Brazil’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff takes office as diplomatic row with Italy escalates over the denied extradition of the former leftist rebel, Cesare Battisti.
Dilma Rousseff took office on Saturday in a carefully choreographed ceremony that saw some 70,000 people brave the rain to see her parade through the streets of Brasília in an open-topped Rolls-Royce.
Rousseff, 63, became the country’s first female president as she received the ceremonial green and gold sash from outgoing president Lula da Silva, under whom she had served as Chief of Staff.
In her inaugural speech, she spoke of her intention, alongside new vice-president Michel Temer, to work hard to continue on the path laid out by Lula and his number two, José Alencar, who was hospitalized last week. She went on to describe how she will govern ‘for all Brazilians… so that every mother and father can offer their children greater opportunities than they themselves had’. Video footage and the full text of her inauguaral address can be found at globo.com.
The ceremony attracted leading figures from across Latin America, and beyond, with Sebastien Piñera, Fernando Lugo and José Mujica amongst the highest-profile attendees. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez were also present and their brief, apparently cordial conversation has dominated coverage of the event.
Diplomatic relations between their respective countries have been particularly strained in recent weeks after the US revoked the visa of Bernardo Alvarez Herrera, Venezuela’s ambassador to Washington. But Chavez later confirmed that their meeting had been amicable.
Notable by its absence, however, was a delegation from Italy, as Rome responded to Lula’s decision on Friday to deny the extradition of Cesare Battisti, the former leftist rebel accused of killing four people in the late 1970s. Battisti escaped from prison in 1981 and has been on the run in Mexico, France and Brazil, where he has become a critically-acclaimed fiction writer, ever since.
He was tried in absentia and in 1988 was sentenced to life imprisonment for carrying out two assassinations and complicity in two more, whilst an active member of the militant communist group Proletari Armati per il Comunismo (Armed Proletariats for Communism – PAC).
Battisti has always maintained his innocence, and Lula claimed on Friday that his last internationally significant act as president sought to protect the Italian from persecution, rather than prosecution, in his homeland.
The Italian government has responded negatively to the decision, with Silvio Berlusconi describing it as ‘unacceptable’ and temporarily withdrawing his ambassador to Brasília, while the Ministry for External Relations in Rome told the Corriere della Sera newspaper on Sunday that it was considering taking the case to the International Court of Justice at The Hague.