President Dilma Rousseff between Bulgaria and Brazil (Interview Reprints)
Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency) offers you a reprint of the only three interviews that Brazil's new President Dilma Rousseff, the daughter of Bulgarian immigrant Petar Rusev, over the years gave for Bulgarian media.
Dilma Rousseff was "discovered" for the Bulgarian audience in 2004 by journalist Momchil Indzhov in 2004; back then, working for the Trud Daily, he managed to make the first ever interview that Dilma Rousseff gave for a Bulgarian media in her capacity as Minister of Energy and Mines of Brazil.
Another Bulgarian journalist Kadrinka Kadrinova from the Tema Weekly followed suit with an interview with Dilma Rousseff the following year.
In September 2010, shortly before the elections, Dilma Rousseff spoke once again to Momchil Indzhov, this time as representative of the 24 Chasa Daily. (Novinited.com's interview with Momchil Indzhov about Dilma Rousseff READ HERE)
The first two interviews were done over the phone; the last one was in person.
The interviews are below in reversed order of their publication dates, in original. The translation from Bulgarian is by Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency).
Dilma Rousseff: I Feel Bulgarian to Some Extent
By Momchil Indzhov, published in the 24 Chasa Daily, September 26, 2010.
Mrs. Rousseff, what feelings do you have for Bulgaria, the fatherland of your father?
Feelings of tenderness and love. I have to say that to some extent I feel Bulgarian even though I never came to my father's home land. Unfortunately, I never managed to meet my brother Lyuben who died two years ago. I know that you met him, and wrote about him, for which I am really grateful. My father died when I was only 15, and I never managed to learn Bulgarian. I knew only a few words but I don't remember them any more.
Should we expect you in Bulgaria?
I will certainly come for a visit.
As President of Brazil?
May God help me for that.
Allow me to present you with a letter and a modest gift from your first counsin Tsanka Kamenova, who lives in Sofia, and with greetings from your other first cousin, Nadezhda Hristova, who is in Canada. They wish you success.
I thank them very much. Let my relatives in Bulgaria expect me soon. I am eager for the moment when I will finally meet them.
The rally in Portu Alegre just ended. What meaning does this city have for you?
It has a special place in my life. I settled here in 1973 after I got out of prison. This is where I formed as a politician. The people here supported me, and had trust in me. They are the most wonderful people in the world. They have enormous spirit and are very emotional. They never hide their true feelings. This is where my daughter Paula was born. Only two weeks ago, she presented me with a grandson, a wonderful boy named Gabriel. That is why I have many reasons to be happy in the sunny Portu Alegre.
These days the US magazine Newsweek published an article saying that Brazil's head of state Lula da Silva is the most popular president in the world. How do you feel as his right hand, and a potential successor?
I am really happy to work with the most popular president in the world, and to be filled with a feeling of certainty because of his qualities and his project for the future of Brazil. The program about zero hunger is going well. We have created almost 15 million jobs. We can do even better than that. We have been going together in the government of our country for eight years now. It makes one proud knowing that so many people trust you.
Today, (September 24, 2010 - editor's note), is a historical day for Brazil because I am honored to announce that the Brazil government increased its capital in the national oil company Petrobras from 40% to 48%. This is a great achievement, and it is thanks to President Lula.
The state is now the largest shareholder in the company. Do you know what our predecessors wanted to do it? They wanted to rename it to Petrobrax. Do you know why? I don't want to explain it because it is inappropriate. (The Brazilian government considered renaming the oil company Petrobras to Petrobrax because of the end "bras" which is plural of "bra" in English – note of the editors of 24 Chasa.)
While today after the news about the purchase hit, it sold shares for over 70 billion dollars. This surpassed all expectations. Petrobras is already the second largest oil company in the world after the American Exxon. The world has been talking for a while about the Brazilian economy, but it will be talking about it even more.
What is to be expected from you as president after October 3?
