The U.S.A. was not the only Western Hemisphere country to hold an election last week. Far to the south, the giant of South America, Brazil held its presidential election. Like Chile and Argentina before it, Brazilians elected a woman, Dilma Rousseff, to be their new chief executive. In this, of course, they are all three more advanced and forward-looking than the United States which has yet to give that position to a woman.
Brazil is an interesting story. It is a country on the move and is beginning to make its mark on the world stage. Its president for eight years has been Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and he probably would have been elected again but he was barred by term limits from seeking the office. And so he personally chose Ms. Rousseff, who had served as his chief of staff and energy minister, as his successor. He campaigned tirelessly for her.
Even so, she was not able to gain a clear victory in the first round of the election in which there were three candidates. In the second round, she was running against Jose Serra, the former governor of Sao Paolo and she defeated him handily, 56 to 44 percent.
The da Silva presidency has, by most accounts, been a very good thing for Brazil and the voters strongly indicated a preference for continuing his left-leaning economic and social policies which have given the country economic stability and lifted millions of Brazilians out of poverty and into the middle classes. Ms. Rousseff promised to focus on eradicating poverty and giving the state greater control over the economy. She wants to build millions of low-income houses, expand a community policing program and improve the quality of education and public health care.
Imagine a candidate offering a platform of enhanced safety net and social programs, with nary a word about tax cuts for the rich. And she won! Good for you, Brazilians. You've taken a giant step into the future. I hope that some day my own country will be sufficiently forward-looking to join you there.