Brazil

Brazil Protests Boost Socially Conservative Green Party Candidate

Sort of the worst of all worlds

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Let's go to Brazil now, where protests that began last month have transformed the political landscape. Today, there is a national strike supported by several unions. Before all these demonstrations began, Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff seemed a sure bet to win reelection next year. Now her popularity has plummeted, and polls show she will probably face a runoff against another woman. Her name is Marina Silva. And as NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports, she has a compelling rags-to-political-power story….

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Leader-less it may be, but if the recent protest movement here signaled anything, it was a dissatisfaction with politics as usual. And Silva has benefited from that. She grew up poor, of Afro-Brazilian and Portuguese ancestry. Her father worked as a rubber tapper in the Amazon. She was orphaned young. She put herself through university working as a maid. She became politically active at a young age, too. She was a colleague of Chico Mendes, the union leader and environmentalist who was assassinated in the 1980s. A stint as a senator then led to a post as environment minister under former President Ignacio Lula da Silva. She quit, though, to join the Green Party, becoming their presidential candidate in 2010. She came in an impressive third place. Now she's forming her own party, with the aim of including many independents on her party's list. In Brazil, you have to be part of an acknowledged party to run for office, and that, she says, has excluded many groups from politics….

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Silva also appeals to a very powerful voting block here. She is an evangelical Christian, but her faith is a double-edged sword, says Nogueira. On the one hand, her environmental and political platform appeals to a more liberal base, but she is a social conservative. Silva treads very carefully when discussing her positions on controversial issues, like stem cell research—she's against—teaching creationism in the school—she's for having it included in school curriculum, along with evolution—and gay marriage. She says she is for everyone having the same civil rights.