Brazilians for the first time, today, have elected a woman to be their president. She is the Mineira (born in the state of Minas Gerais) of 62, Dilma Vana Rousseff, who just a few months ago was almost unknown in Brazil.
Her victory is above all a testimony to the power and popularity of president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who after turning her into his Chief of Staff decided to handpick her to succeed his incredibly successful presidency.
With about 93% of the ballots counted she already had 51 million votes or 55.43% of them while José Serra, the experienced politician and former governor of São Paulo, trailed with 44.57% of the votes.
By comparison, her godfather in politics, Lula, received 60.8% of the votes when reelected president fours years ago. It was the first time she ran for any political post.
Dilma will be inaugurated January 1st, 2011, in an enviable position. She starts with overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress. In the lower house, for example, she will have the backing of at least 350 of the 513 congressmen.
She will also count on more senators on her side than Lula did thanks to new seats won by her PT party and the allied PMDB.
Rousseff has always worked in the background. Among other things she was secretary in the state in Rio Grande do Sul. Lula invited her initially to his cabinet as minister of Mines and Energy before making her his chief of staff after the fall of José Dirceu.
Dirceu was the man Lula originally wanted to make president. He was caught, however, in a scandal involving the illegal purchase of votes of congressmen.
They were getting about US$ 12,000 a month to side with the Lula administration in several bills presented by the president. Dirceu had to resign his post opening the way to Dilma Rousseff. That affair, which almost brought Lula down in 2005 was known as mensalão (the big monthly allowance).