By MAURICIO SAVARESE, Associated Press
SÃO PAULO (AP) — A former environment minister and presidential candidate who had broken with Brazil’s ex-leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva endorsed him for president on Monday as his campaign continued efforts to reach out to centrist voters.
Marina Silva, who built an international reputation as an environmental crusader, made three unsuccessful runs for the presidency —twice getting roughly 20 percent of the first-round vote— after resigning from da Silva’s Cabinet in 2008 following disputes with more development-minded officials.
The man Brazilians know as Lula leads in all polls against President Jair Bolsonaro ahead of the October 2 election. Those same polls have shown the right-wing president has strong support among evangelical and middle-class voters—groups to which Silva, herself a Pentecostal Christian, also has had strong appeal.
She said at a news conference that her endorsement comes at “a serious moment of our country’s political, economic, social and environmental history” and said it was necessary “to beat Bolsonaro and the evil seeds he is sowing in our society.”
Creomar de Souza, founder of the political consultancy Dharma Politics, told the Associated Press the reconciliation shows that da Silva is continuing to try to reach beyond his leftist base. His centrist running mate, Geraldo Alckmin, was his main rival in the 2006 elections.
“Lula wants to speak to those who are not converted. With 20 days to go, the election tends to tighten,” de Souza said.
Marina Silva was a member of the Workers’ Party for 30 years, but left in 2009 after da Silva picked then Chief of Staff Dilma Rousseff to be his successor. The two once-powerful government ministers were known to have multiple rifts over the environment.
Silva later backed the impeachment of Rousseff in 2016, which increased the animosity between her and the Workers’ Party.
Da Silva said that if he wins, “Marina’s (environmental) program can clearly be put into practice.” He vowed to have no tolerance with illegal gold mining and to “stop deforestation” that has accelerated under Bolsonaro.