Rousseff becomes first woman to lead Brazil

Dilma Rousseff became Brazil’s first female president on Saturday and promised to build on an unprecedented run of economic success achieved by her popular predecessor and mentor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Thousands of admirers braved a driving rain and cheered as Rousseff rode to her inauguration in a 1953 Rolls Royce flanked by an all-female security detail. The former guerrilla, who evolved over time into a pragmatic civil servant, vowed during her inaugural speech to focus on tax reform and other steps she said should help eradicate extreme poverty in the next decade.

“Many things have improved in Brazil, but this is just the beginning of a new era,” said Rousseff, who briefly choked up with emotion during the address to Congress.

“My promise is … to honor women, to protect the most fragile, and to govern for all.”

Rousseff, 63, inherits an economy that still faces many challenges — but is growing at a pace that would make most of the rest of the world green with envy.

More than 20 million Brazilians were lifted out of poverty during Lula’s eight years in office, thanks largely to his social welfare policies and stable economic management that made Brazil a darling among Wall Street investors.

The coming decade also looks bright, with massive, newly discovered offshore oil reserves due to be exploited and the World Cup and Olympics to be hosted here.

Among the tasks Rousseff must address are an overvalued currency that is hurting industry, rampant public spending that is fueling inflation, and notorious bureaucracy that stifles investment and discourages innovation.