Dilma Rousseff, the president of Brazil, admitted “many problems and challenges” still plague the country’s woeful health system, but defended her record on the economy and education, on a live 15-minute interview on the Globo television network’s nightly news.
The interview leading to the October 5 presidential election was quite challenging for the president who was repeatedly questioned about corruption scandals that have beset her term, as well as the two terms of her predecessor and mentor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, both of the Workers Party, PT.
Rousseff declined to comment on the PT’s unflagging support of top party officials convicted in a 2012 trial involving a congressional cash-for-votes scheme, skirting several direct questions and saying “I will not make any comment on of a trial conducted by the Supreme Court.”
When the journalists listed continued shortcomings of Brazil’s public health service after 12 years of PT governance, Rousseff acknowledged the situation was not “in the least satisfactory.”
“We have had and still have many problems and challenges to take on in health care,” Rousseff said during the broadcast from a library in the Alvorada Palace presidential residence.
But nevertheless strongly defended her administration’s controversial “Mais Médicos,” or “More Doctors” program, which recruited thousands of foreign doctors many of them from Cuba to work in underserved rural areas and urban slums. The program came under fire from groups representing Brazil’s medical professionals, who contended the Cubans were underqualified.
A survey released Tuesday by the respected DataFolha polling agency suggests public dissatisfaction with Brazil’s health care system is overwhelming. Eighty-seven percent of respondents said they had a negative impression of the government-run system, with most of those interviewed saying they had to wait up to six months to schedule a doctor’s visit, test or surgery.
The nationwide survey was conducted among 2,418 respondents between June 3 and 10.
Rousseff also defended her party’s economic performance, despite anemic indicators in recent years. She said Brazil’s sluggish growth, which government projections put at 1.8% for 2014, was a consequence of the global financial crisis. She noted that Brazil hadn’t suffered the massive layoffs experienced in Europe.
Dilma said a series of economic indicators, including energy consumption and car sales, pointed to an upswing in the second half of the year. She also emphasized that improvements in education were transforming this notoriously unequal country of haves and have-nots into a middle-class nation.
“We created the condition to leap (ahead) by putting education squarely in the center,” she said. “This means that we want to continue to be a middle-class country, with ever greater participation of the middle class.”
The electoral campaign officially kicked off on Tuesday, with the start of ads on television and radio stations.