Why I love Dilma - Monocolumn | Monocle


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21 March 2012

Like many other Brazilians I thought it wouldn’t be an easy task to follow in the steps of one of the most popular presidents Brazil ever had. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva left power with almost 80 per cent approval ratings, no easy feat.

One of the reasons that current President Dilma Rousseff won was the fact that she was, in a way, “Lula’s candidate”. However, her technocrat style scared some in the beginning, she speaks like a primary school teacher and even the way she walks might be considered a bit stiff.

So could she maintain the same levels of popularity that the Workers Party enjoyed during Lula’s government? Would she manage to reach all social classes in Brazil like her predecessor? She has. At the same time, she’s also found her own style of governing.

Dilma has taken a very firm approach with the usual corruption scandals in Congress. She fired six ministers, an unprecedented number in Brazilian politics. She adopted a more, let’s say, European way of dealing with scandals, showing corrupt officials the door instead of just leaving the scandals to linger until they are forgotten.

Her apparent lack of charisma has become a signal of seriousness and commitment. In a recent poll, 59 per cent of Brazilians considered her government to be doing a good job.

There are other reasons to love Dilma. As much as I like our national football team, I couldn’t stand the head of the Brazilian Football Confederation Ricardo Teixeira and apparently she couldn’t either. Dilma’s relationship with FIFA was seemingly always quite cold. Teixeira says he left for health reasons.

She is most certainly not a Margaret Thatcher who surrounded herself with men. She chose Gleisi Hoffman as her chief of staff, a female politician from the south of Brazil. And under Dilma, Maria das Graças Foster was recently put in charge of Brazilian oil giant Petrobras.

I was in Brazil when Dilma won the presidency. She was paraded around Brasilia in an open-car waving to the people surrounded by only female security officers as bodyguards. A publicity stunt? Or a symbol of things to come? Either way, I felt proud of our president. I know it sounds a bit cheesy, but I could see my grandma’s teary eyes while she was watching the TV coverage of the first Brazilian female president. It was an unforgettable image.

Of course not everything is perfect, our economy is still expanding but not growing vigorously. The usual infrastructure problems and urban violence also still haunt the country deeply.

But overall, things are going in the right direction. Dilma’s government has not disappointed so far.


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