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Brazil’s Rousseff sworn into second four-year term

Friday, January 02, 2015 - 01:01

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is sworn into her second four-year term. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).

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ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff was sworn into her second term on Thursday (January 1) vowing to rein in government spending to curb inflation and pull Latin America's largest economy out of a four-year slump. A career bureaucrat who had never run for public office before becoming the first woman to ascend to Brazil's presidency in 2011, Rousseff spent the last four years juggling an economic downturn and high inflation. She was narrowly re-elected in October after a divisive campaign that touted her record at reducing poverty and keeping unemployment near all-time lows. "I was re-elected to continue to transform Brazil and to continue making the changes that you all desire. I promise I will make these changes," Rousseff declared as she was sworn in on Thursday, arriving at the Congress Buildings in a presidential Rolls Royce. "I begin my second mandate with greater hope than when I took on the first. I take on this mandate with the certainty that we are united, with dignity, we are united, on our feet, with the strength of the faith held by the Brazilian people," Rousseff continued. With investors fleeing Brazilian assets in disapproval of her management of the economy during her first term, and with a downgrade of the country's debt hinted by at least one ratings agency, Rousseff, a 67-year-old leftist, pledged to pursue more market-friendly policies. Rousseff did not provide specifics on budget cuts, but promised to undertake the belt-tightening in a way that minimizes the pain for average Brazilians who rely on the government for social welfare benefits. To spearhead the change in economic policy, Rousseff previously named banker Joaquim Levy as finance minister. An orthodox economist who holds a doctorate from the University of Chicago, Levy is expected to enact budget cuts and other austerity measures to rebalance public accounts. Those cuts, however, are likely to complicate what is expected to be another tough year for Brazil's economy, given sluggish growth world-wide and a domestic marketplace increasingly accustomed to government largesse. Things will become even more complicated for Rousseff in February when the Supreme Court is expected to reveal the names of dozens of politicians who allegedly received funds from more than $3 billion in kickbacks skimmed from the coffers of Petrobras, Brazil's state-run oil company. So far 39 people have been arrested in the scandal, including two former Petrobras directors and scores of executives from Brazil's top construction companies. The construction executives are charged with channeling money from overpriced contracts to bribe officials and politicians. Rousseff, who was chairwoman of Petrobras when much of the graft took place, has denied knowledge of the corruption. On Thursday, she pledged to send Congress an anti-corruption bill in the first half of the year and engage legislators in what she described as a "national pact against corruption." Eduardo Cunha, one of her most outspoken critics and a Congressman from the notoriously demanding allies of the PMDB party, is expected to become speaker of the Lower House. Cunha has said he will convene a new Congressional committee to probe the Petrobras scandal, which could slow the president's legislative agenda, which includes enacting political reforms. A second phase of the government's flagship social housing programme Minha Casa Minha Vida (My House My Life) was announced, involving plans to build 3 million housing units in the second term. Present at the ceremony to congratulate Rousseff were U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and former Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, among others.

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Brazil’s Rousseff sworn into second four-year term

Friday, January 02, 2015 - 01:01