In Lula’s Shadow? Brazil’s First Female President

Dilma Rousseff, Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva

The former guerilla and now Brazil's first female President, Dilma Rousseff

The former guerilla and now Brazil’s first female President, Dilma Rousseff won a historic victory and will officially be sworn in January 1st. However, now-exiting former President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva may prove to be a tough act to follow.

former President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva

former President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva

Dubbed “the most popular politician on earth” its not all that hard to see why. Lula enjoyed an approval rating of around 80%. The economy grew around 7% every year he was in office, and social programs such as Bolsa Familia, a welfare program that also require children attend schools, has lifted over 20 million Brazilians out of poverty. The success and popularity of Lola certainly shines as an example of what government can do right, even without a Congressional majority.

her leadership of Brazil may be one of the greatest success stories of our time.

For her part, enjoying the endorsement of the popular Lula, Dilma Rousseff earned her nickname as the “Iron Lady” as an administrator. She joined an armed resistance group in the 1970’s, fighting against the military dictatorship of the time. She was arrested and tortured, doing three years in jail, and when eventually released, began to study economics and politics. She eventually joined Lula’s Worker Party.

Dilma Rousseff

Dilma Rousseff in her 1970 police mugshot, when she led a revolutionary group

“Lula was really not only the architect but the engineer and the foreman and the worker who actually built her image,” said Alexandre Barros, a political consultant in Brasilia. “Ultimately what voters did was to trust Lula.”

When she takes office, Rousseff will enjoy a Congressional majority of the leftist Worker’s Party, something that Lula never had. The pressures though, are enormous. With 20% of Brazil living below the poverty line, half without running water and most without sewage or septic tanks, social programs such as Bolsa Familia must continue to grow. Social programs must also be balanced with other investments. The investment in infrastructure has floundered as the economy rose, with airports and roads unable to meet the demands and in need of critical repairs.

Brazil’s hosting of the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016 will place Rousseff’s work directly in the spotlight. Lula has shown her a path, but Rouseeff will receive no pass for simply being the first female President in Brazil’s history. She stands with opportunity all around her, and if the economy continues to grow and poverty levels decrease, her leadership of Brazil may be one of the greatest success stories of our time.

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