Janeiro

      The city of Gabrovo is located in the heart of Bulgaria and is the administrative and economic centre of Gabrovo region. It is one of the few areas in the country that has been following with great interest the election battle for the presidency of Brazil over the past month. The reason for this is the roots of current President of the seventh largest economy in the world Dilma Rousseff. Her father, Petar Rusev was born in Gabrovo at the beginning of the last century, but was forced to leave Bulgaria in the late 1920s because of his active membership in the Bulgarian Communist Party. Rusev changed his name to Rousseff and in 1930 settled in Brazil, where he married Dilma Jane da Silva. Their firstborn daughter Dilma Vana Rousseff was born on 14 December 1947 and, at the age of only 20, she took on her father’s path and joined the youth organization of the socialist party in Brazil.
     At that time, she took part in the underground resistance against the established military dictatorship in Brazil and in 1969 led one of the biggest robberies in the history of the country which involved the stealing of jewellery worth $2.5 million from the house of a former governor. A year later, Dilma Rousseff was arrested and over the course of 22 days, she was tortured with electric shocks but firmly defended her views and did not succumb to pressure from the military. Because of her firmness and fortitude, she received the nickname "Iron Lady" while in prison, long before Margaret Thatcher. At the end of 1972, she was released from prison and she later gave up the radical methods of political struggle.
     By the end of the 1990s, when she passed into the ranks of the Workers’ Party, Dilma Rousseff was engaged in legal political activities and held various positions in state institutions in Brazil. When the founder and honorary President of the Workers’ Party took office as President in 2003, Dilma became Minister of Mines and Energy in his government. In 2005, she headed the office of the President. As Minister, she approved a programme that enabled her to supply with electricity millions of people from the most remote regions in Brazil and to develop their infrastructure.
     In 2010 in Gabrovo, they heard the news that "our compatriot" had won the presidential election in Brazil. The residents of Gabrovo were exulted at Dilma Rousseff as if she was elected to be their President and a year later, they had the opportunity to meet live with the first woman who was elected President of Brazil. "To some extent I perceive myself as Bulgarian and have feelings of tenderness and love towards the country," said Dilma during her short visit to Bulgaria in 2011.
     In fact, few Brazilians are aware of the Bulgarian origin of their President and they do not seem so interested in her distant and Slavic surname. When I met with architect of Greek origin Konstantinos in the small town of Ribeirão Preto, he explained that "In Brazil, we are all Brazilians, regardless of where we came from originally. I am Brazilian, he is Brazilian, and even you are Brazilian, although you have been in the country for a few weeks. This is the viewpoint of people here."

     The relatively small middle class in Brazil supports the political and social programme of the Workers’ Party that, over the past 12 years, has managed to increase the living standards of 40 million Brazilians who were below the poverty line only a decade ago. "The Workers’ Party thinks of working people and the poor who need support and it has managed to do a lot for their wealth during its rule," said a supporter of Dilma Rousseff in early October when the first round of presidential elections was held in Brazil. Probably for this reason, Dilma Rousseff received the support of nearly 60 % of voters in the poorest regions of Brazil.

     Dilma Rousseff failed to convincingly take the lead in the first round of the elections with 40.3% of the votes for her against 35.15% for her opponent Aesiu Neves from the Social Democratic Party and, in the ensuing election campaign before the second round, both candidates found themselves in the hardest battle for the presidential chair in Brazil after the first elections since the fall of the military dictatorship in the country in 1989. While the first woman elected to be the President of Brazil defended her economic policies associated with state control over oil prices and higher taxes, centrist opposition leader Neves promised his voters reforms to reduce the current 6% inflation rate and to encourage more investments in the country.

Tags: Dilma RousseffPresident of BrazilAesiu NevesWorkers' PartySocial Democratic PartyRio de Janeiro
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