BRASILIA - When a Brazilian newspaper reported last month that President Dilma Rousseff had gone for a nighttime spin incognito around the capital on the back of an aide's Harley-Davidson, her favourable mentions soared on social media.
It was just what Rousseff needed after a bad couple of months: She had been booed at an international football match and at a gathering of mayors from around the country. Worse still, her popularity tanked following massive street protests against corruption, poor public services and the high cost of living.
The unexpected outburst of anger was aimed at politicians of all stripes and targeted Congress. But it also shook Rousseff's administration to the core and clouded the prospects for next year's election, when she is widely expected to run for a second four-year term.
A technocrat with a distaste for the gladhanding of politics, Rousseff quickly gathered her closest advisers, led by her 2010 campaign adviser and pollster João Santana, and drew up a plan to connect more with the public through travel and the Internet, an aide said.
The president responded to the demonstrators' main demands with a five-point plan to improve public transportation, health and education services, maintain fiscal discipline and reform Brazil's political system to make it more accountable.
The president has increased the frequency of her trips around Brazil to two or three a week to inaugurate new schools, low-cost housing and infrastructure projects aimed at upgrading and expanding the overcrowded urban transit systems that sparked the first protests in June.
"A government cannot be deaf," Rousseff, 65, told a crowd on Wednesday in a working-class suburb of Rio de Janeiro where she announced plans to build a new metro line.