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Brazilians Re-elect Dilma Rousseff as President

Featured President Dilma Rousseff President Dilma Rousseff
RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian voters re-elected Dilma Rousseff as president on Sunday, endorsing a leader who has achieved important gains in reducing poverty and keeping unemployment low over a centrist challenger who castigated her government over a simmering bribery scandal and a sluggish economy.

Ms. Rousseff of the Workers Party took  51.4 percent of vote in the second and final round of elections, against 48.5 percent for Aécio Neves, a senator from the Social Democracy party and scion of a political family from the state of Minas Gerais, electoral officials said Sunday night with 98 percent of votes in the country counted.

While Ms. Rousseff won by a thin margin, the tumultuous race was marked by accusations of corruption, personal insults and heated debates, revealing climbing polarization in Brazil. Mr. Neves surged into the lead this month in opinion surveys, only to be eclipsed by Ms. Rousseff as the vote on Sunday approached.

 “People without much money have seen their lives improve during recent years,” said Liane Lima, 62, a secretary in São Paulo who voted for Ms. Rousseff. “I think we should let Dilma finish what she started.”

Indeed, Ms. Rousseff’s victory reflects broad changes in Brazilian society since the Workers Party rose to power 12 years ago with the election of her predecessor and mentor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who chose Ms. Rousseff as his successor to run in the 2010 election and campaigned for her again this year.

Building on an economic stabilization project put in place by the Social Democrats in the 1990s, Ms. Rousseff and Mr. da Silva aggressively expanded social welfare programs, lifting millions of Brazilians out of poverty. Pointing to the popularity of the antipoverty spending, Mr. Neves, the challenger in the race, said he would not scale it back.

But while Ms. Rousseff campaigned largely on her government’s support for poor and working-class citizens, she faced fierce criticism over her economic policies, with Brazil struggling with slow growth throughout her first term and a recession this year. Brazil’s financial markets gyrated wildlythroughout the race, reflecting skepticism over her management of the economy.

The nomination of the President was supported by four years of administration during which new workplaces were created, mínimum salary was increased and millions of houses were built for low-income persons, despite the international crisis.

For Rousseff this reelection represents the continuation of improvements achieved by the PT over the last 12 years with programs like the Household Bag, the 71 percent increase of the mínimum salary and the creation of over 21 million new jobs.

During this time, 36 million Brazilians exited extreme poverty and as main priority for the next term of four years, the Pesident is set on improving education at all levels in Brazil.

With the promise of continuing advances in the economy and social policy, the first woman that reached the presidencv of the country in 2010, now bets for better education to secure competitiveness and reducing inequality in wealth distribution.

The reelected President also plans to intensify the struggle against corruption with the strengthening of control institutions and legislation that cracks down on impunity.

On this issue, she says to favor a political reform that eliminates financing political campaigns by businesspeople and create conditions for a new cycle of economic development.

Ms. Rousseff, 66, a former Marxist guerrilla who was imprisoned andtortured by Brazil’s military dictatorship, rejected much of the criticism while emphasizing that she had no plans to shift away from policies involving greater state control over the economy. Still, she signaled openness to shaking up her cabinet, including replacing her unpopular finance minister, Guido Mantega.

With the unemployment rate remaining near historical lows even during a recession, economic stability seemed to trump corruption as a major issue among voters. Many people who cast ballots on Sunday expressed concern that a change in government could erode welfare benefits which are now a fixture of society.

“My life is stable thanks to Dilma’s government,” said Diogo Bernardo, 28, an installer of telephone lines in Rio de Janeiro who voted for Ms. Rousseff, referring to her informally by her first name, as is common in Brazil. “She’s not great, but Aécio would have been worse since he cares less about the rights of working people. I voted for the lesser of two evils.”

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