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Brazil’s Rousseff pledges continuity and female touch

June 14th, 2010

Lula & Dilma Rousseff

Presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff pledged on Sunday to continue the policies of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva but to govern Brazil with the “soul and heart of a woman” if she wins October’s election.

Rousseff, a 62-year-old former leftist militant, was speaking in the capital Brasilia after she was formally selected as presidential candidate at a convention of Lula’s ruling Workers’ Party.

“It’s not coincidence that after this great man, our Brazil could be governed by a woman — a woman who will continue the Brazil of Lula but with the soul and heart of a woman,” she said in a speech.

While Rousseff has been gaining on her main opponent Jose Serra in recent opinion polls, surveys show she trails the former Sao Paulo state governor among women voters.

Rousseff can count on Lula’s huge popularity and a rebounding economy to give her a boost as she attempts to become the South American country’s first female leader.

Her running mate is Michel Temer, a veteran federal deputy, who was confirmed as vice presidential candidate on Saturday by the Workers’ Party coalition partner, the centrist PMDB party.

Rousseff also pledged to secure economic stability and continue with key reforms, such as to the tax system, which business leaders complain is overly bureaucratic and costly.

“Our tax system is chaotic,” she said. “If we don’t have the courage to recognize this, we will never implement such urgent and necessary reforms.”

She said Brazil could still do better, despite the advances under Lula, and promised her government would eradicate “absolute misery” in the country, where millions still live in poverty.


Serra, who was confirmed as candidate for the opposition PSDB party on Saturday, is favored by some investors for his perceived fiscal discipline and reputation as a competent administrator

But neither he nor Rousseff is seen as straying much from Lula’s largely market-friendly economic policies that have nurtured years of strong economic growth and growing global clout.

Serra launched his strongest attack yet on Lula’s record on Saturday, criticizing the president for downplaying human rights abuses abroad and for not stamping out corruption in the ruling coalition. He also hinted that Lula had become too powerful, apparently comparing him to France’s 17th century “Sun King,” Louis the 14th.

“Louis 14th believed the state was him. In democracies and in Brazil, there is no place for this,” said Serra, who lost to Lula in the 2002 presidential race.

Lula also hit the continuity theme in his speech to the Workers’ Party convention on Sunday, saying that a vote for Rousseff would be the same as voting for him. Lula is barred by the constitution from running for a third straight term.

“There will be a gap on that ballot. To make sure it is filled, I changed my name and will put Dilma’s there,” he said.

Many people expect Lula to continue to have a strong influence on a Rousseff government, even without having a formal position.

“Lula will help her to govern. He won’t leave her alone,” said Cristina Rocha, a Workers’ Party member from northeastern Piaui state who was attending the convention.

(Additional reporting by Fernando Exman; Writing by Stuart Grudgings; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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