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Where have you gone, Marina Silva?
Where have you gone, Marina Silva?
Bernardo Mello Franco

BRASILIA — Not so many months ago, pollsters were saying she'd be Brazil's next president. But now, three months after failing to make it to even the second round of the election, former Sen. Marina Silva is nowhere to be seen. The once high-flying candidate seems to have lost more than just a presidential race.

Some of the people closest to Silva during the campaign have been quick to move away. The latest on the list are Walter Feldman and Luiza Erundina, who coordinated her whole campaign and helped launch her new party, Sustainability Network. Others involved in the new project had already left and are now trying to create their own political group, Avante (Forward), inspired by Spain's Podemos party.

Silva's isolation can be explained at least in part by her decision to support center-right candidate Aécio Neves against incumbent President Dilma Rousseff in the second round. That move divided her supporters, the so-called Marineiros.

It was a "wrong" and "incoherent" choice, says Erundina, a member of the legislature. "Marina denounced in the strongest terms the polarization between Rousseff's Workers' Party and Neves' Social Democracy Party, but in the end she decided to pick one of these sides. It contradicted everything she stood for during her campaign."

Erundina, who is now becoming closer to the dissidents building Avante, is also critical of Silva's decision to "vanish" since losing the election. The former candidate and environmental activist has even avoided events organized by political allies. Silva, in fact, hasn't been seen in public in almost two months.

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Photo: msilvaonline

Erundina thinks someone who managed to gather 22 million votes just a few months ago shouldn't play hide and seek, especially now that the government is announcing tough and unpopular economic measures such as tax hikes and benefit cuts.

"Marina is being too quiet," Erundina says. "This is a serious situation, but I don't hear her say anything about it anymore. She created an expectation that she would tackle national issues, but sadly the Brazilian people are still waiting for an answer."

Walter Feldman, Silva's right-hand man in 2014, started to distance himself soon after the second round, eventually going so far as to resign from the Brazilian Socialist Party. Now he's left politics entirely — to assist the future president of the Brazilian Football Confederation, soccer's national body. Feldman prefers not to comment on Silva's future. When asked about her public absence, he says only that he hasn't spoken with her. "Marina has her own temporal logic," he says.

Her former ally might have a point. Silva hasn't given an interview since mid-December and declined an invitation to speak with Folha de S. Paulo. According to her advisor, she spent the last month-and-a-half vacationing with her family but will return soon to launch her new party.

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Coronavirus

Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Lockdowns: Public Crawling

While street demonstrations have spread in China to protest the strict Zero-COVID regulations, some Chinese university students have taken up public acts of crawling to show what extended harsh lockdowns are doing to their mental state.

​Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling on a soccer pitch

Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling

Shuyue Chen

Since last Friday, the world has watched a wave of street protests have taken place across China as frustration against extended lockdowns reached a boiling point. But even before protesters took to the streets, Chinese university students had begun a public demonstration that challenges and shames the state's zero-COVID rules in a different way: public displays of crawling, as a kind of absurdist expression of their repressed anger under three years of strict pandemic control.

Xin’s heart was beating fast as her knees reached the ground. It was her first time joining the strange scene at the university sports field, so she put on her hat and face mask to cover her identity.

Kneeling down, with her forearms supporting her body from the ground, Xin started crawling with three other girls as a group, within a larger demonstration of other small groups. As they crawled on, she felt the sense of fear and embarrassment start to disappear. It was replaced by a liberating sense of joy, which had been absent in her life as a university student in lockdown for so long.

Yes, crawling in public has become a popular activity among Chinese university students recently. There have been posters and videos of "volunteer crawling" across universities in China. At first, it was for the sake of "fun." Xin, like many who participated, thought it was a "cult-like ritual" in the beginning, but she changed her mind. "You don't care about anything when crawling, not thinking about the reason why, what the consequences are. You just enjoy it."

The reality out there for Chinese university students has been grim. For Xin, her university started daily COVID-19 testing in November, and deliveries, including food, are banned. Apart from the school gate, all exits have been padlock sealed.

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