So who is this Dilma person?

Whoo hoo! Female presidents! Whoo hoo, yeeerrrr…. I admit. What I knew about the leader of my new home country was definitely not enough.

Dilma Vana Rousseff, president of Brazil, has stood in support of the Brazilian protesters. Because, of course, she was once a protester. But truth be told, Dilma was more than just a protester – according to Brazil’s military dictatorship. She was a bank robber and a guerilla terrorist.


Dilma was an upper middle class girl that decided to join the revolution. She had been called the “Joan of Arc” of the movement in which she was involved against the military dictatorship. She also stole a really big pile of money. She was apprehended at 22 years old, allegedly tortured in some really nasty ways for 22 days, and imprisoned for three years.

A terrorist?! “Isn’t that,” you might ask, “kind of like electing Timothy McVeigh into office?” Only if there were a whole bunch more people who were behind Timothy.  And Dilma didn’t bomb anyone.

It’s a little bit more like putting John McCain on the presidential ballot. Let’s assume he gunned down a whole lot of human beings in the Vietnam war. And as a prisoner of war, tortured as well. Dilma’s crimes were targeted at the civil war going on in Brazil. The proceeds from the robberies went to fund the movement.

All is fair in love and war, right? Right?

Most seem to have been OK with Dilma’s violent history thus far, because she had a hand in overthrowing the military dictatorship. (Except the military police of course, who she recently needed to depend on.)

It is assumed that Dilma won the presidential race because of her close connection to the former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Lula is suspected of extensive corruption during his term. Many of the people who worked with him have been charged with crimes (yet they are not in prison). Dilma had actually never been elected to anything before, yet won the presidential election. Once the protests erupted, the first thing she did was fly to São Paulo to meet with Lula.

Is she just his puppet?

There has also been a buzz about Dilma herself taking advantage of her position.


Please note: As commenter Karina suggests below, anyone with a Facebook account who knows how to use Power Point can start rumors.

I don’t know. Perhaps if you get tortured for helping bring down a dictatorship, you might kind of feel like the people of Brazil owe you a little something. It probably also makes you one mean, cold bitch.

Dilma may or may not be doing everything she can in her power to further Brazil and better the lives of the people. We all know that presidents don’t have full control. But let’s hope that Dilma takes the protesting seriously. After all, she might assume that if she makes the wrong moves, a bunch of young activists turned “terrorists” will take her down.

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15 Responses to So who is this Dilma person?

  1. Jennifer says:

    20 businesses? How can someone even run that many organizations….?

  2. Karina says:

    I really liked this post and how you explained who Dilma is :).

    If you talk to people who lived here during the dictatorship, some will say that they were a bunch of terrorist, especially if they supported the regimen or was afraid that Brazil would be taken by comunists.

    I had the opportunity to transcribe some interviews from some of the tortured ones (or they relatives, in case they were dead), and it wasn’t an easy life. They were young, most of them in the early 20’s, and believed that they could change the situation. I also have a friend who was studying at USP during this period and some of her friends disappeared to never show up again. My mother always tells me that if you were talking with two more friends on the street and the police shows up, they could arrest you saying that you were starting a motim (mutiny?). So, some of this young fellows thought that they would only change the situation if they used guns (revolução armada), but they were outnumbered. You can read about Bacuri (Eduardo Collen Leite) who was tortured and killed here:

    I’m not a ‘petista’, far from it, although I had voted a lot for them before Lula became president and I realized that PT was just like the others.
    I think that Dilma is Lula’s puppet, this guy doesn’t want to leave the power, or ‘largar o osso’, as we say in Portuguese. She is not a politician, she is more a technocrat, buuuuut, she was the only one who remained after Lula’s closest friends (and his favorites to become president after him) got into trouble, like Antonio Palocci and José Dirceu.

    The only thing is that you have to be careful with information from Facebook, like this image about her daughter and Lula’s son. Dilma’s daughter is a state attorney in Rio Grande do Sul (you can find her name here: There was a time when people were talking about Lula’s son buying this huge farm, and they would show a picture from the farm that actually was Esalq (Escola Superior de Agricultura ‘Luiz de Queiroz’), a USP campus in Piracicaba. Maybe Lula’s son got rich, I wouldn’t say that he is not, but I think that the people who wants to spread that should use real information =).

    At the end of the day we can see that there is not black and white, right or wrong, but shades of gray =).

    Enjoy your trip :).

    • Great on all points. What a crazy, scary life that must have been during the time of the dictatorship. I have friends who grew up in Argentina and also had friends just disappear. Jeez. Yes, it seems anyone with a Facebook account who knows how to use power point can create a scandal. Here another crazy theory… perhaps Dilma, tired of not being able to do what she wants to do in her country, initiated the protesting herself. I mean… do people really change? 😉

  3. mom says:

    COME HO0ME!!!

  4. Julia says:

    Only people who support dictatorship call them terrorists. They are heroes. And what they did is not robbery, it is expropriation. Many of them were tortured and killed by military force. Bacuri, mentioned by Karina, was tortured for 109 days and killed later. He was 25.

    This is a documentary with interviews with some of the militantes. Maria Auxiliadora and Frei Tito commited suicide some years later because of the psysicological consequences of torture.

    Brazil Report on Torture – 1971 – US Documentary

    I don’t think Dilma is Lula’s puppet anymore. She proved to me she is a intelligent and brave woman who truly want to do something good for Brazil. I did not vote for her in 2010, but I will in 2014.

    • I agree. Terrorist, enemy… all matters of perspective. It depends on what you believe in. I really hope that she does want to do good for the country and succeeds. Brazil needs her to stand up like she did back then.
      Thanks for your comments and the documentary. Going to watch it as soon as we settle at our next destination.

  5. Pingback: An American writer in Brazil is transformed from “exbrat” to politically awakened expat | The Displaced Nation

  6. A says:

    Given how brutal the dictatorship was in Brazil, to call anyone fight against it as “terrorists” is really dangerous. And the only ones who would agree with that are those at the far-right anyway.

    • Well, I don’t have enough personal experience in this situation to call her a terrorist myself… I was quoting her “rap sheet” that has been circulating. My point is that based on what she did, she could be called a criminal. But American soldiers who fought in Vietnam and Iraq could be called mass murderers. Wars, be it global or civil, change the rules of the game. I just hope she still has that fight in her to help the people of Brazil get to where they should be. Thanks for your comments.

      • Roberta says:

        oh well, american soldiers who killed in Vietnam and Iraq ARE mass murderers…wars changes the rules of the games when they are REAL wars – if your country is invaded, you must fight back, and that is a “fair” war. Vietnam and Iraq were not.

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  8. Ray says:

    Wow, I loved this post, great job M.
    My opinions on Dilma are still a work in progress, I think she despite her shady past, she is very capable, but I also think to get where she is she has had to “sell” her soul to the devil, she has had to look the other way to several corrupt politicians who supported her, but now, it’s the time of the truth. I am against the “Impeach Dilma” idea. I think she is there, she was elected and she needs to do her job and straighten up the country. It sounds like she is “hearing” the voice of the people. I must have faith in someone who fought for Brazil as fiercely as she did when she was so young and could have made other much better and easier choices for her life. I must faith!


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