Some political observers are arguing that the Brazilian Green Party candidate Marina Silva cost her former colleague Dilma Rousseff – the "hand-picked" successor of term-limited Luiz "Lula" Inancio da Silva – a first-round election win.
By garnering 19 percent of votes, (7 points higher than expected), Marina Silva (no relation to Lula), provided an alternative option for voters concerned about the Amazon’s future.
Her unexpected success at the polls forced Rousseff and the runner-up Jose Serra of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party into a run-off election scheduled for October 31.
Although the “environment’s guardian angel” will not be participating in the runoff, Silva’s candidacy ensured that environmental issues in the thriving South American giant remained in the forefront of voters' minds.
Silva, the former environment minister during Lula’s administration, resigned in 2008 after being overstepped by other ministers of agriculture, mines, and energy who approved the construction of two hydroelectric dams and an expansion of a road into the Amazon forest.
When Silva resigned from the government, she also switched from the Brazilian Worker's Party to the Green Party.
After Silva’s resignation deforestation increased by 228 percent in the Amazon – reversing the 57 percent reduction in deforestation that occured during her four-year tenure. The main culprits behind the increased deforestation were illegal loggers and cattle rancher landowners.
Brazilian landowners have a ruthless reputation for using violence to impose their hold on real estate. In 1988, the now-famous Francisco “Chico” Mendes was murdered by two ranchers who were threatened by his efforts to protect Amerindians living in the Amazon and the forest itself.
Mendes became a highly visible martyr for international movement to preserve the Amazon rainforest.
Mendes had a strong influence on Silva’s fight against environmental injustices. The two organized rubber-farm worker to protest against landowners’ unfair labor practices. In addition to uniting and teaching rubber tappers sustainable techniques, Mendes helped connect the indigenous Yanomani people with hired-hands working for land ranchers.
Mendes’ and his supporters riled the landowners by pushing for agrarian reform to ensure the conserving and development of the the land sustainably.
While Silva served as environmental minister she often butted heads with energy minister and future presidential candidate rival, Dilma Roussef. One of their heated arguments was about 24 construction projects in the Amazon.
Silva wanted to block the projects because of the ecological damage they would leave. But Roussef triumphed and forged ahead with construction in the Amazon.
Now Rousseff’s chance of clinching a win in the run-off seems assured, unless Serra manages an upset. But an endorsement from Silva could make the runoff a close call.
According to Merco Press, Serra and Silva had a deal to announce their support of the other in the event of a runoff. The agreement is plausible since Serra’s platform includes support for the development of alternative energy such as solar energy.