When Marina Silva left the Workers Party (PT) to join the Greens many observers said this would put environmental issues on the political agenda ahead of next year’s presidential election race in which she is expected to run. I am not convinced that this will occur and there has been little sign in the four weeks since she made her announcement that the environment or the Greens have made much headway.
Some comments and initiatives have certainly been made since then¹ but President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has put economic growth at the top of his agenda and this is what will drive the debate.
Marina Silva has gained lots of space in the print and broadcasting media since leaving the PT on August 19. Most has been sympathetic, even from newspapers and magazines which abhor her political and religious views. She stands out because she appears more principled than most members of Lula’s government.
She resigned as environment minister in 2008 in protest at the economic policies being launched by Dilma Rousseff who is likely to be the PT’s official presidential candidate. She has also not been involved in the recent scandals that have engulfed the Senate of which she is a member.
While these may be praiseworthy qualities, they are certainly not enough to make her a presidential candidate. For example, although she has remained untouched by the long-running corruption scandal in the Senate she has kept quiet throughout the whole proceedings.
Her silence compares unfavorably with the behavior of other Senators like Pedro Simon and Cristovam Buarque (another of Lula’s ex-ministers who defected to another party) who openly called for the chairman, former President José Sarney, to step down.
At the same time, she has said that she regards herself as a supporter of the PT’s policies and compared her exit from the party with someone who moves house but remains in the same neighborhood. Her evangelical faith and stated belief in creationism have brought little criticism although if Rousseff had voiced similar views they would have been plastered across the front pages.
The fact is that Silva has been getting a free ride from the anti-Lula media which is using her as an obstacle to Rousseff’s candidature. The Greens have grasped her so tightly to their bosom that the party is in danger of turning into a one-woman band.
For example, it devoted its entire 10 minutes of free TV space recently to a sentimental biography. I would encourage readers to watch this video, which is available at the Greens site – http://www.pv.org.br/ – or You Tube, to see for themselves what a dull, unimpressive speaker Silva is and how limited her scope is.
This election will be fought on issues like jobs, pay and interest rates and Silva’s grasp of economic matters is short on detail to say the least. One of my first recollections of her was about 12 years ago when she was a member of a Senate committee investigating a banking scandal.
One of the witnesses was a consultant with one of the Big Five international accounting companies (as they used to be called) which had audited a bank’s balance sheet. She had never heard of this consultancy or knew what its operations involved and even asked at one point if it was a bank.
She summed up her views on the economy in an interview with Veja magazine on September 2 as follows: “Overall, I think the state should not make itself a force which stands in the way of the creativity of the market. The state should not be omnipotent and the market should not be deified. I also like the idea of an independent Central Bank as it is but I agree with those who are calling for lower interest rates.”
Rousseff or the likely PSDB candidate, São Paulo governor José Serra, would tear her to pieces in any debate on how to run the economy.
However, presumably she will be standing on an environmental platform and economic issues will be wrapped up in the buzz phrase “sustainable development”.
¹ Such as the Nota Verde plan to control access to biodiversity, a bill to restrict sugar cane planting to 81% of the country except for the Amazon and Pantanal, the Cerrado plan to protect the barren lands in the Midwest.
John Fitzpatrick is a Scotsman who first visited Brazil more than 20 years ago and has been based in São Paulo since 1995. He is a journalist by profession and runs his own company, Celtic Comunicações, which provides corporate communications and consultancy services. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article originally appeared on his site http://www.brazilpoliticalcomment.com.br/.
© John Fitzpatrick 2009