When Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva started showing signs that his presidential candidate was a woman, people started paying closer attention to Minister Dilma Rousseff. José Serra, who lost the presidency to Lula, but did well enough to push for a second term in the elections, has been since the natural candidate for PSDB, the party of former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso.
And Rousseff has not left the main news since, either because of the big program for development under her tight general coordination; or the cancer that she has been treating for the past few months; or how she brought the president of Brazil’s biggest company, the oil giant Petrobras, to tears with her harsh words and authoritarian manners.
Admired by some, criticized by others, everyone agrees that Dilma Rousseff is tough and accomplishes a lot, no matter what. But she is also associated with old-fashioned ideas of progress and development. If Rousseff defends old ideas, and Serra has less rejection numbers, is the field opening up for him?
Not necessarily. There is a new factor on the way of both, Rousseff and Serra, and the color is green. Once upon a time green was the color that brought to mind the verses of Garcia Lorca: Verde que te quiero verde. Today green is a party, a way of life, a goal. It is no longer a word that makes sense only among hippies and the organic crowd, it has grown with pollution and global warming and the concerns that bring country leaders to think and act together. It’s the color associated with ‘save the planet.’
Brazil’s Green Party wants to put a green thumb on Marina Silva, the former Minister of the Environment during Lula’s administration. Originally from the Amazon, she did not have access to school until age 16, when she went to a Catholic school and worked as a housemaid.
Since then, Silva has become a phenomenon, a union organizer who is associated today with saving the Amazon, and who has been named “Champion of the Earth” by the U.N. Protecting the environment is a theme globally discussed and anyone doing this out and loudly is going to have a great deal of attention.
And if this is happening in Brazil, even more so, as the world has eyes in the country, land of plentiful natural resources, a wealth that includes 13% of the global water, and the Amazon forest.
Even though Marina Silva has not said officially yes to the Green Party, she has presidential candidate written all over her, in the way she behaves and addresses the press, and how she has been the reason for some growing concerns at the Palácio da Alvorada, in Brasília, around Lula, and in São Paulo, around José Serra.
Meanwhile, the Green Party gets hundreds of thousands of emails everyday from all over the world, with words of encouragement for Marina Silva, making it a little harder everyday for her to decide otherwise. And why would she?
A green president could bring Brazil, through correct measures of environmental protection, to an important and historic world leadership; economic policies of sustainable development, altering ways of production and the use of energy; new choices for public financing, associating with environment-safe projects and programs; new policies for the transformation of all industries into environment-safe units; encouragement for science re-search and development of green technologies for reducing waste; guiding education towards a future that is already envisioned, in a world that takes and gives back.
In short, a government program that puts the environment all the way up in the scale of priorities, opening new markets in a safe planet and safeguarding the life of the new generations. If Marina Silva says yes and comes out as the presidential candidate defending all of the above, she will hardly go unnoticed and it is only natural that she is seen as a real threat, taking up attention and many probable votes from both main parties, president Lula’s Worker’s Party with Dilma Rousseff, and former president Fernando Henrique’s PSDB, with José Serra.
And when it comes to the environment, the question is here and now and there is no space for double talks or being vague. The theme calls for precision and the debate will be harsh. Will Marina Silva do it? She seems prepared, but developing a complete government program around such profound issues takes time and a lot of thinking.
On the other hand, Silva has an excellent international image and she has shown strength and character when she stood up in defense of the interests of the Amazon as a minister, until she had to leave. With all these positive factors, is there anything wrong at all with the wild beauty from the jungle?
Not really, but maybe something? There is one thing, I’m afraid. Marina Silva is a fundamentalist, one of those reborn Christians, part of the evangelic crowd and this can be scary. There is no time for diversion and the thought of someone whose faith is based on Christian fundamentalism is a matter of concern.
Marina Silva has been behaving, as a public figure, like someone with a mind in the 21st century, and one wonders, how can this and religious radicalism, dating back many centuries, live side by side? A dichotomy that is hard to grasp, which has not been much talked about by the press.
Are the intellectuals, now laying an eye in the direction of Marina Silva, aware? And if so, they don’t think this is an important factor? Because Silva is so smart and accomplished, nobody thinks that a fundamentalist faith could have any influence in her ways?
Here are some important questions, for instance: as a fundamentalist, is Marina Silva anti-gay? Is she pro-choice or pro-life? Pro-life of the forest, for sure, but how does she see women and their right to decide what their bodies should or should not go through?
We need to worry about a safe planet, some have been doing this since it was associated to hippies in the early 70s. In those times people who avoided using plastic, favored organic and all that jazz, were called cuckoos. Now cuckoo is not to worry about the planet, not to think that we can all give our contribution, one way or another.
If Marina Silva is the name that is coming to bring the environment as an important issue to the discussion table of Brazil’s presidential campaign, be very welcome. Just her being there will make the other candidates more aware of the importance of the subject, and maybe even more responsible.
However, if she is bringing a radical religion hiding in her sleeves, I confess to being very uncomfortable with the idea. The choices thus far lay among an old fashioned and tough Rousseff, blessed by Lula; an intelligent and diplomatic Serra, supported by Fernando Henrique; and a bright green active Silva, with the Green Party.
It is time now to read between all the lines, do all the frowning before we can come up with conclusions and a final choice.
Clara Angelica Porto is a Brazilian bilingual journalist living in New York. She went to school in Brazil and at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Clara is presently working as the English writer for The Brasilians, a monthly newspaper in Manhattan. Comments welcome at email@example.com. The original title of this article was: “Verde Que te Quiero Verde? Keep Fundamental Religion Out of Governing Brazil, if You Please”