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Brazilian President Interview; Imagine a World

Aired July 10, 2014 - 14:00:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight my exclusive interview with Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff. Will the soccer team's

epic rout affect her reelection bid?

DILMA ROUSSEFF, PRESIDENT OF BRAZIL (through translator): being able to overcome defeat I think is the feature and hallmark of a major national

team and of a great country.


AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to a special edition of the program from Brazil's modern and futuristic capital, Brasilia. I'm at

the presidential palace and inside Dilma Rousseff is plotting her reelection campaign as well as nursing her wounds after Brazil's epic

slaughter in the semifinal World Cup match here on Tuesday.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Despite the pain the whole nation is feeling, they have been basking in the glory of putting on a World Cup that has

transfixed the entire globe.

Rousseff must be hoping the national mood doesn't sour now and that after the World Cup, people don't take to the streets again.

Brazil's first female president took the helm in 2010 after the wildly successful economic miracle of her predecessor, Lula da Silva. It saw

nearly 14 (ph) million people lifted out of poverty. But the bloom is off that rose as growth slows.

Seventy-two percent of Brazilians say they're not satisfied with the way things are going in their country. But still, Brazil is Latin

America's biggest economy by far and 51 percent of Brazilians approve of Rousseff herself, ahead of the crucial presidential elections in October.

President Rousseff gives very few interviews, much less to the international media. We sat down here, though, to talk about her

reelection, the country's challenges and the promises she knows that the rising middle class are depending on her to keep.

AMANPOUR: Madam President, welcome to our program.

ROUSSEFF (through translator): It gives me great pleasure, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: There were so many demonstrations before this World Cup started, and all of a sudden during the World Cup, people were ecstatic.

People said that it was the best World Cup; there were so many goals.

Do you think that this defeat will shape the national mood?

ROUSSEFF (through translator): Well, I do not believe that. After all, there is one hallmark and feature about football, it is made of

victories and defeats. That's part and parcel of the game. And being able to overcome defeat I think is the feature and hallmark of a major national

team and of a great country.

AMANPOUR: Do you think that it was the absence of Neymar and Thiago Silva that contributed to this loss?

ROUSSEFF (through translator): Two hundred million Brazilians view themselves as coaches and they all of course will weigh in, voice their

opinions about the national team. So not being a person that is deeply knowledgeable about football, I do believe that there was a significant


I am quite certain that Brazil and all Brazilian supporters will behave in such a way as to persist in their support in the next few days.

And therefore show that, yes, we are able to overcome adversity.

But again, one has to bear in mind that, from all different aspects, the fact is that Brazil has organized and staged a World Cup which I do

believe is one of the best World Cups and that is largely due to the Brazilian people and their ability to offer and extend hospitality and

welcome supporters from all over the world.

And I do hope and I am certain that the whole world will recognize that as a fact.

AMANPOUR: There were so many questions, not just around the world but also here in Brazil, about the cost of these stadiums, about the $14

billion that was spent on these stadiums, compared with $4 billion for South Africa in 2010.

People were saying, you know, why don't we have better schools, better education, better transport, better infrastructure?

Do you worry? Do you believe that they will start up again after the final?

ROUSSEFF (through translator): In the arenas and the different stadiums, $8 billion Brazilian reals were spent -- roughly speaking about

$4 billion U.S. dollars were spent in the building of these arenas. And the expenses made to build the arenas were funded by the government; 1.7

trillion Brazilian reals were spent in health and education in the same period, which is approximately $850 billion USD.

And all of these investments will be available for Brazil after the World Cup, all these stadia, arenas. Take airports, for example. In 2003

we had 30 million passengers traveling by plane to Brazil. And that figure went up to 113 million in 2013.

So quite clearly we're building airports for ourselves.

And when I mentioned earlier that Brazilian football must be renewed, Christiane, what did I mean?

Well, I meant to say that Brazil can no longer keep on exporting football players. Exporting football players means that we give up the

main attraction that can help stadiums be crowded with supporters.

After all, what is the biggest attraction that a country like Brazil has to attract supporters to stadiums?

