Profile: Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff

Dilma Rousseff at a meeting in Brasilia in February 2013

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For much of her career, Dilma Rousseff was not exactly a household name, even inside Brazil. She was a career civil servant who had never held nor run for elected office.

But in October 2010, in a major leap to the top job, she became the first woman to be elected Brazil's president.

But if many Brazilians, and the wider world, knew very little about her, she was very familiar with Brazil's corridors of power.

Ms Rousseff joined President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's government in 2003 as energy minister.

In 2005, after a corruption scandal brought down key government figures, Mr Lula made her his chief of staff, a post she held until March 2010, when she launched her campaign for the presidency as the Workers Party (PT) candidate.


Lula dubbed her "the mother of the PAC", a reference to the government's economic development project responsible for spending billions of dollars on upgrading Brazil's infrastructure.

Ms Rousseff also headed the board of Brazil's oil company Petrobras and was responsible for drafting much of the legislative framework for the exploration of the country's offshore oilfields.

During the election campaign, Lula also referred to her constantly as "mother of the nation" - an image picked up and glossily embellished in her TV election advertisements.

Police photo of Dilma Rousseff from the 1970s when she was in armed resistance to the military Rousseff insists that she was never actively involved in armed operations

Ms Rousseff made it clear that she represented continuity with the Lula government, under which millions of Brazilians saw their standard of living rise.

She is known to favour a strong state role in strategic areas, including banking, the oil industry and energy.

She also promised to tackle Brazil's complicated tax system.

In June 2013, Ms Rousseff faced her biggest challenge, when an estimated million protesters took to the streets, following a week of unrest.

The protests were sparked by a rise in bus fares but escalated into nationwide unrest, encompassing a number of grievances, including corruption, poor security, transport and health systems.

A reversal of the fares hike did little to abate the protests, which took place during the Confederations Cup, an international football tournament seen as a dress rehearsal for the World Cup.

In an address to the nation, Ms Rousseff said she would tackle corruption and invest in transport, health and education.

She also defended the 2014 football World Cup in Brazil, saying it was not being financed at the expense of public services.


Ms Rousseff has a somewhat brusque manner and is reputed to have a short temper - attributes that have, perhaps unsurprisingly, led to her being dubbed the Iron Lady.

President Rousseff has sacked several ministers over allegations of corruption and has repeatedly stressed that she will not tolerate wrongdoing.

Dilma Rousseff was born in 1947 and grew up in an upper middle class household in Belo Horizonte. Her father, Pedro Rousseff, was a Bulgarian immigrant.

Her seemingly conventional background changed in the mid-1960s, when she was in her late teens. She became involved in left-wing politics and joined the underground resistance to the military dictatorship that seized power in 1964.

She has said that she was never actively involved in armed operations, but in 1970 she was jailed for three years and tortured.

Ms Rousseff is twice divorced and has one daughter. In August, she became a grandmother.

In 2009, she was treated for and recovered from lymphatic cancer.

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