Let's wait because I am still just a candidate at least until October 3. I know you will tell me about the public opinion polls and so on but let's wait. I know that it will not be easy. I just have to continue want president Lula has begun.
He wants to make Brazil a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Will you manage to do that as a head of state?
May God help me to manage to do that. It would be a recognition about Brazil's power.
How do you think you will do as the first women to become president of the fifth largest country in the world by territory and population?
My nomination suggests that we are increasingly turning our backs to discrimination. I will continue with greater power and persistence the struggle against this detrimental phenomenon. It has no place in Brazil or anywhere else in the world.
What did the years in illegal fight and the time spent in jail teach you?
To resist evil. Even while they were torturing me with electricity during the persecution I swore that I will continue to fight. The dictatorship, especially the military dictatorship, of which not only me but also millions of other Brazilians suffered, went in the past because of our resistance.
Since you mentioned the torture, you provoked my next question. Do you know about the case with the five Bulgarian nurses in Libya, who were jailed for 8.5 years and were also tortured with electricity as you were?
Yes, of course I know about it.
What would you tell them?
Only one thing – that everything is behind them. Life is wonderful when a person is free
Dilma Vana Rousseff, Minister of Energy and Mines of Brazil: I Want to Be Helpful for Both Brazil and Bulgaria
By Kadrinka Kardinova, Head of the Union of Bulgarian Spanish-Speaking Journalists, published in the Tema Weekly, 2005
Mrs. Minister, you are the daughter of a Bulgarian who settled in Brazil, and this fact is now widely known in Bulgaria. Tell us about your father.
His name is Petar Stefanov Rusev. He was involved in communist activity in Bulgaria in the 1920s, then emigrated. He lived in France, and in 1944 went to Argentina, and then to Brazil, where he met my mother Dilma Coimbra Silva, and married her. She is 20 years younger than him, and give birth to three children. I have a brother Igor, and my younger sister Zana died very young. I have a brother in Bulgaria who I have never met. He is the son of my father's first wife, his name is Lyuben-Kamen and he lives in Sofia. Judging by his letters, he has a hard life.
My father died of a heart attack when I was 15 but he managed to instill me with love for books and ideas for social justice. He remained a person of the left even though in the last years of his life he was not actively involved in political activities. He made a living for his family as a construction entrepreneur, he was very erudite.
Thanks to him I also know the great Bulgarian poetess Elisaveta Bagryana. My father was very close to her. They met during his time in France. She visited our home for an entire month in 1960 when she attended the congress of the International PEN Club in Rio de Janeiro. Our family archive keeps many photos from that visit.
You lead on Brazil's part the talks with the delegation led by the Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov, which visited Brazil. Has a visit of yours to Bulgaria been negotiated this spring? How does your personal connection with Bulgaria influence the talks under these circumstances?
You know, I found a very warm attitude on part of the Bulgarian delegation that visited Brazil. I found among its members many features of my father, brother, sister. The form of the eyes, the tan of the skin. I have a great desire to get to know Bulgaria of which I have only heard old stories from the 1920s and 1930s, which is when my father's memories dated back to. I really want to go to his home land and meet my brother who lives in Sofia.
Because of all that, my attitude towards Bulgaria is filled with many emotions. On the other hand, as a minister in the government of Brazil, I also have a special attitude towards Bulgaria, I feel committed to developing our relations of cooperation which will also mean personal success at my post.
I am half Bulgaria and half Brazilian. That is why in my work I need to realize my double destiny so that I can be helpful for both Brazil and Bulgaria. We really have many opportunities to cooperate successful, we only need to development them.
How do you see the cooperation between Bulgaria and Brazil specifically in the energy and mining field which you are in charge of as minister?
In my field we have many great opportunities for good partnership and for real brotherly ties. For example, in the field of alternative energy sources. In Brazil, we have been applying for years a program promoted during the time of the first global oil crisis in the 1970s, called "Renovated Fuel."
