Who Is Who: Brazil's Bulgaria-Descended President Dilma Vana Rousseff

Politics » DIPLOMACY | October 5, 2011, Wednesday // 01:01
Bulgaria: Who Is Who: Brazil's Bulgaria-Descended President Dilma Vana Rousseff Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (R) attends an electoral campaign event of Brazilian presidential candidate for the Workers Party Dilma Rousseff in Rio de Janeiro. EPA/BGNES

On January 1, 2011, Dilma Vana Rousseff was inaugurated as Brazil's 36th President.

On October 31, 2010, Dilma Rousseff beat Jose Serra in the second round of Brazil's Presidential Elections, becoming the first woman to be President of Brazil.

On October 3, 2010, Workers' Party candidate Dilma Rousseff won the first round of Brazil's 2010 Presidential Elections with over 46% of the votes, and will be facing a runoff on October 31.


Dilma Vana Rousseff was born on December 14, 1947, in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil, in the family of Bulgarian immigrant Petar Rusev (1900-1962), also known as Pedro Rousseff, a lawyer and a construction entrepreneur, and Dilma Jane Silva was, a school teacher whose parents were ranchers.

(Detailed information about the Bulgarian origin and family of Dilma Rousseff READ HERE)

Petar Rousseff and Dilma Jane Silva settled in Belo Horizonte and had three children: Igor, Dilma Vana and Zana Lucia (Zana was transformed from the Bulgarian name "Tsana") who died in 1977 at the age of 26. Dilam's brother Igor Rousseff is a lawyer.

Pedro Roussef was a contractor for Mannesmann steel in addition to building and selling real estate. The family lived in a large house, served by three servants. Pedro (Petar) Rousseff died in 1962, leaving behind around 15 properties.

In 1965, at age 15, right after the coup d'etat of 1964, Dilma left the conservative Colegio Sion and joined the Central State High School. According to Dilma, it was in this school that she became aware of the political situation of her country.

The Brazilian military government was the authoritarian regime which ruled Brazil from March 31, 1964, till March 15, 1985, when civilian Jose Sarney took office as President. It began after the 1964 coup d'etat led by the armed forces against the democratically elected government of left-wing President Joao Goulart.

In 1967, Dilma joined the Worker's Politics (Portuguese: Pol?tica Operaria - POLOP), an organization founded in 1961 as a faction of the Brazilian Socialist Party, and then a subgroup called Command of National Liberation (Portuguese: Comando de Libertacao Nacional - Colina).

During that period, Dilma met Cl?udio Galeno Linhares, a brother in arms five years older than her. Galeano. They married in 1968 in a civil ceremony, after just one year of dating.

Dilma participated in militant activities of Colina, and advocated Marxist politics among labor union members. She reportedly knew how to handle weapons, confront the police, and use guerrilla tactics.

In early 1969, the Minas Gerais branch of Colina was limited to a dozen militants, with little money and few weapons. Its activities had boiled down to four bank robberies, some stolen cars and two bombings, with no casualties.

At age 21, Dilma moved to Rio de Janeiro when she had just finished her fourth semester at the Minas Gerais Federal University Economics School, where she met Rio Grande do Sul-born lawyer Carlos Franklin Paixao de Araujo, who was then 31 years old; they suddenly fell in love with one another. Araujo was head of a dissent group of the Brazilian Communist Party (Portuguese: Partido Comunista Brasileiro - PCB) and sheltered Galeno in Porto Alegre. Dilma's break-up with Galeno was peaceful.

Carlos Araujo was chosen as one of the six leaders of VAR Palmares, which claimed to be a "political-military organization of Marxist-Leninist partisan orientation. Dilma was also among the leading participants in VAR Palmares. The attorney which prosecuted the organization called her "Joan of Arc of subversion."

Dilma has sometimes been described as the mastermind of the theft of a safe belonging to former governor of S?o Paulo Ademar de Barros. The action was carried out on June 18, 1969 in Rio de Janeiro, and netted 2.5 million U.S. Dollars. However, on at least three different occasions Dilma herself also denied participating in the event. Testimonials and police reports indicated that Dilma was responsible of managing the money of the robbery.

Dilma was captured by the authorities in Sao Paulo in January 1970. Dilma was taken to the OBAN headquarters. She was allegedly tortured for 22 days by punching, ferule, and electric shock devices. Later, Dilma denounced the torture she suffered in court proceedings, citing even the names of those who tortured her.

