Dilma Rousseff as President of Brazil

By Sibel Tinar, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Dilma Rousseff, the first woman to be elected the president of Brazil, was sworn in and took office on January 1st, replacing the outgoing president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Her inauguration ceremony on the first day of 2011 attracted an estimated 70,000 people in Brasília, and Dilma officially assumed the presidency by taking an oath before the representatives in the Congress.

Dilma Rousseff greets the nation for the first time as the president of Brazil, photo by Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/ABr.

In her swearing-in speech, Dilma praised her mentor, the ex-president Lula, and pledged to maintain his legacy and continue his work. “Under [Lula’s] leadership, Brazilians have crossed over into another stage of our national history. My job is to consolidate this passage,” she said, referring to Lula’s efforts in reducing poverty and promoting economic prosperity.

Dilma also emphasized that her victory in the polls stood as a glorification for all Brazilian women, and added that her “commitment is to honor women, protect the weak and govern for all”.

In a more symbolic public ceremony following her inauguration, she took over Brazil’s official green-and-gold sash from Lula in Palácio do Planalto, the presidential palace.

Speaking to the nation for the first time as the president, Dilma called for the country to unite under the ideal of growth, in order to be able to create opportunities for all, and to build a world of peace.

“My dream is no different from that of any other citizen”, Dilma added during her emotional speech. “It is the dream of a mother and a father, who want their children to have better opportunities than they had. It is a dream to build a country, a family, a nation. It is the challenge to raise up a country”.

After attending a formal dinner at Palácio do Itamaraty, the Foreign Ministry, with the authorities and the representatives of foreign governments in the evening, Dilma began her first full day in office on Sunday that included meetings with international leaders.

President Dilma Rousseff's first official meeting with Spanish Prince Felipe de Astúrias, photo by Antonio Cruz/ABr.

She has had her first meeting with Felipe de Astúrias, the Prince of Spain, due to her first scheduled guest, the Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez’s last-minute cancellation. Her first day in the office as the president of Latin America’s biggest nation continued with back-to-back meetings with the leaders of Uruguay, South Korea, Portugal, Palestine, Cuba, and Japan.

Dilma will make her first international trip to the neighboring nation of Argentina, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced, which will be followed by trips to Uruguay, the United States, and China. The Ministry also has stated that the president has been planning trips to Bulgaria, where her father if from, as well as to Peru.

Dilma Rousseff takes over leadership of Brazil at a time when its economy has been growing at an enviable rate, and it has been enjoying a position earned on the world stage. With the recent pre-salt oil finds, as well as hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, indications point to further development and growth.

However, Dilma also faces major challenges, as the inflation already is well above the government’s target, and the economy growth rate is expected to decrease from 7.6 percent to 4.5 percent within the next year.

She will also need to overcome some public doubts about her ability to effectively lead the fifth largest nation of Earth. Considering Lula has stated that his leaving the presidency did not mean that he was leaving politics, adding, “if Dilma summons me, I will be ready to help”, it will be up to Dilma to show the world whether she is capable of balancing Brazil’s ambitious domestic policy with its role in foreign affairs.