Amazon defender Silva enters Brazilian election race

* Environmentalist runs on clean government platform

* Will continue economic policies to ensure stability

* Former rubber tapper was illiterate until 16

By Raymond Colitt

BRASILIA, May 16 (BestGrowthStock) – Former rubber tapper turned
environmentalist Marina Silva joined Brazil’s presidential race
as candidate for the small Green Party on Sunday, pledging
clean government and sustainable development.

The soft-spoken former environment minister trails the two
front-running candidates by a wide margin and most analysts say
her chances of winning the presidency in October are slim.

But as a world-renowned champion of the Amazon, she is
likely to get the limelight she seeks to push the environment
higher up on the campaign agenda.

At a party convention on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro,
Silva on Sunday pledged to promote sustainable economic
development and to combat social injustice and corruption.

“We already have many of the technical answers for food,
education and housing problems — what’s missing is an ethical
commitment,” the 52-year-old Silva said.

Proposing bicycle paths, water treatment plants and greener
farming technologies, Silva said she was as motivated as she
was several decades ago when she worked alongside legendary
environmental activist Chico Mendes.

Silva, who stepped down as President Luiz Inacio Lula da
Silva’s environment minister in May 2008, pledged to maintain
economic policies that have given Brazil economic growth and
stability in recent years, such as inflation control, a
floating currency and fiscal discipline to reduce public debt.

RICH RUNNING MATE

Poverty eradication and investments in social welfare were
only possible with economic stability and inflation control,
she said, announcing that her vice-presidential running mate
will be wealthy businessman Guilherme Leal, owner of the big
cosmetics company Natura (NATU3.SA: ).

“We won’t embark on any adventures” in economic policy, she
was quoted saying in O Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper interview
on Sunday.

She also proposed a constituent assembly to help Brazil
overcome “paralysis” on issues such tax and pension reforms.

Born into a family of rubber tappers, Silva only learned to
read and write when she was 16 years old and worked as a maid
to pay the bills.

Currently a senator for the northwestern Amazon state Acre,
Silva has only 8-12 percent of voter support in opinion polls.
That is 25-30 points behind former Sao Paulo state governor
Jose Serra of the centrist PSDB party and Dilma Rousseff of the
ruling Workers’ Party.

Rousseff has been closing the gap with Serra and passed him
in one poll. Many analysts consider her the favorite as she has
the support of the hugely popular Lula, who hand-picked her.

Silva had became increasingly isolated inside Lula’s team
over issues ranging from the government’s support for biofuels
to genetically modified crops and nuclear power.

The Green Party, long a fringe party in Brazil with little
clout, made headlines in 2008 when its candidate, Deputy
Fernando Gabeira, nearly won the mayorship of Rio de Janeiro.

Still, the Green party lacks financial muscle to compete
with Serra’s and Rousseff’s alliances of larger parties.

“It will be difficult for Silva to boost her current
ratings much,” said Ricardo Ribeiro, political analyst for MCM
consultancy. “Will she run a single-note campaign on the
environment or be competitive on several issues?”

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(Reporting by Raymond Colitt, editing by Anthony Boadle)

Amazon defender Silva enters Brazilian election race