It is about alternative environment-friendly fuel based on ethanol extracted from sugar-cane. It can be used separately or mixed with gas. The major thing is that it is friendly to the ozone layer because of its reduced emission of harmful gases.
We have a stable system for the use of this fuel, which we have been using for 30 years. Large car manufacturers with branches in Brazil such as Volkswagen and Fiat created a simple technology allowing the simultaneous use of ethanol and gas. About 500 000 cars in Brazil are fueled based on this principle today.
The gas stations have been equipped to provide both gas and mixed fuel. We have already started to export bioethanol for Japan and EU countries, especially Germany. There is an increased interest from both environmental and economic point of view. Bulgaria might also become interested in that.
I think we have the opportunity to exchange experience and cooperate in the production of electricity, the construction of power lines, power plants, development of mining.
In our commercial ties, we could be of use to one another as "doors" to our regions. We can "open" Latin America for you, which a large consumer market, and you can help us reach the EU, Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Bloc. I think we can have a symmetric cooperation without violating the interests of either party.
Your guerrilla past from the times of resistance against the dictatorship in Brazil is very impressive. Which is harder – being a guerrilla fighter or a minister?
The situation in Brazil in the 1970s was very complex. It was a great challenge for us to fight against the military dictatorship so it was very hard to be a guerrilla fighter. We were persecuted for our ideas, arrested, and tortured. Now the situation has changed. We have manged to achieve the democracy that we fought for.
We have a stable state with democratic institutions, with an established system for direct elections. The dictatorship is a closed page. We now face a different challenge – to work for the prosperity of the people, to fight hunger, to help Brazil achieve advanced development, and to find its place in the world.
On the other hand, an economy such as ours cannot settle for a subordinate role in international relations, it needs to have space and opportunities for development. I think the greatest challenge now is to change the living standard of a large portion of the people in Brazil – from living in want to a better life.
As energy minister you started with the ambition to provide electricity to more Brazilians. Do you still have people without electricity in Brazil?
Yes, there are about 9 million out of the 180 million population in Brazil without electricity. We have developed an entire humanitarian program which should improve the life of these people in a fast way.
Electricity is not evenly distributed around Brazil. Our electric grid is almost 90 000 km long. In order to paint a better picture for your, I will tell you that that corresponds to the length of the power grid in all of Europe.
In the poorest regions of the country – the Northeast and the Amazon – this network is very weak. Our ambition is to improve that situation. We have available government funds and companies and with the aid of the syndicates and the small agricultural producers, and this is already yielding results. By the end of 2005 two states of our federal republic will be fully electrified, and not a single Brazilian family will be left without electricity there.
In 2006 and 2007, we will continue with this program, and by 2008 we hope to electrify even the most underdeveloped state yet, the Amazon.
We will also use alternative environment-friendly energy sources such as solar power, small TPPs burning wood refuse and refuse from agriculture, etc. The point of our efforts is to achieve a permanent social impact in fighting poverty, and increase the standard of living of the population.
Are you succeeding in achieving the dreams of your rebel youth? Some supporters of your government have already started to criticize it for not being active enough to improve the life of the people?
The Workers' Pary with our current President Inacio Lula da Silva was created in the process of democratization of the country and just the rivers flow into the ocean, Lula's party consolidated everyone interested in fighting for our country. We are now realizing our dreams but there is a period during which these dreams need to mature, without us giving them up. Just as the individual, the society, the party, and the country must be measured with their capacity to dream. Whoever is a great dream, exerts great efforts to achieve their dreams.
Dilma Rousseff, Former Guerrilla Commander, Now Brazilian Minister of Bulgarian Origin: I Led USD 2.5 M Robbery
By Momchil Indzhov, published in the Trud Daily, September 1, 2004
Mrs. Rousseff, would you tell us about your father?
His name was Petar Stefanov Rusev. I know that in the 1920s he was connected with the communist party in Bulgaria. He lived in Sofia. In 1929, he left Bulgaria for political reasons, and went to France where he lived for almost 15 years. At the end of World War II, in 1944, he went to Argentina, and after that – to Brazil.
