Facts about Dilma Rousseff
Dilma Rousseff Biography
Dilma Rousseff became Brazil’s first woman president in 2011, and in 2016 became the country’s first woman president to be impeached and then dismissed from office.
Born to a Bulgarian father and Brazilian mother, Dilma Rousseff was raised in Belo Horizonte. As a student in the late 1960s, Rousseff got involved in militant socialist politics, along with Carlos Araújo, the man who would become her second husband and partner for the rest of her career.
Fighting the underground battle against the ruling military dictatorship landed her in prison in 1970, where she spent nearly three years and was tortured with electric shocks. After her release, she finished her studies (1977) and pursued local politics as a member of the Democratic Labor Party.
Over the next two decades, Rousseff’s major role was as a behind-the-scenes party consultant and able administrator, with a specialty in energy concerns. When Luis “Lula” da Silva campaigned for the presidency in 2002, he tapped Rousseff as one of his top consultants. After his election, he named her to his cabinet as Minister of Energy. Rousseff’s success in that position led to her job as Lula’s Chief of Staff in 2005, a post she held until deciding to run for election as Lula’s successor in 2010. She was elected and took office on January 1, 2011.
Her leftist past and later pro-capitalist leanings meant that Rousseff was considered a hypocrite to a some, but a pragmatist to most. Her time in office was rocky almost from the start; the BBC later reported that “Dilma Rousseff’s biggest mistake… was her unwillingness or inability to make the deals and alliances necessary to run an effective government in Brazil’s fractured multi-party system.”
Rousseff was impeached in May of 2016, charged with manipulating the government budget to hide deficits and cover up inappropriate loans. Rousseff denied wrongdoing, but Brazil’s Senate voted to remove her from office on August 31, 2016. She was replaced by interim president Michel Temer.