Rousseff Rides Economic Boom to Brazil's Presidency
Monday, 01 November 2010

Former guerrilla leader Dilma Rousseff won Brazil's presidential election in resounding fashion on Sunday and promised to stick to policies that have lifted millions from poverty and made Brazil one of the world's hottest economies.

The ruling party's candidate, who rode the huge popularity of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to power, won 56 percent of valid votes compared to 43.9 percent for the opposition's Jose Serra, with 99.9 percent of ballots counted.

Thousands of jubilant supporters gathered on the streets of Sao Paulo and the capital Brasilia, where people danced and waved red flags for both the Workers' Party and the labour unions that form its base.

In her first remarks as president-elect, an emotional Rousseff said her government would seek to eliminate poverty in Brazil by the end of her four-year term and pledged to keep spending on social programs and infrastructure projects aimed at vaulting the country to developed-nation status.

But in a nod to investors, concerned about Brazil's finances, she said Brazilians would not tolerate a government that spent beyond its means and she would strive to make public spending more efficient.

"I received from millions of Brazilians maybe the most important mission of my life," she told a packed room of supporters in Brasilia, her eyes welling up with tears.

Flanked by her campaign manager and former finance minister Antonio Palocci, Rousseff pledged to extend what she called a "new era of prosperity" and respect existing contracts, a clear signal she is unlikely to stray far from the economic policies championed by Lula.

The election completed an unlikely journey for Rousseff that took her from jail and brutal torture by her military captors in the 1970s to become the first woman to lead Latin America's largest economy.

A 62-year-old economist and former energy minister who leans left but has become more pragmatic, Rousseff had never run for elected office. Yet she received decisive support from Lula, who plucked her from relative obscurity to succeed him.

"I think she will continue Lula's work," said Elizabete Gomes da Silva, a factory worker in Sao Paulo. "He governed for the people who needed him most -- the poorest."


During Lula's eight years in office, his stable fiscal policies and social programs helped lift 20 million Brazilians, or more than 10 percent of the population, out of poverty.

The burgeoning middle class is snapping up cars and building houses at a pace never seen in Brazil before, helping make it a rare bright spot in the global economy.

That legacy was simply too much for Serra to overcome.

He mustered just enough support in the first round of voting on October 3 to force a runoff, and briefly closed in on Rousseff in polls. But she pulled away in the final two weeks as the focus shifted from her views on social issues such as abortion and back to Lula's economic record.


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