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Marina Silva


Marina Silva

Marina Silva
Marina Silva in 2010.
Born (1958-02-08) February 8, 1958 (age 56)
Rio Branco, Brazil
Ethnicity Black African and Portuguese
Alma mater Federal University of Acre (Universidade Federal do Acre)
Occupation Rubber tapper, politician, minister
Years active 1994-present
Title Minister of Environment
Term 2003-2008
Successor Carlos Minc
Political party Brazilian Socialist Party
Green Party (former)
Worker's Party (former)
Religion Christian-Pentecostal

Maria Osmarina Marina Silva Vaz de Lima[1] (born February 8, 1958) is a Brazilian environmentalist and politician. Ms. Silva was a colleague of Chico Mendes, who was assassinated for defending the Amazon environment.[2] She was a member of the Worker's Party (PT) until August 19, 2009 and served as a senator before becoming environmental minister in 2003. In 1996, Ms. Silva won the Goldman Environmental Prize for South & Central America.[3] In 2007, the United Nations Environment Program named her one of the Champions of the Earth[4] and the 2009 Sophie Prize.[5] Running in the 2010 Brazilian elections for the Green Party (PV), she earned 19.33% of the popular votes.[6]

In 2010, she, along with Cécile Duflot, Monica Frassoni, Elizabeth May and Renate Künast, were named by Foreign Policy magazine to its list of top global thinkers,[7] for taking Green mainstream. In 2012 she was one of the eight people chosen to carry the flag into opening ceremony of the London Olympic Games.[8]

Early life

Ms. Silva was born near Rio Branco, in Acre, a descendant of Portuguese and black African ancestors in both her maternal and paternal lines.[9] Silva grew up as one of eleven children in a community of rubber tappers on the Bagaço rubber tree plantation (Portuguese Seringal Bagaço), in the western state of Acre. Orphaned at age 16, young Marina moved to the state capital, Rio Branco, where she received a Catholic education as she worked as a maid. She graduated in history from the Federal University of Acre at 26 and became increasingly politically active. In 1984 Ms. Silva helped create Acre's first workers' union.[10] She led demonstrations called empates with Chico Mendes to warn against deforestation and the outplacement of forest communities from their traditional locations.[11]

Silva as a Senator

In 1994, Ms. Silva was the first rubber tapper ever elected to Brazil's federal senate. As a native Amazonian and a senator, she built support for environmental protection of the reserves as well as for social justice and sustainable development in the Amazon region.[12] Deforestation decreased by 59% from 2004 to 2007, during which she implemented an integrated government policy. It simultaneously fostered sustainable development, favored territorial zoning, and attached greater value to standing forests. It also incorporated elements from international conventions and documents.[13] “All of this demonstrates that, when there is integrated planning and effort, it is truly possible to change the picture,” Silva said in a statement to the Embassy of Brazil in London.[13]

Silva as Lula's Minister

Member of the Workers' Party, Marina Silva was appointed Brazil's Environment Minister by Lula in his first term (2003). She remained in office until 2008 and received several criticisms from entrepreneurs (mainly related to agribusiness) on account of delays in granting permits for projects with large environmental impact. In early 2005, however, she stated that she would not give up upon facing challenges even if imposed by the government to which she belonged, like when the controversy over the Sao Francisco River Diversion Project happened.[14] and the building of BR 163 highway through the rainforest: "I don't admit defeat, just challenges that must be overcome".[15]

Also in 2005, Silva established the main lines of action for the next two years: social participation, sustainable development, creation of a National Environmental System and an Integrated Environmental Policy. As she said, "Our ministry is new. It's only 13 years old, and it needs to be rebuilt".[15]

In the same year, Silva was confronted by Paulo Adário, coordinator of Greenpeace Brazil, over her environmental actions in her tenure in the ministry. Ever since her tenure began, Ms. Silva, together with the Federal Police, the Brazilian Army and the Federal Highway Police, the Brazilian Environment Ministry performed 32 operations against illegal deforestation in the Amazon. But Adário claims that his organization monitors the Amazon region and that only one of such operations was conducted in October 2004, in the town of Itaituba, Pará. According to him, even if the 32 operations had actually been accomplished, this would represent only half of what was anticipated in the National Plan to Combat Deforestation.[15]


