In 2010, she, along with Cécile Duflot, Monica Frassoni, Elizabeth May and Renate Künast, were named by Foreign Policy magazine to its list of top global thinkers, for taking Green mainstream. In 2012 she was one of the eight people chosen to carry the flag into opening ceremony of the London Olympic Games.
In April 2014, Eduardo Campos announced his candidacy for the October presidential election, naming Marina Silva as his vice presidential candidate. After Campos's death in a plane crash on 13 August, she was selected to run as the Socialist Party's candidate for the presidency. In December 2014, Marina Silva was elected by the British Financial Times newspaper as one of its Women of the Year. Silva is also a member of Washington D.C. based think tank, The Inter-American Dialogue.
Marina Silva was born Maria Osmarina da Silva in the small village of Breu Velho, 70 km outside Rio Branco, Acre. Silva is a descendant of Portuguese and black African ancestors in both her maternal and paternal lines. She was one of eleven children in a community of rubber tappers on the Bagaço rubber tree plantation (Portuguese Seringal Bagaço), in the western state of Acre. Growing up, she survived five bouts of malaria in addition to cases of hepatitis and metal poisoning.
Orphaned at age 16, young Marina moved to the state capital, Rio Branco, to study and receive treatment for hepatitis. She was taken in by nuns in a convent and received a Catholic education. There, she became the first person in her family to learn to read and write. After leaving the convent, she went to work as a housemaid in exchange for lodging. She graduated in History from the Federal University of Acre at 26 and became increasingly politically active. In 1984 Silva helped create Acre's first workers' union.
She led demonstrations called empates with Chico Mendes to warn against deforestation and the outplacement of forest communities from their traditional locations.
In 1994, Ms. Silva was the first rubber tapper ever elected to the federal senate. As a native Amazonian and a senator, she built support for environmental protection of the reserves as well as for social justice and sustainable development in the Amazon region. Deforestation decreased by 59% from 2004 to 2007, during which she implemented an integrated government policy. It simultaneously fostered sustainable development, favored territorial zoning, and attached greater value to standing forests. It also incorporated elements from international conventions and documents. "All of this demonstrates that, when there is integrated planning and effort, it is truly possible to change the picture," Silva said in a statement to the Embassy of Brazil in London.
A member of the Workers' Party, Marina Silva was appointed Environment Minister by Lula in his first term (2003). She remained in office until 2008 and received several criticisms from entrepreneurs (mainly related to agribusiness) on account of delays in granting permits for projects with large environmental impact. In early 2005, however, she stated that she would not give up upon facing challenges even if imposed by the government to which she belonged, like the controversy over the Sao Francisco River Diversion Project, and the building of BR 163 highway through the rainforest: "I don't admit defeat, just challenges that must be overcome".
Also in 2005, Silva established the main lines of action for the next two years: social participation, sustainable development, creation of a National Environmental System and an Integrated Environmental Policy. As she said, "Our ministry is new. It's only 13 years old, and it needs to be rebuilt".
In the same year, Silva was confronted by Paulo Adário, coordinator of Greenpeace Brazil, over her environmental actions in her tenure in the ministry. Ever since her tenure began, Ms. Silva, together with the Federal Police, the Brazilian Army and the Federal Highway Police, the Brazilian Environment Ministry performed 32 operations against illegal deforestation in the Amazon. But Adário claims that his organization monitors the Amazon region and that only one of such operations was conducted in October 2004, in the town of Itaituba, Pará. According to him, even if the 32 operations had actually been accomplished, this would represent only half of what was anticipated in the National Plan to Combat Deforestation.
Silva resigned mid-May in 2008. She was replaced by Carlos Minc. Silva cited "the growing resistance found by our team in important sectors of the government and society" as the reason for her resignation. The last straw for her came when President Lula da Silva designated Roberto Mangabeira Unger, the minister for strategic affairs, to coordinate an "Amazon sustainable development initiative" instead of her, who had been reared in the tropical rainforest she sought to preserve. She had become increasingly isolated in Lula da Silva's government due to her views on hydroelectric dams, biofuels, and genetically modified crops.
"It's time to start praying [for the rainforest]," Sérgio Leitão, the director of public policy for Greenpeace in Brazil, said after Silva's resignation.
