Brazil gets first woman president


A supporter wears a mask depicting Brazil's first woman president Dilma Rousseff

Dilma Rousseff has been sworn in as Brazil’s first female president, capping a rapid political trajectory for the career technocrat and former Marxist rebel who was imprisoned and tortured during the nation’s long military dictatorship.

The 63-year-old takes the helm of Latin America’s largest nation, which has risen both financially and politically on the world stage under outgoing leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Mr Silva leaves office as the nation’s most popular president with an approval rating that hit 87% in his last week in office. Ms Rousseff was his hand-picked successor.

Ms Rousseff, wearing a white skirt and matching jacket, took the oath of office alongside Vice President Michel Temer in the national Congress.

A heavy rain swept over Brazil’s capital, Brasilia, as she arrived at the Congress in a 1953 Rolls-Royce, waving out of the window to the thousands of cheering onlookers. Her security contingent comprised six young women, clad in black and running alongside the car through the downpour.

Ms Rousseff takes on the formidable task of maintaining Brazil’s momentum.

In the eight years under Mr Silva, Brazil sharply cut poverty while its economy boomed, and it has increased its political clout on the global stage.

Brazil will host the 2014 World Cup and is expected to be the world’s fifth-largest economy by the time the 2016 Olympics come to the nation.

Huge challenges also await Ms Rousseff, who served as Mr Silva’s energy minister before becoming his chief of staff, where her tough managerial manner earned her the moniker “Iron Lady”.

In addition to sweeping improvements Brazil needs in its infrastructure, security and education, she faces the challenge of following the charismatic Mr Silva, who leaves office with an 87% approval rating.

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