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By Jaylan Boyle, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – After the action of this past election, Brazil’s first female president Dilma Rousseff officially steps into the country’s hot seat on January 1, 2011, and many will be keenly interested in how her government conducts international relationships, in view of the fact that Brazil is now recognized as one of the most sought after investment markets in the world.

President elect Dilma Rousseff, photo by Wilson Dias/Agencia Brasil.

While most analysts expect Rousseff and her cabinet to largely continue the legacy of her mentor and outgoing president Lula da Silva, Brazil’s most popular president ever, some worry that Dilma the former guerrilla may lean towards her Marxist roots. Even so, many economists speculate that Brazilian government must get further involved in handling the delicate balance between growth and the possibility of an ‘overheating’ economy.

While Rousseff has promised to continue the hugely popular social development measures instituted by Lula, during whose tenure some 21 million Brazilians lifted themselves out of poverty, all expectations are that Rousseff’s government has first and foremost matters of a fiscal nature in mind. Continued expansion is key to Brazil’s future, and the level to which the new government involves itself in controlling foreign investment will form the bulk of the country’s impact on international relationships.

Unlike other Latin American countries which seem to be heading down the interventionist path, Lula’s Brazil became a political climate in which the traditionally polarized left and right went a long way to meeting in the middle. Most expect this trend to continue under Rousseff.

Diplomatically, what is no longer in doubt is the fact that Brazil now has a voice on the international stage. Brazil is now the eighth largest economy in the world, and as such plays a key role in organizations such as the G20, Mercosur and particularly BRIC, the representative body of the world’s developing titans.

Dilma and Lula
Dilma Rousseff with current president Lula da Silva, photo by Wilson Dias/ Agencia Brasil.

Antonio Jorge Ramalho da Rocha, professor of International Relations at University of Brasilia, predicts that Rousseff will continue to expand Brazil’s presence in the international arena, and will continue to advocate reform toward “building a fairer international order”. However, many believe that while Lula forged a new presence for Brazil in international circles, Rousseff, lacking in Mr. da Silva’s charisma, will attend first and foremost to domestic problems.

Mr. da Rocha believes that Brazil’s more controversial relationships with Cuba, Iran, and Venezuela will soften as the country looks to strengthen bilateral relations with the U.S. and China.

Yet Rousseff has not been shy to outline a possible gradual shift to the left, particularly where resources such as the massive pre-salt oil reserves recently discovered in Brazilian waters are concerned. A large part of her campaign was based on her promise to gain more governmental control over the extraction of this mineral wealth, which proved popular.

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