Dilma Rousseff

Born:December 14, 1947 (age 76)
Career:President of Brazil, 2011-2016
Chief of staff of the presidency, 2005-2010
Minister of Mines and Energy, 2003-2005
Party:Workers' Party
Education:Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul

Dilma Vana Rousseff served as the president of Brazil from January 1, 2011 to August, 31, 2016. She was the first woman to hold that office.

Rousseff was born on December 14, 1947, in Belo Horizonte, the state capital of Minas Gerais. She received her primary education at the traditional Nossa Senhora de Sion School and her secondary education at the State Central High School in Belo Horizonte, then a hub of student activism. At the age of 16, she began her political career, taking part in movements against the military regime that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985.

In 1969, Rousseff met her future husband Carlos Franklin Paixão de Araújo, a lawyer from Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil's southernmost state. Together, they suffered persecution under the military regime. In 1970, Rousseff was arrested and spent almost three years in a penitentiary in the city of São Paulo. After being freed from prison in 1973, Rousseff moved to Porto Alegre, the state capital of Rio Grande do Sul. She resumed her studies at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, where she earned a degree in economics. In 1975, she started an internship at the Foundation of Economics and Statistics (FEE), a think-tank of the Rio Grande do Sul state government.

In the late 1970s, Rousseff participated in an amnesty movement that supported citizens who had been deprived of their political rights or expelled from the country. Together with her husband, she became one of the founders of the Democratic Labor Party (PDT) in Rio Grande do Sul. In 1986, she was appointed municipal secretary of treasury of Porto Alegre by Mayor Alceu.

Following the return to democracy, Rousseff took an active part in the 1989 presidential campaign, supporting PDT candidate Leonel Brizola in the first round and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, from the Workers' Party (PT), in the runoff. In the early 1990s, she served as president of the Foundation of Economics and Statistics. In 1993, Alceu Collares, then governor of Rio Grande do Sul, appointed her state secretary of mines, energy and communications, a position she held again under Governor Olívio Dutra, who was elected in 1998. In 2001, Rousseff joined the Workers' Party and one year later, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was elected president. Impressed with Rousseff's knowledge and experience in the energy sector, President Lula appointed her minister of mines and energy.

Between 2003 and 2005, Rousseff led an in-depth redesign of Brazil's electricity sector and created the Light for All program, which made electricity available to more than 11 million Brazilians living in rural areas and in the outskirts of large cities. As chair of the board of directors of Petrobras, she encouraged biodiesel research and production.

In 2005, President Lula chose Rousseff to serve as his chief of staff and to oversee the work of all of the ministries. In her new capacity, Rousseff played a decisive role in coordinating the Growth Acceleration Program (PAC), a set of policies and measures to promote investments in infrastructure; and My House, My Life, the biggest housing program in the nation's history. She also coordinated the new regulatory framework for the exploration of Brazil's pre-salt oil reserves.

Rousseff left the government of President Lula on April 3, 2010, to become the presidential candidate for the Workers' Party. In the runoff election on October 31, 2010, she was elected president of Brazil with almost 56 million votes. On August 31, 2016, Rousseff was removed from office after being found guilty of breaking budgetary laws in an impeachment trial.

Photo from Agência Brasil.


Council of Women World Leaders (n.d.). “DILMA ROUSSEFF” Council of Women World Leaders. Retrieved December 9, 2022. https://www.councilwomenworldleaders.org/dilma-rousseff.html

Ray, M. (2010, December 1). “Dilma Rousseff" Britannica. Retrieved December 9, 2022. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Dilma-Rousseff