economist Dilma Rousseff, 63, was inaugurated Saturday as the
first female president of Brazil, succeeding her popular mentor
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
In her inaugural address in the building that houses the lower
house of the Brazilian Congress in the capital, Brasilia, Rousseff
vowed that overcoming extreme poverty will be her top priority.
"My government's most obstinate fight will be to eradicate extreme
poverty and to create opportunities for all," she said.
Her oath met with applause from 800 invited guests, including more
than 20 foreign heads of state and government.
Lula left office with record popularity but could not stay on due
to constitutional limits on consecutive presidential terms.
"A significant social mobility happened in President Lula's two
mandates. But there is still poverty that shames our country and
prevents our full affirmation as a developed people," she said.
In a 45-minute speech that was interrupted by applause on numerous
occasions, Rousseff wept when she remembered her past as a member
of a leftist guerrilla and her dead comrades in the fight against
the 1964-85 dictatorship in Brazil, during which she was herself
imprisoned and suffered torture.
"I devoted all my life to Brazil's cause. I gave up my youth for
the dream of a country that was fair and democratic. I withstood
the most extreme adversities that were inflicted to all those of
us who dared fight arbitrariness," she said.
"Many in my generation, who fell along the way, cannot share the
joy of this moment. I share with them this conquest, and I pay
them my tribute," she added.
Rousseff also acknowledged her place in history as the country's
first female leader.
"I feel immensely honoured by that choice by the Brazilian people
and I know the historic meaning of this decision," she noted.
"I come here to open doors so that many other women can also, in
the future, be president. And so that, today, all Brazilian women
feel the pride and the joy of being a woman. I do not come here to
enrich my biography but to glorify the life of every Brazilian
woman. It is my supreme commitment to honour women, to protect
those who are weakest and to govern for all," Rousseff said.
She again praised Lula, and she vowed to advance his policies.
"The biggest tribute I can pay him is to expand and advance the
conquests of his government. Acknowledging, giving credit to and
investing in the force of the people is the biggest lesson that
president Lula left for all of us," Rousseff said.
In line with Lula's policies, she vowed to keep promoting Brazil's
ties with its South American neighbours.
Rousseff further stressed that she would "not make the smallest
concession to the protectionism of rich countries", and she noted
that Brazil has "a sacred mission" to show the world that it can
grow fast without destroying the environment.
Dressed in an elegant ivory-coloured suit, she had arrived at the
ceremony in the company of her only daughter, Paula, in a closed
vehicle. The heavy rain prevented her from using an open car for
Later, in her second speech as president, standing alongside Lula
before the presidential palace, Rousseff said she was happy to get
her chance, yet "very moved by the end of the mandate of the
greatest popular leader this country has ever had".
Rousseff earned the right to govern the world's eighth-largest
economy by defeating social-democrat Jose Serra in a runoff Oct
Riding on Lula's huge popularity, the coalition that backs
Rousseff is to have a large majority, over two-thirds, in both
houses of Congress.
The new president has appointed nine female ministers in her