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Brazilian president-elect invites ex-cellmates to inauguration


Brasilia : Brazilian President-elect Dilma Rousseff invited to her inauguration this weekend 11 women with whom she shared cells during the almost three years she was imprisoned for her links with groups that had taken up arms against the dictatorship.

“In prison, Dilma already had a strong presence, she was already a leader and she showed great solidarity,” journalist Rose Nogueira, one of the 11 women who between 1970 and 1972 were imprisoned with Rousseff, said in an interview published by the daily O Globo.

The 11 former cellmates are among a group of people close to Rousseff who have been specially invited by her to the ceremony at which she will receive the presidential sash from the hands of outgoing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Sociologist Lenira Machado, another of the women who was at the women’s detention centre, known during the period as the “Tower of the Maidens”, told O Globo that besides the participation of each one of them in the guerrilla movement, both she and Rousseff agreed that the dictatorship had to be fought with arms.

“We defended the armed struggle, based on the formation of plots and not as a simple adventure,” Machado said.

Rousseff was imprisoned and tortured for her links with the small Colina and VAR-Palmares guerrilla groups, but she has said that she never actually picked up a weapon or participated in any of the actions undertaken by those cells.

The army intelligence units, according to documents made public last month by the defense ministry, never were able to prove that Rousseff participated in armed actions, but she “advised” the guerrillas on how to prepare bank robberies and organise strikes.

The president-elect was arrested in 1970, when she was 23 years old, and – according to the documents – she was called by the dictatorship “the Joan of Arc of the subversion”.