Go to contents

Brazil’s 1st Woman President

Posted November. 02, 2010 11:34,   


Brazil, the biggest nation in South America, has elected its first woman president. Dilma Rousseff of the ruling Workers’ Party will be inaugurated in January to succeed Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who has served nearly eight years in office. Brazil is the world’s fifth-largest country in area, possesses an abundance of natural resources, and has a population of about 200 million. Nicknamed “Brazil’s Margaret Thatcher,” Rousseff has garnered global attention.

While serving as energy minister and chief minister of the federal government under the Lula administration, which was inaugurated in 2003, Rousseff is a close confidante of the outgoing president. When Brazil was under military rule, she joined an anti-government organization and later served three years in prison. She served at many government posts at the provincial and federal levels, but never ran in an election or took a party post. Given her lack of public visibility, the critical factor in Rousseff’s win was her full support of Lula, who enjoyed an approval rating of more than 80 percent despite the imminent end of his term in office. It is fair to call Rousseff’s victory Lula’s victory.

Lula, who built his career through the labor movement, won the presidential election in October 2002. At the time, investment guru George Soros predicted that Brazil could suffer bankruptcy with Lula in office. Lula, however, pursued a pragmatic policy in which he encouraged investment by domestic and foreign companies while caring for the socially underprivileged. The Brazilian economy, which had been derided as a “chicken that could not fly,” grew an annual average of 5 percent from 2003 to 2008. The country is expected to post annual growth at the 7-percent level this year, the highest in 24 years. Brazil became the world’s 12th-largest economy in 2005 in overtaking Korea and now ranks eighth. Proactive diplomacy in the international stage under Lula, including successful bids to host the 2012 World Cup soccer finals and the 2016 Summer Olympics, have also elevated the national pride of the Brazilian people. Even a left-leaning politician deserves acclaim if he or she can perform as well as Lula.

The Korean and Brazilian governments marked the 50th anniversary of bilateral ties last year. They are boosting bilateral cooperation focused on economy. LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics and POSCO have set up operations in Brazil, and Hyundai Motor, Dongkuk Steel Mill and Hyosung are building or will build plants there. Lula and Rousseff, who are known to hold affection for Korea, will attend the G-20 summit in Seoul next week. Their visit to Korea will be Lula’s last overseas trip as president and Rousseff’s debut in summit diplomacy.

Editorial Writer Kwon Sun-hwal (shkwon@donga.com)