Silva resigned mid-May in 2008. She was replaced by Carlos Minc.[16] Silva cited "the growing resistance found by our team in important sectors of the government and society" as the reason for her resignation.[10] The last straw for her came when President Lula da Silva designated Roberto Mangabeira Unger, the minister for strategic affairs, to coordinate an "Amazon sustainable development initiative" instead of her, who had been reared in the tropical rainforest she sought to preserve. She had become increasingly isolated in Lula da Silva's government due to her views on hydroelectric dams, biofuels, and genetically modified crops.[17]

"It's time to start praying [for the rainforest]," Sérgio Leitão, the director of public policy for Greenpeace in Brazil, said after Silva's resignation.[10]

Party switch and Presidential Bid

On August 19, 2009, Silva announced her switch from the Workers' Party to the Green Party, primarily in protest against the environmental policies endorsed by the PT. Confirming the expectations,[18] Marina Silva launched her candidacy[19] to the 2010 election under the Green Party ticket on May 16, 2010 in the city of Nova Iguaçu, state of Rio de Janeiro. Silva said she wanted to be "the first African-Brazilian woman of poor origin" to become president of Brazil.[20]

She has also become a Pentecostal Christian in the Assemblies of God, the second largest Christian denomination in Brazil after the declining but still mainstream Roman Catholic church.[21][22] Nevertheless, during her election campaign, she was criticized by one of the main leaders of the Brazilian Assemblies of God, Pastor Silas Malafaia, after having proposed a referendum on abortion and decriminalization of marijuana. According to Malafaia, Marina Silva should be "more courageous and consistent" in defense of their religious convictions.[23] Silva is against abortion and same-sex marriage.[24]

In her campaign, Silva defended the "exercise of citizen-based political principles and values", "education for the knowledge society", "economy applied to a sustainable society", "social protection, health, welfare and 3rd generation of social programs", "quality of life and safety for all Brazilians", and "strengthening of culture and diversity".[25]

With her speech against the endemic corruption in Brazil (see A Privataria Tucana and Mensalão scandal), and in favor of an "ecologically sustainable development," Silva managed to attract the middle class sectors disillusioned with the government of the Fernando Henrique Cardoso's party and dissatisfied with the compensatory social policies of Lula da Silva's administration. As a result, she became an alternative to the conservative forces in Brazil, when it became clear that José Serra will not win the elections against the government candidate, Dilma Rousseff.[26]

Marina Silva received a strong support of the high educational level and young population. She run by a small party, so she had about 1/20 of the TV time, comparing with the other two biggest party coalitions. Opinion polls notwithstanding, she received 19.4% of the votes cast.[27] This number far exceeded earlier estimates (more than double), but not enough to join the runoff against Dilma Rousseff or José Serra.[28]

Silva in London 2012 Olympics

The participation of Marina Silva as one of the eight invited (flagbearers) to carry the Olympic flag at the opening of the London Summer Games 2012, took by surprise the Brazilian government representatives present at the ceremony,[29][30][31] and was widely celebrated by her supporters and the Brazilian mainstream press organs (which makes a persistent opposition to the Workers' Party administrations).[32][33] Commenting on the event, Aldo Rebelo, Brazilian Sports Minister, said that Silva "always had good relations with the European aristocracy" and that was the responsibility of the Royal House to choose who would participate in the event. The Olympic Committee said it was aware of Silva's work as an activist in defense of the rainforest, but denied any political motivations regarding the choice.[34] About her participation in the ceremony, Silva compared it to the feeling she got when passing, aged 16, her literacy course: "it was the same kind of happiness."[35]

New party

On February 16, 2013 it was officially launched in Brasilia a new party that was named "Rede Sustentabilidade" (Sustainability Network).[36] According to the founders of the party, the word that will be used at the polls will be only "Rede" (Network).[37] The former Senator does not rule out running for President again in the 2014 presidential elections.[38]

In October 4, 2013, the Supreme Electoral Court blocked the party's creation, due to the lack of necessary signatures to register it.[39] The following day, Marina announced her filiation to Brazilian Socialist Party[40]


External links

  • (Portuguese)

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