Latin America

Brazil’s Rousseff begins second term with plans to boost the economy

President believes adjustments are necessary but without affecting low-income earners

President Dilma Rousseff waves during her inauguration.
President Dilma Rousseff waves during her inauguration.Marcelo Sayão / EFE

Promising to expand social programs that have already helped 36 million people escape from poverty, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff was sworn in to a second term on Thursday during a festive inauguration that coincided with the first day of the New Year.

“We will demonstrate that we can make economic adjustments without affecting the acquired rights of all citizens,” 67-year-old Rousseff said in her inaugural address in Brasilia. This is the fourth consecutive term in office for the Workers Party (PT) – the longest period for one party to govern Brazil since the return of democracy in 1989.

After waving to crowds as she stood alongside her daughter, while driving up to Congress in a convertible Rolls Royce, Rousseff discussed the social changes her government had made.

Never before have there been so many Brazilians who own their own homes”

“During my first term, we overcame extreme poverty,” she said. “We became the first generation of Brazilians who never had to go hungry. Never before have we created so many formal jobs. Never before have there been so many Brazilians who own their own homes.”

Rousseff, who is the daughter of Bulgarian immigrants, said that the economy – considered the seventh largest in the world – was her priority. Brazil is expected to grow by just 0.8 percent in 2015 and its economy has been in steady decline for the past two years.

Rousseff promised to work to bring in more investment and increase productivity, while striving to avoid demanding more sacrifices from the people, especially lower-income sectors. “We are going to disprove the theory that economic adjustments cannot go hand-in-hand with social advances.”

The new economy chief has promised cost-cutting measures, which has angered many PT supporters

To head her new economic team, Rousseff appointed Joaquím Levy as her new economy minister. Levy has promised cost-cutting measures, something that has angered many PT supporters.

“The president knows Levy very well, and if she appointed him it’s because she knows that a different direction is needed,” said former economy minister Antônio Palocci.

The inauguration was attended by 12 Latin American leaders, including Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro and Bolivia’s Evo Morales, who are both close allies. The United States sent Vice President Joe Biden despite the chilly relations that still exist between Brasilia and Washington over spying allegations. Spain was represented by its ambassador to Brazil.

The economy and social problems are not the only issues that Rousseff will have to face during her second term. The PT was rocked last year by a corruption scandal inside the state-owned oil company Petrobras, when it was revealed that more than two dozen party officials had allegedly formed a group that demanded kickbacks and diverted money from energy projects.

Rousseff denied any knowledge of the group and announced that she will introduce a series of measures to combat corruption.