_Amazons_ give female face to Brazil cabinet

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who promised in her campaign to fight discrimination against women, took a step i...

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who promised in her campaign to fight discrimination against women, took a step in that direction this week by promoting two women to key political posts in the wake of a scandal that toppled her closest aide.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who promised in her campaign to fight discrimination against women, took a step in that direction this week by promoting two women to key political posts in the wake of a scandal that toppled her closest aide.

Rousseff, who was elected Brazil_s first woman president last year, today named Fisheries Minister Ideli Salvatti to become institutional affair minister in charge of relations with Congress. Earlier in the week she named Senator Gleisi Hoffmann her cabinet chief, replacing Antonio Palocci, who resigned amid allegations he used his position to enrich himself.

_Dilma is forming a female soccer team, with her on top of a winning and competent group of players,_ said Jilmar Tatto, a deputy leader in the lower house for Rousseff_s Workers_ Party, or PT for its Portuguese acronym. _She_s Pele with a skirt,_ said Tatto, referring to the Brazilian soccer legend.

Rousseff is looking to surround herself with _aggressive_ negotiators like herself to discipline an unruly coalition in Congress, Merval Pereira, a columnist for O Globo newspaper in Rio de Janeiro, wrote today. He called the new appointees, who will be tasked with helping her government recover from the Palocci scandal and advance its legislative agenda, PT_s _amazons_ in reference to the race of female warriors in Greek mythology.

Unruly Coalition

Rousseff, 63, failed to rally support in Congress behind Palocci after Folha de S. Paulo newspaper reported three weeks ago that he made 20 million reais ($12 million) last year as a financial consultant while managing her presidential campaign. The opposition and members of her coalition were pressing for a congressional probe of his surge in income to see whether he was selling access to the government.

The fall of Palocci highlighted the president_s vulnerability to political pressure from members of her coalition, said Christopher Garman, a director for Latin America at Eurasia Group, a Washington-based political risk group.

_It exposed the extent to which the government_s congressional base had accumulated tremendous discontent with Rousseff,_ Garman said in a telephone interview from Washington. _Rousseff_s appointment of Gleisi and Ideli sends a clear message that while she was forced to give up her top political adviser, she won_t bow to Congress_s demands easily._

Honoring Women

Rousseff dedicated her victory last year to Brazilian women, and since taking office in January has named 10 of them to 38 cabinet-level posts. That_s double the five female ministers her predecessor and mentor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, named during his eight years in power.

_I want to state my first commitment after the elections: to honor Brazil_s women so that today_s unprecedented result becomes a normal event,_ Rousseff, 63, said in her first speech after being elected Oct. 31. _I would very much like that parents look into their daughters_ eyes and say, yes women can._

Unlike Palocci, who served as Lula_s finance minister from 2003 to 2006 and was a close friend of the former president, Rousseff_s appointees are newcomers to the presidential inner circle.

Hoffmann, Salvatti

Hoffmann, 45, was a first-time Senator from the southern state of Parana and better known as the wife to Paulo Bernardo, who was transferred from budget minister to communications minister when Lula handed power to Rousseff.

As Cabinet chief, Hoffmann will supervise marquee government programs to reduce poverty, coordinate work among ministries and help Brazil prepare to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics.

_Hoffmann has nothing to do with Lula. Her loyalty is completely to Dilma,_ said Senator Pedro Simon, from the PMDB.

Salvatti, who will replace Luiz Sergio Oliveira, previously served as a lower house lawmaker and then senator from Santa Catarina state in Brazil_s south. After losing a gubernatorial bid in her home state last year, the 59-year-old was named fisheries minister by Rousseff.

In her new role, Salvatti will be in charge of coordinating Rousseff_s relations with members of Congress, where the PT lacks a majority and requires the support of coalition parties to pass legislation.

While neither of Rousseff_s new aides is a _shrinking violet,_ they need to be tough to overcome Brazilians_ prejudice against powerful women in politics, said Rafael Cortez, a political analyst at Sao Paulo-based Tendencias Consultoria.

_All successful women in politics carry this reputation,_ said Cortez in a phone interview. _Politics in Brazil is still mainly dominated by men, and full of prejudice, so women need to impose their will and be tough in negotiations._

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-06-10/rousseff-shuffles-brazil-cabinet-again-in-wake-of-palocci-resignation.html

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