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Brazilian Leader Wants to Strengthen Education, Commerce Ties with Bay State

Dario Galvão, an owner of a dry cleaner in Sherborn, was able to meet Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff during her stop in Massachusetts Tuesday.

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff continued her historic first trip to the United States Tuesday, stopping in Massachusetts.

The first woman to become president of Brazil was greeted by Governor Deval Patrick, as dozens of migrant families waved the green-and-yellow-Brazilian flag along Beacon Street, and students, from Somerville, sang Brazil’s national anthem.

On Monday, Rousseff met with President Barack Obama. Tuesday, in Boston she continued her Brazil and U.S. cooperation agenda meeting at the State House with Patrick and making a visit to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the morning and Harvard University in the evening. She did not stop in Framingham, which has one of the largest Brazilian populations in Massachusetts.

Meeting in Washington, Rousseff said there was potential to deepen co-operation, particularly in Brazil's booming oil and gas industry. She expressed concern about expansionist monetary policies in developed countries, saying they were impairing growth in emerging economies, reported the BBC.

In Washington, D.C. Rousseff was critical towards the rich countries for what she calls “a financial Tsunami," referring to the policy of artificially diminishing the valor of their national currencies, so they can boost exportation rates.

President Obama said US-Brazil relations "had never been stronger."

Neither has the relationship between Brazil and Massachusetts.

In 2011, Massachusetts exported more than $450 million of goods and services to Brazil, with more than $130 million in imports from Brazil.

Tuesday, Gov. Patrick highlighted that Brazil is an important commercial partner now and in the future.

Education is one of many areas Brazil will partner with the Commonwealth in the future.

Brazil's Education Minister Aloisio Mercadante confirmed many of the 100,000 exchange college students, who will receive scholarships to study abroad, may attend Massachusetts institutions.

“I salute the cooperation agreements signed between Capes (a national scholarship program) and Harvard University. And I foresee many new projects we may be able to do with Massachusetts Institute of Technology,”  said Rousseff.

Marisa Racini, a mother of a teenager from Framingham, brought a letter describing how her daughter won’t be able to attend college in Massachusetts for not having her papers.

“The President is my last hope that someone can pressure the (American) government, so my daughter can have a brighter future," she told Framingham Patch.

Later, Racini said she wasn’t able to get close to Rousseff to have a conversation or deliver the letter.

said Patrick.

Patrick was joined by nearly 100 Massachusetts school children from the Brazilian community to welcome Rousseff on the State House steps, where the national anthems of both countries played.

The Governor then escorted the President through the front doors of the State House, a rare tradition usually reserved for visiting heads of state.

Tuesday night, Rousseff gave a sought-after speech at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. In a 50-minute speech, delivered in Portuguese, Rousseff talked how 40 million low income people reached middle class status in the last decade.

Rousseff talked about how “Brazil needs Harvard.”

“Brazil being the sixth (largest) economy in the world, Harvard will think it needs Brazil, too," she said.

After her speech, a question-and-answer session followed.

Gloria, a Harvard University student, asked what advice Rousseff would give girls around the world, as a female leader.

Brazil’s President started by saying that when she was a child she did not dream of becoming her nation's President – but wished to be a ballerina or a firefighter, getting laughter from the crowd.

“During the campaign trail, a girl asked me if girls can be – and I intervened, can be what?’ – President, she said, I assured her they can.”

Rousseff dodged two questions from Venezuelan students who openly criticized policies from President Hugo Chavez. Rousseff replied  “I don’t comment on other leaders’ affairs, as I wish no one has the right to comment on mine.”

Dario Galvão, an owner of a dry cleaner in Sherborn, asked about what Rousseff can do to help undocumented migrant students attend college in the United States.

“I have 190 million people back in Brazil who are my priority,” Rousseff said. “During my government, I don’t think I can help migrant (Brazilians) in this regards. I can protect them, but my priority lies with people in Brazil,” she said.

Galvão told Framingham Patch after Rousseff’s speech he was able to shake hands with president, who told him, "You presented me a tough question.”

The Brazilian president’s response ignited a fierce debate among those who understood that Rousseff can’t interfere in American politics, and those who think she turned her back on migrants, who are still allowed to vote in Brazil's Presidential elections from abroad.

“I disagree with the President. We Brazilians regardless of where we live,” said Fausto da Rocha, an elected leader of the Brazilian community here.

But Rocha highlighted Rousseff’s intention to center her government of education.

“When you reach a certain level of education, we know who to complain to, and you become more socially active,” said Rocha.

Community activist Sidney Pires of Framingham, said "If the President wanted to say that people will be helped by the government only if they are in Brazil, she should offer conditions for people to go back to Brazil with a minimum of dignity.”

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