Dilma Rousseff prepares to take control of Brazil

Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president-elect, will be sworn in on Jan. 1 with 58% of Brazilians saying her administration will be as good as outgoing President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s, according to a recent poll. (Courtesy of Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/ABr)

Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president-elect, will be sworn in on Jan. 1 with 58% of Brazilians saying her administration will be as good as outgoing President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s, according to a recent poll. (Courtesy of Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/ABr)

By Marcos Giesteira and Nelza Oliveira for Infosurhoy.com—29/12/2010

BRASÍLIA, Brazil – After two full-scale rehearsals, which even featured body doubles of the elected officials, everything is ready for the inauguration of Brazil’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff (Workers’ Party – PT) and Vice President Michel Temer (Brazilian Democratic Movement Party – PMDB).

After Rousseff is expected to be greeted by a crowd of about 20,000 at the Esplanade of the Ministries in Brasília at 2 p.m. on Jan. 1, she’ll be taken in a convertible – weather permitting – from the Metropolitan Cathedral toward the National Congress to officially make history.

When she arrives at the headquarters of Brazil’s legislative branch at about 2:30, she’ll be sworn in alongside Temer before 1,700 guests, including congressional representatives, senators, judiciary members, government ministers, foreign dignitaries and relatives.

Once Rousseff is sworn in, she’ll make her first speech, culminating a journey in which she went from being Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s chief of staff to the leader of South America’s largest nation.

About two hours later, Rousseff will be driven in the presidential car, a 1953 Rolls Royce Silver Wraith Formal Cabriolet convertible, to the headquarters of the executive branch, the Planalto Palace.

Rousseff has ordered her vehicle not be surrounded by traditional horse and motorcycle escorts because she doesn’t want her field of vision impeded and wants to be closer to the crowd.

The 37 riders of the Cavalry Guard’s First Regiment (1º RCG), also known as the Dragons of Independence, will follow the reserve car, to be used in the event of an emergency. It will trail a Cadillac carrying Temer and his wife, Marcela Tedeschi Temer.

But Rousseff has chosen to travel the route without any family members. She’s also requested six female federal police officers be positioned on the front lines among the 36 accompanying her along the 10-kilometer (6.2 miles) route.

And that’s not the only journey during which Rousseff will be followed by women, as she chose female officials to lead nine out of 37 ministerial posts.

“She’s trying to show that women’s time has arrived,” said Ricardo Ismael, a professor of sociology and politics at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-RJ). “Her [appointments present] the largest number of women in the history of the Brazilian Republic.”

Shortly after 5 p.m., Brazilians are expected to see one of the most iconic moments in the nation’s storied history: Rousseff ascending the illustrious ramp of the Planalto Palace to receive the presidential sash from outgoing President Lula.

The sash ceremony will take place as the soothing sounds of “Tema da Vitória” (victory theme), a Brazilian instrumental composition featured in the victory celebrations of the late Formula 1 racecar driver Ayrton Senna, a national hero, permeate the air.

At the site of her new workplace, facing the Plaza of the Three Powers, Rousseff is expected to make her second speech before the swearing-in ceremony of her handpicked 37 ministers.

From 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., Rousseff is expected to join a guest list that includes Brazil’s most powerful politicians, her close associates and foreign dignitaries at a cocktail party at the Itamaraty Palace, the headquarters of the Brazilian Foreign Ministry.

As of Dec. 27, 47 government officials, mainly from Latin American and African countries, had confirmed their presence, including Uruguayan President José Mujica; Costa Rica’s Laura Chinchilla; Paraguay’s Fernando Lugo; Guatemala’s Álvaro Colom; El Salvador’s Mauricio Funes; Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez.

The United States will be represented by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while Argentine Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman and Spain’s Prince Felipe de Borbón also are expected to attend the inauguration.

And all in attendance will be surrounded by plenty of security. Of the 3,000 workers at the ceremonies, 1,000 will be assigned to a security detail, said Carlos José Penteado, head of public relations for the Planalto Military Command, adding snipers will be stationed in areas where officials will congregate.

