By Jaylan Boyle, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – The Gringo Times continues it’s coverage of the forthcoming presidential election in this the first of three articles profiling a few of the heavyweight contenders: who they are, a bit of background, and the issues they’re pushing.
Whether in reference to the beloved British Prime Minister of the same moniker or not, Mrs. Rousseff is fondly referred to as the ‘Iron Lady’ by commentators and voters alike. Chosen successor of incumbent President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, she seems reasonably well placed, despite a shopping list of problems, to continue a meteoric rise that could see her add another high-water mark to aspiring female Brazilian politicians following in her wake.
If the hype is to be believed, Mrs. Rousseff was the full revolutionary article in her youth: After leaving a privileged school, she realized that the world was “not a place for debutantes”, and became one among increasingly strident voices in opposition to the military junta.
She became a card carrying member of the resistance in the mid 60s, involving herself with such far-left wing guerrilla groups as the Vanguarda Armada Revolucionária Palmares (Palmares Armed Revolutionary Vanguard). Following capture in the early 70s, she was subjected to torture at the hands of the political police, after a summary trial that did not include such niceties as a lawyer. The resulting conviction was overturned at her request by the Special Commission for Reparation of Human Rights.
After graduating in 1977 with a degree in economics (since the subject of controversy as her official biography laid claim to a Masters and Doctorate that she did not earn), she was involved in the restructuring of the party that had been ousted by the 1964 coup d’etat, the Labor Party. After a name change to the Democratic Labor Party, she was appointed to the post of Secretary of Energy by Governor Alceu Collares. She then went on to serve under President Lula as Energy Minister from 2003, before being appointed Chief of Staff.
The way Brazilian media commentators are calling it, two key stumbling blocks stand in Mrs Rousseff’s path: Although President Lula has pledged to lend the full force of his unprecedented popularity to the cause of lifting her profile, many have said that she lacks her mentor’s charisma and name recognition. Secondly, Mrs. Rousseff’s campaign was dealt a sad blow recently when she was diagnosed with stage 1 cancer of the lymphatic system. Although her oncologist has given her a ninety percent chance of recovery, many have said that her battle with the illness will project an air of fragility that a country committed to raising its international profile does not want.
According to polls conducted in late May, Mrs. Rousseff was firmly in second place by a 25-point margin, but pundits predict that President Lula’s support will help to regain some of the deficit, despite the Worker’s Party being implicated in fairly regular instances of ‘financial inconsistency’.
Mrs. Rousseff’s policy wish list is fairly consistent with that of her center-left party: she has repeatedly called for any prospective administration to consider economic and job growth when setting monetary strategy, rather than focusing exclusively on inflation. She also favors a free-floating currency and a reduction of public debt.