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Brazil - What the US thinks of Dilma Rousseff, the next Brazilian president
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Brazil - What the US thinks of Dilma Rousseff, the next Brazilian president

August 26, 2011, 1:04 am
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Wikileaks revels cablegates about president of Brazil
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Brazil - What the US thinks of Dilma Rousseff, the next Brazilian president
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The president-elect of Brazil had details of her health status investigated by the U.S. embassy in mid-2009, when she was suffering from lymphatic cancer.

Dilma Vana Rousseff, former chief of staff to President Lula and his hand-picked successor, won the presidential election earlier this year. She is slated to take over the presidency on January 1, 2011.

A socialist during her youth, Rousseff was deeply involved in the struggle against the military dictatorship following the 1964 coup d’état, although she denies being involved in any armed activities at the time. Rousseff was jailed and tortured between 1970 and 1972.

WikiLeaks documents published today show how closely the U.S. embassy followed the trajectory of Dilma and the Brazilian electoral process - which Hillary Clinton. U.S Secretary of State, described as "Byzantine."

The documents also reveal that former U.S. ambassador in Brasilia, John Danilovich, alleged that Rousseff "organized three bank robberies" when she was a member of the organization VAR-Palmares.

Joan of Arc of Subversion

Rousseff began to draw the attention of the embassy when she took over as Lula’s chief of staff. A special report about her was drawn up and dispatched to Washington on May 22, 2005. Although "unclassified" the diplomatic cable raises a number of sensitive issues as well as makes some gaffes. One of the messages is titled: "Joan of Arc of Subversion becomes Chief of Staff" - in a reference to her prison nickname.

In the memo signed by U.S. ambassador John Danilovich, the diplomatic staff dredge up several allegations about Rousseff’s past: "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."

The embassy fails to note that Dilma has consistently denied any involvement in armed activities. But the cable does mention that Rousseff was in prison for more than three years and endured "22 days of brutal electro-shock torture."

Oddly, the diplomatic cable follows up these allegations with personal details that could have come straight out of a celebrity magazine: "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."

The document also notes that Dilma "has a reputation as being stubborn, a tough negotiator, and detail-oriented" and reveals that U.S. companies were worried when she became Minister of Mines and Energy, but "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."

How Sick is Dilma Rousseff?

In another report, sent on June 19, 2009, titled: "How Sick is Dilma Rousseff?" U.S. ambassador Clifford Sobel reports to Washington on conversations about the health of the future president, including details of lymphatic cancer that she was suffering from: "She had lymph nodes under her left arm removed and began what was originally scheduled as a four month program of chemotherapy in April."

"By early June she had completed three chemotherapy sessions. In a June 18 meeting with a Washington visitor (septel), Rousseff looked well with good natural color and light make-up, and a top aide told the Ambassador that Rousseff was responding so well to chemotherapy that her sessions would be reduced from six to four, ending in late June.

Sobel writes: "Some analysts have noted that a "victory" over cancer will play in her favor and foster an image of her as a fighter and winner" noting that "Her doctors stated that her cancer was caught early and she has a 90 percent chance of a full recovery."

Sobel also speculates on the consequences of Roussef taking a turn for the worse. "Several possible scenarios could emerge from Dilma’s cancer. In one scenario, she and the PT inner circle might already know that she is much sicker than publicly revealed and too sick to be the candidate. In another, she might be well enough now to become the candidate but later be weakened by the illness and unable to campaign effectively."

"There is still a ten percent chance that Rousseff will face this scenario," Sobel writes, concluding that if that happens: "(I)t would probably mean the loss of the presidency for the Workers’ Party in 2010."

"Byzantine" Elections

Reports submitted by the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia on the elections were deeply appreciated in Washingon. In a cable dated April 23, 2009, Clinton thanks Dale Prince, U.S. embassy officer for political affairs, for his "unique insights" into Brazil’s "Byzantine" electoral system. Clinton noted that this information was used in meetings for briefings with senior U.S. government, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

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Author: Editorial Staff
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