It's football supporters and players. There are many great football players who have been away from Brazil and working away for many years now.

So renewing football in Brazil involves a realization that this is a country that is so passionate about football it's totally entitled to have

its own players working domestically, therefore not having to export.

AMANPOUR: Madam President, some have said that Brazil and the World Cup is the fantasy of Brazil. This is the Brazil that you would like

to have. You put on a fabulous World Cup despite the terrible defeat of your team.

But this isn't the real Brazil; the real Brazil, people are out in the streets or they have been.

This is coming at a moment where you are going for reelection.

Do you feel the political challenge now that this defeat has happened?

And at the end of this tournament, you're going to be under the gun to deliver?

ROUSSEFF (through translator): Well, first of all, I think the Brazil that you're describing out there has nothing to do with the real Brazil,

because the real Brazil is a country that between 2003 to date has uplifted 36 million people out of poverty. We have also mainstreamed into the

middle class no less than 42 million people -- 42 million people.

Just to give you the proper scale that we're talking about is the equivalent of Argentina, a neighboring country, and a very populous one, by

the way. So that is something that we have succeeded in doing in no less than one decade.

And these people who have come into or who have mainstreamed into the middle class do indeed want to have better education and better health

services, yes. And we are making a huge effort to ensure it happens.

AMANPOUR: You talk about lifting 36 million people from poverty into the middle class. That is a massive triumph for Brazil. And that is

obviously the reason why these people still have aspirations. They want to get better and better.

So what is your answer to those 1 million people who turned out into the streets last year?

Also, as you know, Madam President, Brazil's incredible growth rate, particularly under the last decade, has slowed and continues to be slow.

ROUSSEFF (through translator): The fact there has been a slowdown in our growth rate is attributable to the very strong crisis that struck the

world as of 2008. From 2008 to 2014 worldwide about 60 million job posts were eliminated or shut down.

We in Brazil, despite all of that, were able to face up to the crisis while upholding high employment levels domestically. In that same period,

we created 11 million job posts in Brazil.

It is my belief that we will now move into a new development cycle in Brazil. The second cycle ahead will have to be ultimately anchored on the

improvements in our productivity, therefore improvements in our competitiveness.

As a country, we must wage a bet on education. Education can take care of two things. Number one, you can ensure that those people who have

improved their income and standards of living will be in a position to ensure continuity of those gains.

And number two, we must move into the knowledge economy and value- added economy.

AMANPOUR: How deep a problem for you and for this nation is corruption?

ROUSSEFF (through translator): I believe that it is a fundamental issue in any country. My entire life shows that I advocate zero tolerance

towards corruption.

And at the federal public service level, we have established the transparency or accountability web portal where all government spending,

all government purchases and procurement made by the federal government are shown or posted on the accountability web portal within less than 24 hours

after the expenses are made.

We have also established the federal comptroller general's office. Many of the corruption incidents were disclosed by the federal comptroller

general's office.

We have also given full and unchecked autonomy for the federal police to investigate corruption related crimes. Ninety percent of the corruption

crimes that have surfaced in Brazil recently have been looked into by the federal police service, a federal administration body.

AMANPOUR: You promised to make corruption a felony and not just a misdemeanor.

Did you do that?

ROUSSEFF (through translator): Yes, and not only that, because in Brazil in the past there was this practice that only the corruptor would be

held accountable for the act of corruption. So both sides, not only the corrupted, but also those who are corrupt are liable and held criminally

answerable before justice, which I think is a major improvement because of course one does not exist or work without the other.

AMANPOUR: Stand by, if you will, Madam President. You have a phenomenal personal story as well, and after a break I want to talk about



AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

You are the first female president of Brazil, a country of more than 200 million people, the engine of Latin America. Your economy is bigger by

far than the rest of this continent.

Did you always dream of being president?

ROUSSEFF (through translator): No, I never dreamed of being the president.

AMANPOUR: In fact, your story would suggest exactly the opposite, because you were a urban guerilla during the 1960s, fighting and resisting

the military dictatorship.

