Read My Lips

Dilma Rousseff on Governing Brazil

What is the new President of Brazil’s vision for her country?

What is the new President of Brazil's vision for her country?


  • Dilma and her policy team must prepare to brace against the perfect storm.
  • Dilma’s goal for her second term must be to reboot the economy.
  • President Dilma’s second term administration must drive through reforms that lessen the costs of doing business.
  • To win sustainable economic development and growth, President Dilma needs to find her global voice.

Given your past, what is it like becoming a public figure, almost a celebrity?

“It took a while to understand exactly how I felt. It seemed like I was a turtle and they had somehow taken my shell off, as if I was naked. It feels like you are in front of the world, unprotected, but it is only momentary.”
(Marie Claire, April 2009)

Do you believe in God?

“I was baptized in the Catholic Church, but I no longer attend church. Yet, when I fly I always say a little prayer. I have a strong relationship with Our Lady, the Virgin Mother from my days studying under the nuns at school.”

(Marie Claire, April 2009)

Are you afraid of death?

“No, I don’t fear death. In fact, I didn’t fear death when my doctors diagnosed my lymphoma. They discovered it early and I was treated. It was terrible and very painful, but I was cured. During that time I learned to appreciate the mundane, daily things of life. I am conscious of these things at every moment, so I’ve learned not to fear death.”

(Rolling Stone — Brazil Edition, September 2010)

Many leaders, politicians, and business people become so involved in their work that they neglect their emotional lives. You are single. What is it like to deal with loneliness?

“I’m not single, no. I am very well accompanied. I feel great with myself as companionship. To be lonely you have to feel needy, lonesome. I don’t feel lonesome at 60, but we all can feel this at 30.”

(Marie Claire, April 2009)

Why did you begin your militancy in the student movement?

“With the onset of the dictatorship, some segments of the middle class began to radicalize. As a 16-year-old I couldn’t understand how democracy could exist one month and then be gone the next. Students began to organize demonstrations, street theater and festivals against the dictatorship. Those who were leftist militants, who struggled against the dictatorship, went clandestine in 1968. I was one of these people.”

(Marie Claire, April 2009)

Are you proud of your participation in this movement, or would you rather forget it?

“I am very proud of having fought against the military dictatorship and always will. I fought for democracy. The military dictatorship cast a shadow over Brazil. It was an era of repression, violence and the absence of fundamental freedoms and rights. I belonged to political organizations that fought the dictatorship, but I didn’t directly participate in the armed struggle. I was imprisoned, tortured and sentenced.”

(Rolling Stone — Brazil Edition, September 2010)

Why do you think President Lula chose you to succeed him as president, and when did this happen?

“President Lula chose me four times. The first was for his transition team in 2002, when he succeeded Fernando Henrique Cardoso. The president chose me to coordinate the infrastructure policy area because I worked with him at his Citizenship Institute. Afterwards, he nominated me as Minister of Mines and Energy. In 2005, he nominated me as his chief-of-staff. Lastly, he chose me to become the Worker’s Party’s presidential candidate to continue the government’s policies and programs. I think it was a good decision because I played a role in the development of his government’s major projects. He knew that together we could complete these projects.”

(Istoé, May 2010)

Did you always have a personal ambition to become the President of Brazil?

“This is a special moment in my life, maybe the high point. There are people who live their entire lives wanting to be President of the Republic. I was much more modest. I got involved in politics because I wanted to serve.”

(Istoé, May 2010)

What is the significance of your election as President of Brazil?

“So, I am here to state my first post-election commitment: To honor Brazilian women so that this unprecedented electoral victory now becomes something normal and can be repeated and expanded in companies, public institutions and organizations that are representative of our entire society.”

(Retriever Weekly, November 2010)

Is it possible to eradicate poverty through government action?

“Brazil’s Institute of Applied Political Economy (IPEA) issued a study that shows that it is possible to eradicate extreme poverty and misery by 2016 in Brazil. However, the well-known businessman Jorge Gerdau often says that

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About Mark S. Langevin

Mark S. Langevin is Director of the Brazil Initiative and a Research Professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University.

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