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Brazil's new president to follow Lula's path

From torture in a dictatorship-era jail cell to the helm of Latin America's largest nation, it's been an unlikely political rise for President Dilma Rousseff, a former Marxist rebel turned career technocrat who claimed Brazil's seat of power Saturday.

In becoming the country's 36th president, Rousseff pulled off a feat nearly unthinkable a year ago when the relative unknown was tapped by then-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to be the ruling Workers Party candidate.

"I am going to consolidate the transformative work done by President Lula," said Rousseff, 63, during a 40-minute inaugural address.

Silva left office as the nation's most popular president, with an approval rating that hit 87 percent in his last week. Rousseff served during both of his four-year terms, first as energy minister and then as chief of staff.

In her inaugural address, Rousseff paid homage to Silva and the advances Brazil made under his watch.

His social programs and wealth redistribution helped pull 20 million people out of poverty. Once on the brink of a sovereign default in 2002, the nation now lends money to the International Monetary Fund. Unemployment is at a record low, and the currency has more than doubled against the U.S. dollar. Brazil will host the 2014 World Cup and is expected to be the world's fifth-largest economy by the time the 2016 Olympics come to the nation.

While proud of those gains, Rousseff said this is no time to relax.

"There is still poverty shaming our country," she said. "I will not rest while there are Brazilians without food on their table, homeless in the streets and poor children abandoned to their luck."

Rousseff was part of an armed rebel group for three years before being arrested and imprisoned in 1970. She spent three years in jail, during which time she was brutally tortured. Eleven women who were jailed with her were special guests at the inauguration.

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