Rousseff tackles economic matters in first day as Brazil’s first female president

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Economist Dilma Rousseff was sworn in as the first female president of Brazil on New Year’s Day, special correspondents report in the Los Angeles Times. Rousseff received the symbolic presidential sash from outgoing leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who left office with a resounding approval rating of 87%.

The transition keeps Lula’s Workers’ Party in power for at least another four-year term, and speculation remains high that Lula might run for the presidency again in 2014 after a single Rousseff term, or wait out two terms under Rousseff and seek the presidency in 2018. That’s assuming, of course, Rousseff has as much success in office as Lula had.

Brazil boomed under Lula, becoming the largest economy in Latin America and shedding millions from the ranks of the poor. Under Lula, Brazil captured the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, strengthened its oil sector and asserted itself as a rising global force, even playing diplomatic deal-maker with Iran over its nuclear program -- a move that irked the United States.


Representing the U.S., Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton attended Rousseff’s inauguration in Brasilia. Brazil-U.S. relations remain ‘in flux,’ The Times reported.

Rousseff, 63, is a former Marxist guerrilla who survived torture under Brazil’s military dictatorship in the 1970s. She had never held elected office, and won a runoff in October largely because of the backing of her mentor Lula, who campaigned heavily for his former chief of staff. Rousseff remains strongly identified with Lula and his policies, which could help or hinder her early efforts to form an administration, analysts said.

‘I will not rest while there are Brazilians who have no food on their tables, while there are desperate families on the streets, while there are poor children abandoned to their own devices,’ Rousseff said in her inaugural speech.

On Monday, the new president moved quickly to cut government spending and open discussions on privatizing expansion projects at the two airports in Sao Paulo, signaling a ‘market-friendly tone’ on the crucial subject of Brazil’s economy.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Update: An earlier version of this post misspelled Sao Paulo.