Did you always dream of being a Robin Hood?

ROUSSEFF (through translator): It's very difficult to live under a dictatorship. Dictatorship limits your dreams. And when one has no right

to express one's self or organize your efforts, any act of disagreement becomes an act of opposition under dictatorship.

In Brazil, the right to strike as a worker in the past was seen as an offense against the dictatorship regime. And the demonstrations with which

we very much coexist with peace of mind today in the past were enough reason for you to persecute, kill and torture the demonstrators.

So as a young person, yes, I did struggle against the dictatorship. I am the product of that period in time, yes. And I'm very proud of the fact

that I struggled and fought the dictatorship of the time, because it is not a easy task, really.

After all, the atmosphere under dictatorship erodes, corrupts people in terms of, you know, undermining the ability to withstand and resist.

AMANPOUR: You were eventually arrested and kept in prison for three years and you were tortured.

Can you tell me about that?

ROUSSEFF (through translator): I was arrested in the 1970s. And I spent three years in jail in Sao Paolo, a jail which, by the way, has been


Well, it was an experience, an experience where one learns that two things are necessary: number one, to resist. And your realize that only

you, yourself, can defeat yourself. I'm not saying that it's easy to support, to tolerate or to put up with torture. It is not easy to tolerate


And you can only tolerate or put up with torture if you deliberately deceive yourself by telling yourself, well, a little bit more, yes, I can

cope with that. I can also cope with a little bit more, a little bit more. And you deliberately mislead yourself, if you will, because you cannot

allow torture to defeat you.

Adversity should not be allowed to deprive you from the joy and the sense of life. And you cannot allow yourself to be contaminated by what

torturers think of you.

AMANPOUR: What did they do to you?

ROUSSEFF (through translator): Well, what they did to everyone who was arrested in Brazil at the time, electric -- electric shocks as well as

a piece of wood where they would hang the prisoner by the leg and the knee, as well as the arms.

People were hung by their arms and legs on this piece of wood, as well as a lot of electric shocks. It was the worst form of torture. That was

the worst one. It's what you might describe as a walking pain in your body.

And acts of torture and pain perpetrated by one upon someone else is unpardonable. It's a barbaric act. Anyone who perpetrates torture has

lost all human values and has lost all the gains we as human beings have established as civilization gains ever since we left the caves.

I have never seen a torturing process that has not ultimately destroyed the institution that has engaged in torture.

AMANPOUR: How did it shape your world view?

ROUSSEFF (through translator): You know, there's just one way for torture not to contaminate you. You cannot allow it to develop anger or

hatred towards those who perpetrate torture against you. You cannot allow that to go into your being. You have to leave it at the outer being, if

you understand me.

You cannot allow that to shape your ideology, your culture or the way you see the world around you.

But let me tell you one thing -- above all, there's one thing I think torture has led me to live life in a more intensive way. I'm talking about

the absolute certainty that we, in Brazil, we have succeeded in defeating those who engage in acts of torture. And this is not a personal defeat.

It is not a personal victory against such-and-such person, no.

It is a much broader victory because, in Brazil, nationwide, we have ultimately defeated the institutional establishment that engaged in

torture. And we did so by building democracy, building democracy with standards that are respectful of human rights.

In Brazil, we have this so-called lust -- love for democracy. And I think that was a major gain I have experienced.

AMANPOUR: I can see the passion with which you talk about this and your story is remarkable.

There are many criticisms of Brazil's police today, that it is amongst the most lethal, deadly police force in the region, that in 2012, some

2,000 people were tortured and killed by the Brazilian police. That seems to be still a bad legacy of the kind of torture and dictatorship and lack

of rule of law that you were fighting against.

Can you change that?

ROUSSEFF (through translator): That is perhaps one of Brazil's major challenges.

Fighting criminal activity cannot be conducted using the same methods that are used by the criminals themselves, and that is very often what


The police services in Brazil are assigned to the state level governments as established under the federal constitution. I believe we

may have to revisit that arrangement and revise that article of the constitution, because this matter must involve the federal and the state

level executive branches of powers, as well as the federal and state level justice systems.

