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Forbes: The Most Powerful Women in Politics 2012

3. Dilma Rousseff

Dilma Rousseff made news when she was elected to lead Brazil--Latin America's largest economy--in October 2011, but in many ways the election result was not a surprise. As the first female Chief of Staff under reformist President Lula da Silva, appointed in 2005, she was widely expected to be his successor to continue the Workers Party's economic policies set in motion during his term. It is her rise to that post that is remarkable. She cut her teeth in politics as a student involved in Latin America's labor politics. A member of two radical groups - Colina and VAR Palmares - Rousseff flitted between towns, chased by law enforcement officials and was eventually arrested in 1970 for alleged involvement in drug and weapons trafficking. She was jailed for two years. In 2001, when she was appointed Minister of Energy, Rousseff began to alter her views towards a more a pragmatic and now favors state control of most industries. This Spring, in an attempt to reverse a slowdown of the country's economy, the President accelerated an array of stimulus projects throughout the country which were met with great fanfare by her constituents. A June poll put Rousseff's approval rating at 77%.
(AP Photo)

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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