Dilma Vana Rousseff
The first woman elected to the office of President of Brazil, Dilma Vana Rousseff was born on December 14, 1947 in Belo Horizonte, the state capital of Minas Gerais. Rousseff has a Masters degree in economic theory from the University of Campinas and an uncompleted doctorate in economics. In 1992, she participated in an International Visitor program in the US. She is now separated from her second husband (who was also an opposition militant). She has a daughter, Paula, in Porto Alegre, where she spends her weekends. She enjoys movies and classical music.
President Rousseff was born to Bulgarian immigrant Pedro Rousseff and Dilma Jane da Silva, a school teacher from Resende, in the state of Rio de Janeiro. The couple had three children: Igor, Dilma and Zana. Her father was a Bulgarian attorney who had naturalized Brazilian citizenship. President Rousseff received her primary education at the traditional Nossa Senhora de Sion School and her secondary education at the State Central High School in Belo Horizonte, then a hub of student activism.
At the age of 16, President Rousseff began her political career, taking part in movements against the military regime that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985. She became actively involved in opposition to the military dictatorship in 1967, at age 19, while studying economics in Minas Gerais. Joining various underground groups, she organized three bank robberies and then co-founded the guerilla group "Armed Revolutionary Vanguard of Palmares".
In 1969, she planned a legendary robbery popularized as the "Theft of Adhemar's Safe". The operation broke into the Rio apartment of the lover of former-Sao Paulo Governor Adhemar de Barros, netting US$2.5 million that Adhemar had stashed there. In 1969, President Rousseff met Carlos Franklin Paixão de Araújo, a lawyer from Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil’s southernmost state. Together, they suffered persecution under the military regime.
Rousseff separated from her first husband, Claudio Linhares, who in January 1970 hijacked a plane to Cuba and remained there. That same month, she was captured by the regime and jailed for over three years (the prosecutor called her "the Joan of Arc of Subversion"), including 22 days of brutal electro-shock torture.
Freed in late 1973, Rousseff moved to Porto Alegre, the state capital of the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. She resumed her studies at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, where she earned a degree in Economics. In 1975, President Rousseff started an internship at the Foundation of Economics and Statistics (FEE), a think-tank of the Rio Grande do Sul state government. In 1976, her first and only child, Paula Rousseff de Araújo, was born.
In the late 1970s, President Rousseff participated in an amnesty movement that supported citizens who had been deprived of their political rights or expelled from the country. Together with her then husband Carlos Araújo, Rousseff became one of the founders of the Democratic Labor Party (PDT) of leftist leader Leonel Brizola in Rio Grande do Sul. When her rights were restored by the 1979 general amnesty, she served in various city and state positions. In 1986, she was appointed Municipal Secretary of Treasury of Porto Alegre by Mayor Alceu Collares.
Following the return to democracy, Rousseff took active part in the 1989 presidential campaign, supporting PDT candidate Leonel Brizola in the first round and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, from the Workers’ Party (PT), in the runoff. In the early 1990s, Rousseff served as President of the Economy and Statistics Foundation of the state of Rio Grande do Sul (1991-1993). In 1993, Alceu Collares, then Governor of Rio Grande do Sul, appointed her State Secretary of Mines, Energy and Communications (1993-1994). She served again as State Secretary of Mines (1999-2002) under Workers' Party (PT) Governor Olivio Dutra, who was elected in 1998.
In 2001, President Rousseff joined the Workers´ Party and one year later, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was elected President. She was a key member of Lula's transition team in the weeks before he took office in January 2003, and impressed with President Rousseff´s knowledge and experience in the energy sector, Lula named her Minister of Mines & Energy days after his inauguration.
Between 2003 and 2005, President Rousseff led an in-depth redesign of Brazil’s electricity sector and created the “Light for All” program, which made electricity available to more than 11 million Brazilians living in rural areas and in the outskirts of large cities. As chair of the board of directors of Petrobras, she encouraged biofuels research and production.
In 2005, President Lula chose President Rousseff to serve as his Chief of Staff and to oversee the work of all ministries. In her new capacity, President Rousseff played a decisive role in coordinating the Growth Acceleration Program (PAC), a set of policies and measures to promote investments in infrastructure; and “My House, My Life”, the biggest housing program in the nation’s history. She also coordinated the new regulatory framework for the exploration of Brazil’s pre-salt oil reserves.
Dilma Rousseff, President Lula's choice to succeed him as president in January 2011, cast doubt over her viability as a presidential candidate when doctors discovered in March 2009 that she had lymphatic cancer. When Rousseff's illness was first made public, the Lula government rushed to give optimistic predictions for Rousseff's health when it was too early for a reliable prognosis. Her doctors stated that her cancer was caught early and she has a 90 percent chance of a full recovery.
President Rousseff left the government of President Lula on April 3, 2010 to become the presidential candidate for the Worker’s Party. In the runoff election on October 31, 2010, she was elected President of Brazil with almost 56 million votes. Her inauguration took place on January 1, 2011.
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