Marina Silva: The Amazonian candidate who would be Brazil's next president

The death of her running mate in a plane crash has thrust the woman born on a rubber plantation into the spotlight. But what does she need to do to claim her country's top job?


She was born on a rubber plantation and could not read until she was a teenager, but Marina Silva has become the greatest threat to Dilma Rousseff’s hopes of winning a second term as President of Brazil.

Ms Silva, 56, officially launched her bid on Wednesday, upending  the elections in October and threatening the ruling Workers’ Party’s 12-year hold on power. Until now a vice-presidential candidate for the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB in Portuguese), she accepted its nomination to top the ticket after Eduardo Campos, a former governor and rising political star, was killed in a plane crash last week.

Ms Silva pledged to build a more prosperous Brazil and slammed the performance of Ms Rousseff, who has overseen four years of lacklustre growth and high inflation in a previously booming economy. “We know that our country needs investments and they will come when there is a new government that has credibility among investors,” she told a news conference.

She reaffirmed her commitment to fiscal responsibility, inflation targeting and a floating exchange rate, the so-called “tripod” of economic policies that gave Brazil stability after a period of rampant inflation and erratic growth in the 1990s.

Viewed as an outsider with no links to traditional elites, Ms Silva is a former Environment Minister whose ironclad environmental and religious beliefs have prompted critics to call her inflexible, but supporters praise her as Brazil’s most principled politician. A rubber tapper in her youth who was illiterate until adolescence, she appeals mostly to young voters who have lost faith in Brazil’s political establishment.

But she is also embraced by the country’s large evangelical Christian community and has proven, in a 2010 bid for the presidency with the Green Party, to be an attractive candidate for independent voters seeking an alternative to the Workers’ Party and its main opposition, the business-friendly Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB).

Environmentalist Marina Silva's running mate Beto Albuquerque, of the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) Environmentalist Marina Silva's running mate Beto Albuquerque, of the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB)
An opinion poll on Monday showed Ms Silva, who has vowed to find common ground between her activist ideals and investor-friendly economic policies, tied in second place with the PSDB’s Aecio Neves for the 5 October election. But in a runoff, the poll suggests Ms Silva would take 47 per cent of votes compared with 43 per cent for Ms Rousseff. The President leads Mr Neves by a margin of 47 per cent to 39 per cent in a second-round vote.

A PSDB source told Reuters that to ensure Ms Rousseff was unseated, the party would back Ms Silva in a runoff if Mr Neves was eliminated.

Still, Ms Silva’s prospects could fade when the emotional impact of Mr Campos’s death subsides and the two much bigger parties begin heavy campaign spending.

A pioneer of Brazil’s environmental movement, Ms Silva entered politics to fight for Amazon conservation. Once a member of the Workers’ Party, which embraced environmental causes before assuming a developmentalist tack when it came to power, she served as Environment Minister during the administration of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Ms Rousseff’s predecessor.

As a minister Ms Silva clashed with other officials, including Ms Rousseff, over the licensing of hydroelectric dams in the Amazon, ultimately leading her to resign. As a Workers’ Party opponent in 2010, she reaped a stronger-than-expected 19 per cent of the vote.

For this candidacy to succeed, Ms Silva must broaden her support base and draw funding from sectors of Brazilian society, particularly the business segment, that have long been wary of her views.

To overcome the suspicions of Brazil’s powerful agribusiness sector, which accounts for a quarter of the economy and 44 per cent of exports, the PSB picked as her running mate a farm-friendly congressman from Rio Grande do Sul. A decade ago Beto Albuquerque pushed through Congress – despite Ms Silva’s objections – legislation legalising the use of genetically modified soybeans.

If elected, Ms Silva’s economic advisers say her policies would be as business-friendly as those advocated by Mr Neves. Eduardo Giannetti da Fonseca, an economist and top adviser to Ms Silva since her 2010 presidential bid, has called her economic platform very similar to that of the centrist Mr Neves, with whom she is running neck and neck for second place.

Among other pledges, Ms Silva would ensure the autonomy of the central bank and streamline a government budget long criticised as wasteful by investors and the business community.

A clear sign that Ms Silva was now in charge of the PSB ticket was an announcement that campaign contributions would no longer be accepted from companies that made fertilisers, cigarettes, alcoholic drinks and guns.

“Everything you heard in the streets last year – empowering the people, ending corruption, trying a new kind of politics – that’s what she’s been saying for years,” said Eduardo Rombauer, a long-time political ally. “Everyone is talking about change and she is the person who symbolises that.”

Credibility: Winning the business vote

Marina Silva has little experience with economic policy, but her advisers promise a more orthodox, business-friendly approach than Dilma Rousseff has taken.

An adviser has said she will end the government’s price-control policy. The aim would be to bring relief to the federal budget and state-run companies. The government has effectively been subsidising petrol and electricity prices. The result has been heavy losses for the state-controlled oil company Petrobras, a crisis for the ethanol industry and costly bailouts for power utilities.

For decades Ms Silva, a former Environment Minister, has fought the deforestation fuelled by Brazil’s booming agriculture and logging industries.

However, her new vice-presidential running mate, Beto Albuquerque, represents farming interests, a sign of reconciliation between Ms Silva and agribusiness.


peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam