President Dilma Rousseff has replaced two senior cabinet ministers
, both men, with two women in the past week, prompting one federal deputy to quip that the president is “Pelé in a skirt”, building up a female soccer team. Since taking office on 1 January, Rousseff has appointed 10 women to 38 cabinet-level posts. That is twice the five female ministers appointed by her predecessor Lula da Silva during his eight years in office (2003-2010). Rousseff may see in these women the ability to change Brazil’s entrenched backslapping, chauvinistic and opportunistic parliamentary politics, but she risks it becoming her defining challenge.
The past month has been a trial by fire for the novice president, who has been forced to accept the resignation of her key political fixer, Antonio Palocci, a veteran baron of the ruling left-wing Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT), replacing him and the strugglingminister of institutional relations (Luiz Sérgio, also of the PT), with two PT female confidants who do not necessarily have the trust of the array of parties (15 in all) that comprise her ruling coalition.