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Survivor Wins in Brazil

November 3, 2010

Torture Survivor Becomes Brazil’s First Woman President

As predicted, Dilma Rousseff, who survived imprisonment and torture in the 1970’s during Brazil’s military dictatorship, easily won Brazil’s presidential runoff election thus past Sunday. She will be the first woman to lead Latin America’s biggest country. Rousseff is the political protégé and former chief of staff of popular outgoing President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Under Brazil’s constitution, Lula could not run again. See our prior post for details, and check out Bradley Brooks’ Associated Press report:

“I voted for Dilma because she is a fighter,” said Estevam Sanches, a 43-year-old pizza parlor owner in Sao Paulo. “What we need is a fighter in the presidency to continue, as she says she will, with Lula’s efforts to eradicate poverty and strengthen the economy.”
            Rousseff is the daughter of a Bulgarian immigrant father, a lawyer who died when she was 14, and a Brazilian mother who was a schoolteacher. Her past points to an early political awakening.
            In 1967, as a 19-year-old economics student, she joined a militant political group opposing the dictatorship. For three years she helped lead guerrilla organizations, instructed comrades on Marxist theory and wrote for an underground newspaper.
            Rousseff denies carrying out any acts of violence during this period, says she opposed such action and notes she was never accused by the military regime of violent acts.
            After three years underground, Rousseff was captured in 1970 by Brazil’s military police and was considered a big enough catch that a military prosecutor labeled her the “Joan of Arc” of the guerrilla movement.
            It’s that image of a strong woman that Rousseff projected Sunday, saying that her first promise as president elect was “to honor the women” of Brazil, adding that she hoped her win would allow “fathers and mothers to look their daughters in the eyes and say, ‘Yes, a woman can.'”

Michael Fox, a journalist and filmmaker based in Brazil, reports for the Americas Program on the unsuccessful attempts by the nation’s unregulated mainstream media to defeat Rousseff.

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