2022 Race

Former Brazilian Environment Minister Marina Silva to run for House seat

Marina Silva is one of Brazil's most respected environmentalists. Photo: Marcello Casal Jr./ABr
Marina Silva is one of Brazil’s most respected environmentalists. Photo: Marcello Casal Jr./ABr

Marina Silva, a former senator, environment minister, and three-time presidential candidate, announced on Wednesday that she will run for a House seat representing the state of São Paulo.

Her bid aims at cashing into her name recognition in order to increase the congressional presence of her party, an environmentalist group known as Rede. In 2018, the party elected just one member to the House.

With corporate campaign donations banned since late in 2015, parties can only rely on private donations (which are limited) and a publicly-financed fund which is split into groups according to congressional representation. Therefore, electing a large bench has become a matter of survival for parties.

Marina Silva, 64, was born into a poor family in a rubber plantation region. She learned to read and write at 16 years old, worked as a domestic worker, and survived multiple malaria and hepatitis infections. In 1994, she became the youngest woman ever elected to the Senate at 36.

Her actions in the upper house turned her into one of the most respected environmentalists in Brazil, and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva appointed her environment minister in 2003. 

Ms. Silva would leave the government five years later, mainly due to disagreements with then Chief of Staff Dilma Rousseff — a key supporter of the heavily-criticized Belo Monte Dam, a mastodonic project that has negative impacts on the environment.

In 2010 and 2014, Ms. Silva was the third-best-voted presidential candidate — with 19 and 21 percent of the votes, respectively. In 2018, however, she earned just 1 percent of the votes. Many criticized her for laying low, perhaps too low, in between election cycles.