Brazil's leader sworn in for 2nd term

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Posted: Jan 01, 2015 2:04 PM
Brazil's leader sworn in for 2nd term

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff was sworn into her second term in office Thursday, confronting an expanding kickback scandal at the state-run oil company, a moribund economy and less congressional support for her ruling coalition.

Her surprisingly narrow October election and the weakening of her ruling coalition among lawmakers will make it more difficult for her to tackle the challenges, experts said. Some also said she will have to change her rigid management style and seek compromise.

But in a 40-minute inaugural speech before congress, Rousseff sharply defended her record, noted the great strides Brazil has made in social inclusion with her government programs and said she's ready to fight graft and end impunity for the rich and powerful.

"The Brazilian people want even more transparency and more combat against all types of crimes, especially corruption," she said. "And they want the arm of justice to reach everyone equally. I'm not afraid to face these challenges."

Thiago Aragao, a political analyst for the Brasilia-based Arko Advice consulting firm, said Rousseff needs to "solve the economy by stimulating growth, fiscal responsibility and domestic and international credibility."

The scandal at the Petrobras oil company "is the most tricky" problem, Aragao said, "because it's not over yet and we don't know the range of destruction it could cause."

The alleged graft scheme that could be the biggest yet uncovered in Brazil's history, and it complicates what Aragao said is the president's third big problem: keeping support among her base in congress.

An ongoing federal investigation into the alleged kickback scheme has already resulted in charges against 39 people, many top executives from Brazil's biggest construction and engineering firms, and it is expected to implicate dozens of politicians, many from the ruling coalition, by the end of February, according to Brazil's attorney general.

Rousseff's challenges aside, inauguration marks the seventh consecutive time a directly elected Brazilian president has started a term in office, something that hasn't happened in Latin America's biggest nation in nearly a century.