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Brazil elects first female leader

A former Marxist guerrilla who was tortured and imprisoned during Brazil's long dictatorship has been elected president of Latin America's biggest nation.

Dilma Rousseff, Brazil's first female leader, will head a country in the midst of an economic and political boom when she takes office on January 1.

With nearly 95% of the ballots counted, Ms Rousseff had 55.6% compared with 44.4% for her centrist rival, Jose Serra, the electoral court said.

Ms Rousseff, 62, the hand-chosen candidate of wildly popular President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, won by cementing her image to Mr Silva's, whose policies she promised to continue.

She will lead a nation on the rise, a country that will host the 2014 World Cup and that is expected to be the globe's fifth-largest economy by the time it hosts the 2016 Olympics. It has also recently discovered huge oil reserves off its coast.

Ms Rousseff was already speaking like a president-elect when she cast her vote on Sunday.

"Starting tomorrow we begin a new stage of democracy," Ms Rousseff said in the southern city of Porto Alegre. "I will rule for everyone, speak with all Brazilians, without exception."

Mr Silva used his 80% approval ratings to campaign incessantly for Ms Rousseff, his former chief of staff and political protege. She has never held elected office and lacks the charisma that transformed Mr Silva from a one-time shoe-shine boy into one of the world's most popular leaders.

Mr Silva was barred by the constitution from running for a third consecutive four-year term. He has batted down chatter in Brazil's press that he is setting himself up for a new run at the presidency in 2014, which would be legal.

Ms Rousseff was a key player in an armed militant group that resisted the 1964-1985 military dictatorship and was imprisoned and tortured. She is also a cancer survivor and a former minister of energy and chief of staff to Mr Silva.


From Belfast Telegraph