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By Paulo Prada RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - In March 2003, three months into her tenure as Brazil's environment minister, Marina Silva gathered a half-dozen aides at the modernist ministry building in Brasilia, the capital. She told them the new government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was about to embark on a pharaonic infrastructure project for Brazil's arid Northeast. The project, a still-ongoing effort to reroute water from one of Brazil's biggest rivers, had previously been opposed by environmentalists, including Silva herself. "Instead of fighting, she was merely trying to mitigate." Lisboa would not be the last person surprised by Silva, a former rubber tapper and maid and now a frontrunner in Brazil's presidential election race.