Rousseff, Dilma (jēlˈmä rōˈsĕf) [key], 1947–, Brazilian political leader, b. Belo Horizonte. The daughter of a Bulgarian immigrant lawyer and a Brazilian teacher, she was trained as an economist and studied at the Federal Univ. of Rio Grande do Sul (grad. 1977). An early opponent of Brazil's military dictatorship, she joined the leftist opposition in the mid-1960s and subsequently joined a guerrilla group. She was captured in 1970, tortured, and imprisoned for nearly three years. After her release and recuperation, she attended graduate school in economics; from 1986 on she held a variety of appointed posts in Brazil's city and state governments. In 2000 she joined the Worker's party (PT). She served (2003–5) in President da Silva's cabinet as energy minister, after which she was (2005–10) his chief of staff. An accusation of attempting to influence an investigation of José Sarney's family nearly derailed her career in 2009, but she weathered the charges and became the PT's 2010 candidate for president. Strongly backed by the popular da Silva, whose policies she pledged to continue, she won the election after a runoff. Rousseff is Brazil's first woman president; the presidency is her first elected office.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.