Brazilians are optimistic

Brazilians have high hopes for Rousseff.

Fifty-eight percent of those surveyed by Brazil’s National Confederation of Industry (CNI) said Rousseff will govern as well as Lula, who is expected to leave office with an 87% approval rating, the highest in the nation’s history.

Sandoval Matheus Poletto, a 23 year-old college student from Curitiba, capital city of Paraná state, said Rousseff’s life and struggles as a political militant show she’s focused and determined to do her job well.

“I voted for Dilma because I believe in giving continuity to Lula’s administration and his social policies. But the new president will definitely be a bit more leftist,” he said. “We’ve got four good years ahead of us.”

Rousseff and Lula’s strong relationship will aid in the completion of ongoing projects, mainly in the areas of housing, health and education, said Rogério Maurício Vieira de Lima, a 34 year-old taxi driver from Porto Alegre, the capital city of Rio Grande do Sul state.

Lima voted for Marina Silva, the candidate of Brazil’s Green Party (PV), in the first round of elections but voted for Rousseff against former São Paulo State Gov. José Serra in the runoff. “Women are more mature and responsible,” he said. “They do what needs to be done and aren’t as malicious. Men go [into government] with bad intentions.”

The announced continuation of social programs created during Lula’s two consecutive terms – most notably Fome Zero, Bolsa Família and ProUni – increases the hopes of the country’s poor.

Guaraciara Rosa Santana de Barros, a general services assistant, didn’t vote for Rousseff, but the 44 year-old resident of the Inhoaíba slum in the western region of Rio de Janeiro wants the government’s income redistribution programs to continue.

“When Lula was in power, I was able to buy things like a refrigerator, a stove and furniture,” she said. “I hope that with this new government, I will be able to acquire more things, maybe even some property.”

Continuity is the key

Rousseff’s goal mirrors the wishes of most Brazilians: the continuity of the policies enacted by Lula’s administration.

The president-elect reiterated throughout her campaign that if elected, she would follow in Lula’s footsteps by building upon the initiatives created by her predecessor, not eradicating them.

So far, she’s been true to her word – just look at the cabinet members she’s appointed.

Ten of Lula’s ministers were retained – Guido Mantega (Finance), Alfredo Nascimento (Transportation), Carlos Lupi (Labor), Edison Lobão (Mines and Energy), Fernando Haddad (Education), Gilberto Carvalho (chief of the office of the Presidency); Izabella Teixeira (Environment), Nelson Jobim (Defense), Orlando Silva (Sports), and Jorge Hage (Federal Government Disciplinary Board).

Other members of Lula’s administration were given new posts.

Alexandre Tombini, who was Central Bank’s manager of norms, will be its president; Alexandre Padilha will leave the Ministry of Institutional Relations to become Ministry of Health; Paulo Bernardo will leave the Ministry of Planning to head Communications; Miriam Belchior will move from being the coordinator-general of the Growth Acceleration Program (PAC) to lead the Ministry of Planning; and the current secretary-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Antônio de Aguiar Patriota, will become its minister.

Ismael said Rousseff will make Lula’s programs even better.

“The social programs of redistribution of income will continue,” he said. “But she has already said that her administration will eradicate poverty.”

Rousseff’s decision-making is more technical than political. She’s expected to continue the administrative model put in place during Lula’s eight years in office, Antônio Flávio Testa, a political scientist and sociologist from the University of Brasilia (UnB), told the Brazilian government’s official news agency Agência Brasil.

“She’s much less of a negotiator than Lula,” he said. “She is expected to maintain her management style, but she is going to have to improve her communication skills, with a flexible team ready to build a relationship with the Brazilian Congress.”

Rousseff likely is to have the support of around 70% of the 513 representatives and 62% of the 81 senators.

But Ismael said Rousseff should use her advantage cautiously.

“PMDB, which has most of Congress’ members, can use that margin to negotiate with the president,” he said. “If this party detects prejudice, it can make it harder for Dilma during negotiations. That majority will depend a lot on the political ability of the new government.”

* Débora Mühlbeier contributed from Curitiba.

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