After all, there's this huge number of prisoners out there who find themselves in sub-human conditions in prisons. And that is certainly one

of the most serious problems on our agenda today. Much progress, however, has been made in certain respects.

AMANPOUR: And finally, talking about rule of law, you heavily criticized the United States government because of the spying, all the

revelations from Edward Snowden. You were spied upon. Millions of Brazilians were spied upon.

Have you made up with President Obama?

Are you on good terms again?

Is this under the bridge or do you still have a problem with the U.S. over this and with the Obama administration?

ROUSSEFF (through translator): You know, I do not believe that the responsibility for the spying activity can be ascribed to the Obama

administration. I think that is actually the part of a process that has been underway after September the 11th.

Now what we do not accept -- did not accept in the past and do not accept today -- is the fact that the Brazilian government, Brazilian

corporations, Brazilian citizens were spied upon.

And why is that so? Well, precisely because that flies in the face of human rights, especially our right as Brazilian citizens to privacy and

freedom of expression, freedom of speech.

So we of course we voiced that concern to President Obama at the time. What we told him was that every reciprocal act between Brazil and the U.S.,

which are major strategic partners, every such act would be impaired by information that we were not aware of was circulating out there.

We wanted two things from them.

We wanted a guarantee that it would be discontinued and it would not happen again. And thus of course someone would have to be held

accountable. Someone would have to come before us and tell us it would not happen again.

At that point in time, the Obama administration was in the process of squaring the circle, if you will, around the issue of international spying

activity. And they were not in a position to provide us with an answer at the time.

And the guilty were not in a position to provide us with an acceptable response at the time. We decided to discontinue the plans we had for the

state visit of mine to the U.S.

That of course did not mean that we broke ties with the Obama administration, no. It only meant that we were placing all cards on the

table very clearly. And say, hey, the way it is, it is impossible if it remains the way it is.

I think today, in hindsight, I think we have made quite a few steps.

AMANPOUR: Stand by one more moment, Madam President. We'll be back with a final thought after a break.


AMANPOUR: Finally, Madam President, Chancellor Merkel and yourself are the two big female powerful presidents of the world right now.

What is it like being a female president?

And what do you say Chancellor Merkel since her team is making it into the final?

ROUSSEFF: Congratulations.

ROUSSEFF (through translator): I will certainly greet her for the victory because, after all, there is this one feature about football.

Football is a game that allows the best of human activity to surface and to come to the fore.

Number one, football is a kind of game that involves cooperation by definition; people have to -- they must cooperate to play the game. Number

two, it involves training. People must train, players must train, and that applies not only to football but also to life. If you don't make effort,

if you don't work, you will not succeed as a result.

It also involves something which I think is key and essential, which is a real source of education to all of us. I'm talking about fair play,

the spirit of fair play, being able to win but also being able to lose. And when you lose, you must greet. You must greet your opponent. This is

not a war, after all. It's a game.

And that is why football charms us all. It delights us all because it showcases the beauty of a human individual initiative in different moments,

although it is a cooperative and group game.

So, yes, I will greet Angela Merkel, and I will tell the German chancellor that, yes, her team did play very well. They are to be


AMANPOUR: Is it different being a woman president?

Do you do things differently?

ROUSSEFF (through translator): I think that it is still viewed as a different fact in today's world. Women who are political leaders are

viewed as being harsh women, cold, surrounded by cute men. But I think those things are not true. As leaders, as female leaders, as presidents or

as chancellors, we are just women exercising our role as women. And I always like to believe that our lenses as women involve the realization

that we rule for people, not for things. I'm not saying that men necessarily take a different approach. But it's quite certain and

doubtless that women do know by definition that people are about feelings and emotions in addition to thoughts and rationalities. I think that is a

fundamental difference.

AMANPOUR: President Rousseff, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

ROUSSEFF (through translator): Thank you, Christiane.


AMANPOUR: That's it for the special edition of our program tonight. Remember you can always contact us at our website,, and follow

me on Twitter and Facebook. Thank you for watching and goodbye from Brazil.