On 19 August 2009, Silva announced her switch from the Workers' Party to the Green Party, primarily in protest against the environmental policies endorsed by the PT. Confirming the expectations, Marina Silva launched her candidacy to the 2010 election under the Green Party ticket on 16 May 2010 in the city of Nova Iguaçu, state of Rio de Janeiro. Silva said she wanted to be "the first black woman of poor origin" to become president of Brazil.
She has also become a Pentecostal Christian in the Assemblies of God, the second largest Christian denomination in Brazil after the declining but still mainstream Roman Catholic Church. Nevertheless, during her election campaign, she was criticized by one of the main leaders of the Brazilian Assemblies of God, Pastor Silas Malafaia, after having proposed a referendum on abortion and decriminalization of marijuana. According to Malafaia, Marina Silva should be "more courageous and consistent" in defense of her religious convictions.
In her campaign, Silva defended the "exercise of citizen-based political principles and values", "education for the knowledge society", "economy applied to a sustainable society", "social protection, health, welfare and 3rd generation of social programs", "quality of life and safety for all Brazilians", and "strengthening of culture and diversity".
With her speech against the endemic corruption in Brazil (see A Privataria Tucana and Mensalão scandal), and in favor of sustainable development (with a due consideration to environmental issues), Silva managed to attract the middle class sectors disillusioned with the government of the Fernando Henrique Cardoso's PSDB and dissatisfied with the compensatory social policies of Lula da Silva's administration. As a result, she came to be seen as an alternative.
Marina Silva received a strong support of the high educational level and young population. She run by a small party, so she had about 1/20 of the TV time, comparing with the other two biggest party coalitions. Opinion polls notwithstanding, she received 19.4% of the votes cast. This number far exceeded earlier estimates (more than double), but not enough to join the runoff against Dilma Rousseff or José Serra.
The participation of Marina Silva as one of the eight invited flag-bearers to carry the Olympic flag at the opening of the London Summer Games 2012, took by surprise the Brazilian government representatives present at the ceremony. In the Brazilian press headlines like "Marina steals Dilma's attention" appeared. Commenting on the event, Aldo Rebelo, Brazilian Sports Minister from the PT, which realised it would likely lose votes to Marina in a presidential contest, said that Silva "always had good relations with the European aristocracy" and that it was the responsibility of the Royal House to choose who would participate in the event. The Olympic Committee said it was aware of Silva's work as an activist in defense of the rainforest, but denied any political motivations regarding the choice. About her participation in the ceremony, Silva compared it to the feeling she got when passing, aged 16, her literacy course: "it was the same kind of happiness."
On 16 February 2013 a new party, Rede Sustentabilidade ("Sustainability Network"), was officially launched in Brasilia. According to its founders, the name to be used at the polls would be simply REDE ("NETWORK").
On 4 October 2013, the Supreme Electoral Court blocked the party's creation, there being insufficient signatures to register it. The following day, Marina announced her affiliation to the Brazilian Socialist Party.
In April 2014, Eduardo Campos announced his name for the October 2014 presidential election, naming Marina Silva as his candidate for vice president.
On Wednesday, 13 August 2014, Campos' private jet, with six others on board, crashed in bad weather as it was preparing to land in the coastal city of Santos, just south of São Paulo. After his death, Silva became the Brazilian Socialist Party's candidate for President of Brazil. Soon after taking the place of Campos in the bid, Marina polled 20% of the votes, 10% more than Campos was polling. She enjoys strong support among young voters and evangelicals, but because of her pro-environmental stance she is largely distrusted by Brazil's powerful agribusiness sector. As an Evangelical Christian, she opposes abortion. On 30 August 2014, Silva generated considerable controversy when she renounced the party's support for same-sex marriage, which was supported by Campos and had been included in the party's manifesto, published a day earlier.
On Sunday, 5 October 2014, Silva received 21% of the vote in the first round of the election, to Rousseff's 41% and Neves's 34%. Although many observers had expected Silva to advance to a second round against Rousseff, Silva ultimately received a much lower share of the vote than most opinion polls had indicated in the lead-up to the election, and did not advance to the 26 October run-off. Some days after the election she endorsed Aecio Neves in the run-off against Dilma Rousseff.