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Marina Silva: Shaking things up


Last modified: 12 Aug 2009 12:55

Brazil is buzzing with news that Marina Silva, President Lula’s former Minister of Environment, is thinking of running for President in 2010 as a candidate from the Partido Verde (Green Party). It’s been confirmed the Green Party offered her the position, and she has said she is seriously considering it. This could potentially be a major blow to Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s hand-picked choice and front runner to be the candidate from his Worker’s Party. Why? Because by all accounts Silva would take serious votes away from Rousseff. In an unscientific poll conducted by O Globo newspaper, 83% of the 2,193 respondents said a Marina Silva candidacy would hurt Rousseff the most.

But if you’re not following all the twists and turns of Brazilian politics more than a year ahead of the election, I can’t blame you. But if you care about the environment and what happens to the Brazilian Amazon, you should care about Silva’s possible candidacy. Because she is a one issue candidate: The environment. Nobody in this country speaks more forcefully or passionately about preserving the Amazon than Marina Silva. She won the UN’s highest environmental prize, and is a darling of the international environmental community. I interviewed Silva in Brasilia a couple years ago, in the patio at her apartment, and she is a gracious and unassuming person. Rare in politics.

I have met nobody who thinks she has a chance of winning the Brazilian presidency. She is a Senator from tiny, far flung Acre state - population 655,000. There are dozens of neighborhoods in Sao Paulo with more people.  But her profile is such that she will be the undisputed candidate of the passionate environment voters in an election where no potential candidates have particularly strong green records.

But this race has not even got out of the gates yet. But with Silva, it will certainly be a lot more interesting. And the issue of how to preserve the Brazilian Amazon can’t be ignored. And that can’t be such a bad thing.