First, he worked for the German company Mannesmann. He married my mother Dilma Coimbra Silva, she is 81 today, I was named after her. I have a brother, Igor, born on January 1, 1947. My youngest sister Zana, born in 1951, died very young when she was 26.
But I also have a half brother in Bulgaria who I have never met. He is from the first wife of my father. His name is Lyuben-Kamen and he lives in Sofia.
What do you remember about your father?
He was a personality with a strong character, very well educated. He read a lot of books. I owe to him almost everything that I learned during my childhood. I was only 15 when my father died. He was a supporter of the left – the communists, the social-democrats, and other parties with similar orientation. As far as I know, before he had children, he helped the left. But after that he devoted himself to his business and his family.
My father became a construction entrepreneur. Thank God he did not live to see the arrival of the military dictatorship in 1964. He died two years earlier of a heart attack.
I will also tell you something very curious. My father was close with poetess Elisaveta Bagryana. She was our guest in 1960 when she attended the International PEN Club congress in Rio de Janeiro. After that Bagryana spent an entire month in our home in Belo Horizonte.
Did you learn Bulgarian from your father?
I used to understand a little but after he died I never had the chance to talk. Two months ago I was in Bonn, Germany, for an international conference on renewable energy sources. There I met my Bulgarian counterpart Milko Kovachev. We sat next to one another because alphabetically Bulgaria comes right after Brazil. And I understood some of the words that he exchanged with the members of his delegation.
Have you ever been to Bulgaria?
No, but I am thinking of going there next year. And I hope to finally meet my brother.
Tell us about your guerrilla past?
As you know, in 1964, there was a military coup in Brazil. A harsh dictatorship came to power. Back then I lived in Sao Paulo. The youngsters massively joined leftist groups. I founded and led the group called Palmares, after the 17th community of escaped slaves in Brazil. Even though most of us in the group were white, we shared the ideas of our black brothers – freedom, equality, and justice.
You name is connected with the robbery of USD 2.5 M from the residence of the governor of the state of Sao Paulo. How did you carry out this operation?
First, I would like to clarify that I personally did not take part in this operation even though I led it. That is why I cannot tell you how exactly the money was stolen. But the robbery was committed by the group that I led so I assume the full political responsibility. This happened in 1969.
Governor Ademar de Baros was a protege of the junta. He was one of the most corrupt people in Brazil. This money had been stolen from the people. De Baros had a lover named Ana Caprillione. One of my men was her nephew. This is how we learned where the governor hid the money.
What did you do with the money?
We used part of it, about one third, to support Brazilians that the junta forced into exile. The rest of the money, unfortunately, the regime got back when most of us were arrested a year later.
How did they catch you, and what happened after that?
I was caught during one of the many police raids. I was first taken to army barracks where I was severely tortured. Their most favorite torture technique was to use electricity. I still have scars from those tortures. A military tribunal sentenced me to three years in prison. I was released in 1973. Other people joined the illegal organizations then.
I started studying, and settled in Portu Allegre, the capital of the state of Rio Grande do Sul. I got married and gave birth to my daughter Paula. Now I am divorced.
Meanwhile, the regime gradually started to democratize. Almost all former guerrilla fighters joined the leftist Brazilian democratic movement. The military lost power in 1985. Now I am a member of the Workers' Party, to which President Inacio Lula belongs.
What does it take to head the ministry of mines and energy of the fifth largest country in the world?
First, we need to realize the program "Electricity for Everybody". Brazil has a population of 180 million people. Of those, 12 million, or more than live in Hungary, still live without electricity today. This is terrible. Many of those people living in the poor Northeast. It is important to built power lines and to help them live normally.
Brazil is one of the few countries in the world using renewable fuel. Many of the cars in Brazil run not on gas but on ethanol derived from sugar-cane. This way we are protecting the environment and conserving energy.
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