Dilma poised to become Brazil's president

Dilma poised to become Brazil's president

Dilma Rousseff, a 62-year-old former Marxist guerrilla and career bureaucrat who long ago left behind her rebel ways, held a comfortable lead in opinion polls and was bolstered by the support of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, her political mentor, in the contest with centrist Jose Serra.

The winner will lead a nation that will host the 2014 World Cup and is expected to be the globe’s fifth-largest economy by the time it hosts the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Just hours before polls were to open, Rousseff paid tribute to Silva and assured Brazilians that while he would not have an official role in her government, he would always be near.

“President Lula, obviously, won’t be a presence within my Cabinet. But I will always talk with the president and I will have a very close and strong relationship with him,” Rousseff said at a final campaign stop in her hometown of Belo Horizonte. “Nobody in this country will separate me from President Lula.”

Silva, after two four-year terms, is barred by Brazil’s constitution from running for a third. He maintains an 80-percent approval rating and has a rabid following among the nation’s poor, who view the former shoeshine boy who came from an impoverished family as one of their own.

Rousseff, who would be Brazil’s first female president, pledged to continue Silva’s work. “I want to unite Brazil around a project not just of material development, but also of values,” she said.