Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has had a trying first year. The economic growth numbers came in under the expected rates and the political corruption in her government skyrocketed, even for Brazil. 39 of her ministers left office within her first year. The firings and resignations began to skyrocket after September of 2011, just eight months after Rousseff took office. The main charge of misappropriating public funds was hounded by the media and despite denials, as more and more corruption was brought out into the public eye, the resignations continued.
This is a change for Brazil. A clean record is far from the norm in politics in this state, however, ministers leaving their posts after exposure is. What does this mean for Rousseff and her future as the President? Almost a polar opposite from her predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, this rather uncharismatic woman is a practical leader and an ability to step in political fault lines to build relationships with leaders on other sides of the political spectrum has made her approval ratings soar to a stunning 72%–well above that of Lula, an extremely popular president. Her style, brusque and direct, is counterintuitive for Brazilian politicians, who are used to being wooed.
Her pragmatism has served her well, reintroducing Brazil into international affairs, beginning with a visit early in her tenure from President Obama, loosening tension that reigned at the end of Lula’s administration. But her battles are far from over. The tenuous economic situation still prove difficult to navigate and Brazil’s growth in 2012 is largely based on China’s, their largest trading partner. There are a host of challenges that face Rousseff, but as she works her way through the new year, focusing on domestic infrastructure and public support, we can all pull for this woman, a pragmatic leader who has much to teach many politicians around the world.