Dilma chose armed struggle as a guerrilla leader against the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil with an iron fist from 1964 to 1985. In a strange twist of fate, Dilma took a parallel path to the presidency as did her contemporary, Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile. Both women were imprisoned and tortured by the U.S.-backed military regimes of their countries. Dilma was subjected to electric shock torture by sadists trained in the notorious military School of the Americas, a.k.a “school of the assassins” in Fort Benning, Georgia.
|Mugshot of Dilma Rousseff: From captured guerrilla leader in 1972 to President-elect of Brazil in 2010.|
The charismatic and beloved Lula is one tough act to follow. He presided over a booming economy that lifted 10 million Brazilians out of poverty and into the middle class. Lula, a self-made man with little formal education, is a founding member of Brazil’s Worker’s Party. He began his career as a lathe operator before moving up the trade union ranks to a leadership position during the turbulent era of the U.S.-backed military regime. Several times imprisoned by the military for his union organizing activities, he later won election to Congress. Lula is credited with being one of the most influential voices compelling the military to restore direct presidential elections.
A testament to his grit and perseverance, Lula ran for president three times before finally being elected. He was resoundingly re-elected with near-record vote totals for a world democratic leader. His approval ratings, as all-round good guy and model world citizen, have been sky-high as he prepares to leave office.
Going out on a high note: President Lula and First Lady Marisa Letícia stroll the majestic
esplanade of the Alvorada Presidential palace. Official portrait of the world's most popular leader.
President Lula said, “I can't imagine someone being stoned, I can't imagine. That’s why I made the request. If there was condition to send her to Brazil, we would receive her with arms wide open.” Lula opposes the death penalty, saying “I don't think the state has the right to kill a person.” If she “is causing problems there,” he added, “we will welcome her here.”
Human rights organizations around the world hailed the offer as “unprecedented” and asked Brazil to continue using its influence “to lobby for the release of 12 other women awaiting execution by stoning.” While the Iranians have rejected Brazil’s offer of asylum, the high-level spotlight placed on this as a human rights issue has caused Iran to back down from going forward with the executions.
Dilma promised to carry on Lula’s social welfare policies to eradicate “misery” once and for all, improve the nation's healthcare delivery systems, and continue the pro-growth economic policies. Thanking the press, President-elect Dilma Rousseff said:
“I don’t deny that at times some of the things that were reported left me sad. But those who, like me, fought for democracy and for the right of free opinion, risking our lives, those who, like me and so many others no longer among us, dedicated all of our youth to the right of free expression — we were natural lovers of liberty. I said and repeat, that I prefer the noise of a free press to the silence of the dictatorships.I read somewhere about how special American democracy was. I too believe in American exceptionalism. But today, at least, American democracy takes a backseat to Brazil’s. Brazilian exceptionalism is on proud display to the world in the force and beauty and dignity of its democracy. It’s an awesome thing to see. This daughter of a Bulgarian immigrant has done good. And so has Brazil.
The task of succeeding [Lula] is difficult and challenging. But I know how to honor this legacy. I learned with him that when you govern thinking of the public interest and of the most needy, an immense force springs from the people and helps us govern, a force that carries the nation forward and helps us win the biggest challenges.”