In December 2006, the Special Commission for Reparation of the Human Rights Office for the State of Rio de Janeiro approved a request for indemnification by Dilma and 18 other prisoners in law enforcement agencies of the Sao Paulo state government in the 1970s. The total compensation figure can get to BRL 72 000. However, as her advisors have declared, the indemnification has a symbolic character to her, and Dilma demanded the requests to be tried only after her departure from public office.

Dilma left jail at the end of 1972. She moved to Porto Alegre, where Carlos Araujo was finishing the last months of his sentence.

Punished for subversion in accordance with the decree number 477, considered the AI-5 of universities, Dilma was expelled from the Minas Gerais Federal University and barred from resuming her studies at that university in 1973. She decided to attend a preparatory course in order to take the vestibular test for Economics at the Rio Grande do Sul Federal University. She was admitted in the University and graduated in 1977, this time not participating actively in the student's movement.

In March 1976, she gave birth to her only child, daughter Paula Rousseff Araujo. After graduation, she got her first paid job after serving her prison sentence as an intern at the

Her political activism, this time within the law, was resumed at the Institute of Social and Political Studies (Portuguese: Instituto de Estudos Pol?ticos e Sociais - IEPES) linked to the only legalized opposition party, the Democratic Movement.

In 1978, Dilma attended the Campinas State University, with the intention of receiving a master's degree in Economics. Dilma declared that she "attended the master's degree program," but did not finish it, failing to present her thesis.

With the end of the mandatory two-party system, in the early 1980s, Dilma participated, along with Carlos Ara?jo, in Leonel Brizola's efforts for restructuring the Brazilian Labor Party (of social-democratic President Joao Goulart, overthrown by the 1964 coup). Dilma took part in the founding of the Democratic Labor Party (Portuguese: Partido Democr?tico Trabalhista – PDT). Dilma got her second job in the mid-1980s as an adviser for the PDT members of the Rio Grande do Sul Legislative Assembly.

Dilma and Ara?jo devoted themselves to Alceu Collares' campaign for mayor of Porto Alegre in 1985. Much of his campaign and government plan was prepared at their home. After elected, Collares appointed Dilma as the Municipal Secretary of Treasury; this was her first job in the Executive branch.

Dilma remained as Treasury Secretary until 1988, when she stepped out to dedicate herself in Araujo's campaign for mayor of Porto Alegre. Ara?jo's defeat jettisoned the PDT of the local executive branch. In 1989, however, Dilma was appointed director-general of the City Council, but was dismissed by councilman Valdir Fraga.

In 1990, Alceu Collares was elected Governor, appointing Dilma as president of the FEE, where she had been an intern in the 1970s. She remained in office until the end of 1993, when she was appointed Secretary of Energy and Communication.

She remained in office until the end of 1994, the same time when her relationship with Ara?jo had ended, shaken by the discovery that another woman was pregnant with his child, Rodrigo (born in 1995). They later reconciled and remained together until 2000.

In 1995, after the end of Collares' term, Dilma departed from her political office and returned to the FEE, where she was the editor of the magazine Economic Indicators (Portuguese: Indicadores Econ?micos). It was during this break from public offices that she officially enrolled in Campinas State University PhD program, in 1998.

In 1998, the Workers' Party won the Rio Grande do Sul gubernatorial election with the support of PDT in the second round. Once again she was appointed Secretary of Energy, this time by Governor Ol?vio Dutra.

In 1999, upon her second break-up with Araujo, she resumed using her maiden name, Dilma Vana Rousseff.

During Dilma's management of the Secretariat of Energy in the Dutra administration, the service capacity of the electricity sector rose by 46% due to an emergency program. In January 1999, Dilma traveled to Bras?lia in order to alert the Fernando Henrique Cardoso administration that if the authorities responsible for the power sector did not invest in energy, the power cuts that Rio Grande do Sul faced early in her administration would take place in the rest of the country.

After elected Brazil's President, Lula surprisingly chose Dilma as the Minister of Energy. Her management of the Ministry was marked by the respect of contracts made by the previous administration, by her efforts to prevent further blackouts and by the implementation of an electric model less concentrated in the hands of the state; she expanded the free market of energy.

Convinced that urgent investments in power generation were required so that the country would not face a general blackout in 2009, Dilma entered in a serious clash with then Minister of Environment, Marina Silva (who later ran against her as a candidate of the Green Party in the 2010 elections), who defended the embargo on several construction sites on environmental grounds.

