First impressions of Dilma Rousseff: ‘stubborn,’ ‘tough,’ ‘workaholic’

On Jan. 1, current Presidential Chief of Staff Dilma Rousseff will take office as president of Brazil. A just-released cable from 2005, written just after she was promoted from Minister of Mines and Energy to chief of staff, provides what might the U.S. diplomatic community’s first assessment of her: 6. (SBU) With her technical background ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
560721_dilma_12.jpg
560721_dilma_12.jpg

On Jan. 1, current Presidential Chief of Staff Dilma Rousseff will take office as president of Brazil. A just-released cable from 2005, written just after she was promoted from Minister of Mines and Energy to chief of staff, provides what might the U.S. diplomatic community's first assessment of her:

6. (SBU) With her technical background and no-nonsense style, Rousseff has earned grudging respect from the energy sector. While U.S. companies were initially wary when she was appointed Energy Minister, they now admit that she has done a competent job. In particular, they praise her for her willingness to listen and respond to their views, even when she is inclined to a different conclusion. She has a reputation as being stubborn, a tough negotiator, and detail-oriented. Adjectives used here by those who know her include "demanding" and "workaholic". Her greatest accomplishment as Minister has been the development of Brazil's new "Electricity Sector Model", which seeks to reduce consumer prices by establishing long-term supply contracts between generators and distributors. Other programs developed during her tenure include "Lights for Everyone" and a focus on biodiesel development. Unlike Jose Dirceu, Rousseff never held elective office and her contacts in Congress are limited, which suggests the administration's political coordination will be handled by others. The press notes that Lula hopes she will produce a "management shock" within the administration, which --because of managerial inefficiencies, bureaucratic gridlock, and most recently because of the raft of corruption scandals-- finds its agenda treading water.

7. (SBU) Some in Congress complain that Rousseff does not understand party politics. In April, the Senate rejected her nominee to head the national oil agency in retaliation for her opposition to a nominee from the allied PMDB party to head a subsidiary of Eletrobras, the state-owned electricity company. (Rousseff instead opted to give the position to Adhemar Palocci, brother of FinMin Antonio Palocci.) Her senior advisors tell us that she sometimes disregards hierarchy, directly tasking technical employees, bypassing their supervisors. In addition, they note, her event horizon at the Ministry has been no more than two to three weeks in the future, thus making long (or even medium) term planning difficult.

On Jan. 1, current Presidential Chief of Staff Dilma Rousseff will take office as president of Brazil. A just-released cable from 2005, written just after she was promoted from Minister of Mines and Energy to chief of staff, provides what might the U.S. diplomatic community’s first assessment of her:

6. (SBU) With her technical background and no-nonsense style, Rousseff has earned grudging respect from the energy sector. While U.S. companies were initially wary when she was appointed Energy Minister, they now admit that she has done a competent job. In particular, they praise her for her willingness to listen and respond to their views, even when she is inclined to a different conclusion. She has a reputation as being stubborn, a tough negotiator, and detail-oriented. Adjectives used here by those who know her include "demanding" and "workaholic". Her greatest accomplishment as Minister has been the development of Brazil’s new "Electricity Sector Model", which seeks to reduce consumer prices by establishing long-term supply contracts between generators and distributors. Other programs developed during her tenure include "Lights for Everyone" and a focus on biodiesel development. Unlike Jose Dirceu, Rousseff never held elective office and her contacts in Congress are limited, which suggests the administration’s political coordination will be handled by others. The press notes that Lula hopes she will produce a "management shock" within the administration, which –because of managerial inefficiencies, bureaucratic gridlock, and most recently because of the raft of corruption scandals– finds its agenda treading water.

7. (SBU) Some in Congress complain that Rousseff does not understand party politics. In April, the Senate rejected her nominee to head the national oil agency in retaliation for her opposition to a nominee from the allied PMDB party to head a subsidiary of Eletrobras, the state-owned electricity company. (Rousseff instead opted to give the position to Adhemar Palocci, brother of FinMin Antonio Palocci.) Her senior advisors tell us that she sometimes disregards hierarchy, directly tasking technical employees, bypassing their supervisors. In addition, they note, her event horizon at the Ministry has been no more than two to three weeks in the future, thus making long (or even medium) term planning difficult.

Judging by both the praise and criticism received by Rousseff after her tenure as chief of staff, it looks like the embassy called this one right. 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

Tag: Brazil

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