BRASILIA - A former Marxist guerrilla who was tortured and imprisoned during Brazil's long dictatorship was elected Sunday as president of Latin America's biggest nation, a country in the midst of an economic and political rise.
A statement from the Supreme Electoral Court, which oversees elections, said governing party candidate Dilma Rousseff won the election. When she takes office January 1, she will be Brazil's first female leader.
With 99 percent of the ballots counted, Rousseff had 55.6 percent compared to 44.4 percent for her centrist rival, Jose Serra, the electoral court said.
"I'm very happy. I want to thank all Brazilians for this moment and I promise to honor the trust they have shown me," Rousseff told reporters who swarmed a car carrying her in Brasilia, her first public words as president-elect.
Rousseff, the hand-chosen candidate of wildly popular President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, won by cementing her image to Silva's, whose policies she promised to continue.
She will lead a nation on the rise, a country that will host the 2014 World Cup and that is expected to be the globe's fifth-largest economy by the time it hosts the 2016 Summer Olympics. It has also recently discovered huge oil reserves off its coast.
"I voted for Dilma because she is a fighter," said Estevam Sanches, a 43-year-old pizza parlor owner in Sao Paulo. "What we need is a fighter in the presidency to continue, as she says she will, with Lula's efforts to eradicate poverty and strengthen the economy."
Rousseff, 62, is considered the main manager of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's government.
She was born in Minas Gerais state and had a strong trajectory against the military dictatorship of 1964-1985 and at the public service in order to make it democratic at the end of the dictatorship.
She is the daughter of a Bulgarian immigrant father, a lawyer who died when she was 14, and a Brazilian mother who was a schoolteacher. Her past points to an early political awakening.
In 1967, as a 19-year-old economics student, she joined a militant political group opposing the dictatorship. For three years she helped lead guerrilla organizations, instructed comrades on Marxist theory and wrote for an underground newspaper.
She joined the PT in 2001 and was Energy Minister during the first term of Lula since 2003. Later in June 2005 she was appointed chief of staff of Cabinet.
The president-elect will be inaugurated in on January 1, 2011.