After becoming the Energy Minister, Dilma defended a new industrial policy from the government, ensuring that Petrobras' platforms had a minimum domestic content that could generate 30 000 new jobs in the country. She argued that it was unthinkable that a billion dollar industry was not pursued in Brazil.

In 2008, Brazil's shipbuilding industry as a whole employed 40 000 people, compared to 500 people in the mid-90s, in part because of the nationalization requirement. Brazil now has the 6th largest shipping industry in the world.

Dilma proposed to accelerate the goals of universalizing the access to electricity, which had a deadline of 2015. She argued that it was a social inclusion goal that should not focus strictly on financial returns.

The program was launched on November 2003, under the name Luz para Todos (English: Electricity for All), focused in regions with low Human Development Index. The goal of the program was to provide electricity for 2 million households until the end of 2008.

In October 2008, Dilma acknowledged that the government would not be able to fulfill its goal in time, leaving 100 000 households behind. In April 2008, the government expanded the program until 2010, in order to benefit other 1.17 million families. The Northeast region concentrated 49% of the connections of the program.

As Minister of Energy, Dilma had the support of two key ministers of the Lula administration: Antonio Palocci and Jos? Dirceu. After Dirceu resigned as Chief of the Presidential Staff due to his involvement in the so-called "Mensalao" scandal, instead of being weakened, Dilma was chosen by Lula to be the new Chief of Staff. She took office in June 21, 2005, becoming the first female to assume the position. As a former Energy Minister, she also holds a seat in the board of directors of Petrobras.

At a press conference on April 25, 2009, Rousseff revealed that she was undergoing treatment to remove an early-stage axillar lymphoma, a cancer in the lymphatic system, which was detected in her left armpit during a routine mammographic exam. Her chances of being cured were up to 90%. She was submitted to curative chemotherapy treatment for four months.

In mid-May 2009, she was hospitalized in the Hospital S?rio Liban?s in S?o Paulo, with severe pains in her legs. The diagnosis was a myopathy, a muscle inflammation resulting from the cancer treatment. In early September that same year, she revealed to have completed her radiotherapy treatment, claiming to be cured, what was later confirmed by the doctors of that hospital at the end of the month.

She started to wear a wig because of the hair loss caused as an effect of chemotherapy. After seven months of wearing a wig, Dilma revealed her natural dark brown hair at the launch of the 3rd Human Rights Program on December 21, 2009.

On June 13, 2010, after more than two years of wide-spread speculation, Rousseff was launched as the official presidential candidate for the Workers' Party in the 2010 presidential election.

At that time, former Sao Paulo State Governor Jos? Serra, candidate for the center-right opposition bloc, had been at the top of the polls for over two years. With promises of maintaining Lula's popular policies, Rousseff was able to surpass Serra in all polls on late July.

If elected, she will become the first female head of government ever in the history of Brazil, and the first de facto female head of state since the death of Maria I, Queen of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves in 1816.

Rousseff has received support from nine political parties, being able to receive the largest amount of time for advertisement on television. Rousseff's candidacy was also supported by notable international figures, such as Puerto Rican actor Benicio Del Toro, Martine Aubry, First Secretary of the French Socialist Party, and American filmmaker Oliver Stone.

On September 9, 2010, Paula Rousseff de Araujo, her only daughter, gave birth to Dilma's first grandchild, a boy named Gabriel Rousseff Covolo, in the city of Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, amidst the 2010 presidential campaign. After Dilma's last debate with the other 4 candidates on September 30, 2010, in Rio, which was aired on national TV, Dilma flew to Porto Alegre for the christening of Gabriel in the Roman Catholic cathedral on October 1, 2010.

Before running in Brazil's Presidential Elections in 2010, Rousseff had never held an elected office.

Public Service Record

1985-1988 – Municipal Secretary of the Treasury in Porto Alegre

1990-1993 – President of the FEE Foundation of Economics and Statistics (Portuguese: Funda??o de Economia e Estat?stica - FEE), an organization linked to the government of Rio Grande do Sul.

1993-1994 - Secretary of Energy and Communication, Rio Grande do Sul

1998-2002 – Secretary of Energy and Communication, Rio Grande do Sul

2003-2005 – Minister of Energy of Brazil

2005-2010 – Chief of Staff of President Lula da Silva


Detailed information about the Bulgarian origin and family of Dilma Rousseff READ HERE

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Tags: Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, Presidential elections, Lula, Petar Rousseff, Petar Rusev

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