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Viewing cable 05BRASILIA1660, LULA'S RIGHT-HAND WOMAN - DILMA ROUSSEFF BECOMES CHIEF OF STAFF

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05BRASILIA1660 2005-06-22 15:03 2010-12-10 09:09 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Brasilia
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BRASILIA 001660 

SIPDIS 

SENSITIVE 

E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PINR PREL ECON BR
SUBJECT: LULA'S RIGHT-HAND WOMAN - DILMA ROUSSEFF BECOMES CHIEF OF STAFF 

REF: BRASILIA 1631 

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. On June 21, Brazilian President Lula da Silva named Minister of Mines and Energy Dilma Rousseff to be his new Chief of Staff, replacing Jose Dirceu, who resigned last week amid an unfolding corruption scandal. Rousseff was an opposition militant who was jailed and tortured by Brazil's military regime. She earned degrees in economics and spent years in senior posts in city and state governments in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. Rousseff joined Lula's Workers' Party in 2001 and worked on Lula's 2002 transition team. She is a blunt and demanding manager who will seek to improve the administration's policy implementation. She will be far less of a political lightning rod than Dirceu, more focused on pushing the bureaucracy than political infighting. More cabinet moves are expected in the coming days, with the allied PMDB party likely to get a larger role in the administration. END SUMMARY. 

"JOAN OF ARC OF SUBVERSION" BECOMES CHIEF OF STAFF --------------------------------------------- ----- 

2. (SBU) On July 21, President Lula named Mines & Energy Minister Dilma Rousseff, 57, as his new Chief of Staff ("Minister-Chief of the Civilian Household"). She replaces Jose Dirceu, who stepped down last week because of an ongoing corruption scandal (reftel). Dirceu was deeply involved in all the administration's political strategies, but Rousseff announced at her swearing-in ceremony that she intends to focus more on moving the administration's policy agenda forward. She noted that --contrary to press assessments-- this does not mean she is a technocrat. "This is not a technical job, but a political one", she announced, "Political in the best sense of the word. I am no longer an executor (at the Ministry of Mines and Energy) but a facilitator of the projects of my cabinet colleagues." 

3. (SBU) Dilma Vana Rousseff Linhares was born 14 December 1947 in the state of Minas Gerais. Her father was a Bulgarian attorney who had naturalized Brazilian citizenship. She became actively involved in opposition to the military dictatorship in 1967, at age 19, while studying economics in Minas Gerais. Joining various underground groups, she organized three bank robberies and then co-founded the guerilla group "Armed Revolutionary Vanguard of Palmares". In 1969, she planned a legendary robbery popularized as the "Theft of Adhemar's Safe". The operation broke into the Rio apartment of the lover of former-Sao Paulo Governor Adhemar de Barros, netting US$2.5 million that Adhemar had stashed there. Rousseff separated from her first husband, Claudio Linhares, who in January 1970 hijacked a plane to Cuba and remained there. That same month, she was captured by the regime and jailed for over three years (the prosecutor called her "the Joan of Arc of Subversion"), including 22 days of brutal electro-shock torture. 

4. (SBU) Freed in late 1973, Rousseff moved to the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. When her rights were restored by the 1979 general amnesty, she joined the PDT party of leftist leader Leonel Brizola, serving in various city and state positions: Secretary of Finance of the city of Porto Alegre (1986-1988); President of the Economy and Statistics Foundation of the state of Rio Grande do Sul (1991-1993); State Secretary of Energy, Mines and Communications (1993-1994). She served again as State Secretary of Mines under Workers' Party (PT) Governor Olivio Dutra (1999-2002), and switched to the PT in 2001. She was a key member of Lula's transition team in the weeks before he took office in January 2003, and Lula named her Minister of Mines & Energy days after his inauguration. 

5. (SBU) Rousseff has a Masters degree in economic theory from the University of Campinas and an uncompleted doctorate in economics. In 1992, she participated in an International Visitor program in the US. She is now separated from her second husband (who was also an opposition militant). She has a daughter, Paula, in Porto Alegre, where she spends her weekends. She enjoys movies and classical music. She has lost weight recently, reportedly after adopting President Lula's diet. 

NO-NONSENSE STYLE ----------------- 

6. (SBU) With her technical background and no-nonsense style, Rousseff has earned grudging respect from the energy sector. While U.S. companies were initially wary when she was appointed Energy Minister, they now admit that she has done a competent job. In particular, they praise her for her willingness to listen and respond to their views, even when she is inclined to a different conclusion. She has a reputation as being stubborn, a tough negotiator, and detail-oriented. Adjectives used here by those who know her include "demanding" and "workaholic". Her greatest accomplishment as Minister has been the development of Brazil's new "Electricity Sector Model", which seeks to reduce consumer prices by establishing long-term supply contracts between generators and distributors. Other programs developed during her tenure include "Lights for Everyone" and a focus on biodiesel development. Unlike Jose Dirceu, Rousseff never held elective office and her contacts in Congress are limited, which suggests the administration's political coordination will be handled by others. The press notes that Lula hopes she will produce a "management shock" within the administration, which --because of managerial inefficiencies, bureaucratic gridlock, and most recently because of the raft of corruption scandals-- finds its agenda treading water. 

7. (SBU) Some in Congress complain that Rousseff does not understand party politics. In April, the Senate rejected her nominee to head the national oil agency in retaliation for her opposition to a nominee from the allied PMDB party to head a subsidiary of Eletrobras, the state-owned electricity company. (Rousseff instead opted to give the position to Adhemar Palocci, brother of FinMin Antonio Palocci.) Her senior advisors tell us that she sometimes disregards hierarchy, directly tasking technical employees, bypassing their supervisors. In addition, they note, her event horizon at the Ministry has been no more than two to three weeks in the future, thus making long (or even medium) term planning difficult. 

COMMENT: MAKING ROOM FOR THE PMDB --------------------------------- 

8.(SBU) The large allied PMDB party is likely to get a higher profile in the Lula administration as the cabinet shuffle continues to unfold in the coming days. One rumor has Rousseff being replaced at Mines & Energy by Silas Rondeau, currently the president of Eletrobras, whose political sponsor is influential PMDB Senator Jose Sarney. As for Lula's office, with Rousseff as Chief of Staff, it is unclear what will happen with the separate cabinet-level position of Political Coordinator. The incumbent, Aldo Rebelo, has not been successful in pushing the administration's agenda in Congress or unifying the fractious coalition. He is expected to step down and return to his congressional seat. Thus, Lula may either replace Rebelo or fold his duties into another office, such as that of Economic and Social Development Secretary Jaques Wagner. 

DANILOVICH