Dilma Vana Rousseff, 62, was born in Minas Gerais into an upper-middle class family. Her father was a Bulgarian. Her mother was a Brazilian school teacher. Dilma studied in private schools in Belo Horizonte until she was 16 when she moved to a public high school where she joined leftist student groups.
The military coup of 1964 in Brazil was a turning point for many in Dilma’s generation. Although only 17 at the time of the “revolution,” she soon joined the opposition to the military, becoming more active as time went by in combating the government established by the generals.
In 1967, studying economics in the university, she joined a group in favor of open resistance. And by 1969, because of her activities, she had gone underground, moving constantly and changing her name numerous times. But, in January 1970, she was arrested in São Paulo. In prison she was tortured. Released in 1973, she moved to Rio Grande do Sul.
In Porto Alegre, Dilma got a diploma in economics at the Federal University there. During this period she was married to Carlos Araújo (who had been an urban guerilla during the military dictatorship and later became a politician) and they had a daughter.
Dilma also got involved in politics. She worked in favor of an amnesty law and helped found the PDT, which ran Leonel Brizola for president in the first direct election in 1989 (when Fernando Collor beat Lula in the runoff).
But before that she had begun a career as a civil servant, becoming the municipal secretary of Finance during the administration of Alceu Collares (PDT) in Porto Alegre in 1986. She was president of the state Economical and Statistical Foundation (“FEE”) from 1991 to 1993.
After that, she headed the secretariat of Energy, Mines and Communications in two successive state administrations, Alceu Collares (PDT) and Olívio Dutra (PT). In 2001, she joined a group of PDT dissidents who abandoned that party to join the PT.
When Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva won the presidential election in October 2002, Dilma became a member of his transition team (the infrastructure group).
When Lula took office (January 2003), Dilma was named minister of Mines and Energy. In June 2005, Dilma became Lula’s Chief of Staff (“ministra-chefe da Casa Civil”) after José Dirceu resigned because of charges of corruption.
Dilma is a experienced technocrat who is at home with a laptop and Power Point. She has never run for office before.