By Sibel Tinar, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – In the last of the three profiles of the leading presidential candidates, The Rio Times looks into the life and achievements of world-renowned environmentalist Marina Silva of Partido Verde (P.V., Green Party).
Despite being consistently ranked in third place behind Dilma Rousseff and José Serra, Silva holds not only the power to change the dynamics of the election process by determining whether a run-off round is needed, but also to signal the direction the country may be taking in the near future.
Few, perhaps not even the candidate herself, are expecting Marina Silva, who at 52 is the youngest and the bearer of the least amount of political baggage among the presidential hopefuls, to perform a miracle and become the next president of Brazil.
Her popularity, however, especially among the young and the educated classes, coupled with the significant amount of voter support she maintains, stand as proof that the established political dynamics of Brazil are changing, and show that the country is, in her own words, “capable of electing a black woman of poor, Amazonian origins to the presidency.”
Due to her background and her environmentalism, Marina symbolizes change within a political environment that favors continuity and preserving the status-quo, which has brought the country economic stability. Her views, however, do not advocate a change in direction, but only feasible improvements in the methods of doing what is already working for the country.
As the major proponent of sustainable development, perfectly aware of and vocal about the damage the Amazon Rainforest has suffered in the name of economic growth, Marina is the voice of those who place the long-term prosperity of Brazil over short-term achievements.
Her own life story is also a shining example of what education can achieve in a country defined by massive gaps between rich and poor, between the developed south and the rural north. Born on a rubber tree farm in the small Amazonian state of Acre, Marina had eleven siblings, three of whom did not survive childhood.
She was illiterate until the age of sixteen, when she was orphaned and moved to Rio Branco, the state capital, where she learned to read and write, while also battling serious diseases such as malaria, hepatitis, and complications from heavy metal exposure while working as a rubber extractor.
Her involvement with socialism led her to join the P.T. (Workers’ Party), and for a long time she worked as an activist for the rural workers in her state, emerging as a controversial figure for shunning the privileges of being an elected official.
She was then elected to the Senate, and became the voice of the Amazonian people (and the biodiversity of the rainforest), a position she preserved when appointed as the Minister of Environment in Lula administration. The conflicts arising from the tension between swift economic development and environmental sensitivity led her to break ties with the P.T. and join the P.V. in 2009.
Unlike other presidential candidates, who receive the majority of their voter support from their home states and regions, Marina has been enjoying support from the Southeast, which includes the developed cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, indicating that her politics of unity and sustainability appeal to those who are more likely to determine the future direction of the country.