Dilma Rousseff, chief of staff for Brazils outgoing
president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is shooting for the
top job at Octobers polls, even though she has never
contested an election. The 62 year old is firmly backed by
President Lula, who, for the first time in 25 years, wont
be taking part in the presidential contest, in line with
Rousseff entered politics the hard way: she joined the
guerrillas during Brazils military regime in the 1960s
and masterminded an epic robbery at a prominent
politicians house in Rio de Janeiro, according to
historian Elio Gaspari. She was trained in Cuba and later
jailed and tortured in her home country.
Even though she has not been a long-time militant of
Lulas Workers Party (PT), which she joined less than 10
years ago, she rose to prominence after other leading PT
officials fell into disgrace following a succession of
corruption scandals. For the past five years, she has held the
most important government portfolio as Lulas civil chief
of staff in charge of supervising his flagship growth
acceleration programme. She is also one of the main exponents
of state-led development policies in the governing team.
Before she won the PTs approval to launch her
presidential bid last month, Rousseff pledged to consider
the civil service as a priority, and to boost the state
While many complain of her stiff and authoritarian style,
Lula says: She is very rigorous. This is a great virtue.
She has to be tough.
Prominent businessmen are also soft on Rousseff. She
has got everything to be a good president. Anyway, Lula will
help, if needs be, said Abilio Diniz, chairman of
Pão de Açucar, the largest retailer in Brazil,
whose firm has benefited from the consumer boom during the Lula
At the end of his second term Lula, whose rhetoric once
scared investors, has secured a reputation as key to future
economic stability, and is expected to remain as a sort of back
seat driver if his candidate is elected.
But not everybody is convinced.
Lula has shown little respect for some institutions.
Regulatory agencies have been weakened, and there have been
some attempts to curb press freedom. Such a pro-state backlash
is counterproductive in the long run, says a board member
of a local bank.
The financial markets underestimate the electoral
risk, he says, as Rousseff lacks Lulas pragmatism
and appears to be more radical.