BRASILIA, Brazil — Left-wing economist Dilma Rousseff, 63, was inaugurated Saturday as the first female president of Brazil, succeeding her popular mentor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
In her inaugural address in the building that houses the lower house of the Brazilian Congress in the capital, Brasilia, Rousseff vowed that overcoming extreme poverty will be her top priority.
"My government's most obstinate fight will be to eradicate extreme poverty and to create opportunities for all," she said.
Her oath met with applause from 800 invited guests, including more than 20 foreign heads of state and government.
Lula left office with record popularity but could not stay on due to constitutional limits on consecutive presidential terms.
"A significant social mobility happened in President Lula's two mandates. But there is still poverty that shames our country and prevents our full affirmation as a developed people," she said.
In a 45-minute speech that was interrupted by applause on numerous occasions, Rousseff wept when she remembered her past as a member of a leftist guerrilla group and her dead comrades in the fight against the 1964-85 dictatorship in Brazil, during which she was herself imprisoned and suffered torture.
"I devoted all my life to Brazil's cause. I gave up my youth for the dream of a country that was fair and democratic. I withstood the most extreme adversities that were inflicted to all those of us who dared fight arbitrariness," she said.
"Many in my generation, who fell along the way, cannot share the joy of this moment. I share with them this conquest, and I pay them my tribute," she added.
Rousseff also acknowledged her place in history as the country's first female leader.
"I feel immensely honored by that choice by the Brazilian people and I know the historic meaning of this decision," she noted.
"I come here to open doors so that many other women can also, in the future, be president. And so that, today, all Brazilian women feel the pride and the joy of being a woman. I do not come here to enrich my biography but to glorify the life of every Brazilian woman. It is my supreme commitment to honor women, to protect those who are weakest and to govern for all," Rousseff said.
She again praised Lula, and she vowed to advance his policies.
"The biggest tribute I can pay him is to expand and advance the conquests of his government. Acknowledging, giving credit to and investing in the force of the people is the biggest lesson that President Lula left for all of us," Rousseff said.
In line with Lula's policies, she vowed to keep promoting Brazil's ties with its South American neighbors.
Rousseff further stressed that she would "not make the smallest concession to the protectionism of rich countries," and she noted that Brazil has "a sacred mission" to show the world that it can grow fast without destroying the environment.
Dressed in an elegant ivory-colored suit, she had arrived at the ceremony in the company of her only daughter, Paula, in a closed vehicle. The heavy rain prevented her from using an open car for the parade.
Later, in her second speech as president, standing alongside Lula before the presidential palace, Rousseff said she was happy to get her chance, yet "very moved by the end of the mandate of the greatest popular leader this country has ever had."
Rousseff earned the right to govern the world's eighth-largest economy by defeating social-democrat Jose Serra in a runoff on October 31.
Riding on Lula's huge popularity, the coalition that backs Rousseff is to have a large majority, over two-thirds, in both houses of Congress.
The new president has appointed nine female ministers in her 37-member Cabinet.