First female president celebrated in Brazil

On Oct. 31, Dilma Rousseff was named the first female president elect of Brazil. Going into the second round of elections, predictions were leaning in Rousseff’s favour. Rousseff, the daughter of Bulgarian immigrants, experienced a steady incline in her career from a Marxist guerrilla to the energy minister, the president’s chief of staff and now president.

During her career working with current president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, he adopted her as his prodigy and endorsed Rousseff throughout her campaign.

“I would say that she is a part of a recent trend in terms of women getting elected…which I think is really exciting particularly given that Latin American culture has this reputation for being male centric,” remarked Dr. Alex Latta. Other female Latin American leaders include Cristina Kirchner of Argentina and former Chilean president Verónica Michelle Bachelet Jeria.
Despite her background, Dr. Latta believes that it will not impact her presidency.

“How she will shape her presidency has more to do with her experience and the upper echelons of state administration,” he said. “She’s not coming from a political background she’s coming as a technocrat. She doesn’t necessarily have the same connections with the party grassroots that Lula had but she’s going to hopefully be able to do something to work towards streamlining some of Brazil’s rather labyrinthine administrative and legal system.”

On that subject, Dr. Latta said that “the fact that she was jailed and tortured by the dictatorship is actually something that she shares with Michelle Bachelet. Left-wing leaders of this generation quite often will have some kind of Marxist connection in their background.

However, they have all sort of thoroughly bought into this idea of a new left which tries to work within the context of market relations and really doesn’t try to rock the boat in terms of process of neoliberal globalization. A lot of people in the contemporary, more radical left, look at these kinds of leaders who at one time were on the radical left as having to some extent sold out to the dominant economic system.” This needs some paraphrasing. This quote is too long.
With the increase in female presidents, many people have been questioning whether this means that Latin America is progressing democratically.

“In Canada we only have one very short lived female prime minister…so these countries are certainly ahead of us in terms of recognizing the leadership roles that women can play at the top levels and national politics,” said Latta. “That’s progress for sure.”

Dr. Latta explained that Brazil is focusing on creating more inclusion within their
market based project. “I don’t know that it’s incredibly progressive in terms of challenging that project and we can look to other countries in South America as challenging that new liberal project in a more head-on kind of way.”

Latta stressed that it is an important time in Brazilian history.

“Brazil is at a place in its history in terms of its international role where there is a lot of opportunity for a Brazilian president to become a really recognized voice on the world stage and really shape certain aspects of emerging global environmental economic social policy.”