BRASILIA —“I threw on a helmet and rode the motorcycle through the streets of Brasilia,” a content Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff recently, and casually, told the country’s Minister of Mines and Energy Edison Lobão, who listened in disbelief.
The minister said that he was shocked at first, just like the reporter to whom he recounted the story. “At first I couldn’t believe it either, but when we met Amaro in the elevator I started to.”
Lobão was referring to the head of presidential security, General Marcos Antônio Amaro, whom he and the Brazilian president ran into toward the end of their conversation last week. Rousseff immediately began bragging. “Even he didn’t know,” she said, certain that her breach had been a secret.
But the president was surprised when the security official promptly replied, “I did know, and sent some company,” adding that a team was instructed to follow her from a distance so as to preserve her feeling of a furtive adventure.
When reporting her deed, Dilma told the minister about how she felt riding a motorcycle around the capital. “I experienced Brasilia’s air better,” she said.
That was a poetic compliment because the city has been suffering from its seasonal drought, when air moisture reaches Saharan levels.
It’s not clear whether Rousseff was riding on the back or whether she was driving herself. According to the Planalto Palace, which has not commented on the episode, the president doesn’t have a permit.
Still dazed by the news, Lobão asked the president about the safety risks. “You must care not only about you and Paula (the president’s daughter), but also 200 million Brazilians,” he told her.
Dilma smiled, thanked the minister for his concern, and said, “Life is full of dangers. Everything in life entails risk.”
When Folha reported Lobão’s story to another minister close to the president, he was skeptical. “The president riding a motorcycle? I can't believe it,” he said. But this isn’t the first time the leader has had a turn with motorcyles.
Carlos Gabas, executive secretary of the Ministry of Social Security and owner of a Harley-Davidson, said that the president not only has asked to hop on his chopper but she has also managed to strike a pose.
Capers such as Rousseff’s are not unprecedented. Lobão recalled that the late General João Batista Figueiredo drove his security personnel crazy by fleeing to ride his motorcycle during his presidency (1979-1985).
“The president had an adventure,” Lobão said. “She deserves it. Her position limits a lot of her leisure options. It’s almost impossible for her to go to theaters, movies, restaurants.”