Environmentalist Alfredo Sirkis, a founder of Brazil’s Green Party and a tireless campaigner for policies to curb climate change, died on Friday in a car crash, television network TV Globo said.
Sirkis, 69, was killed when the car he was driving hit a post on a highway outside his hometown Rio de Janeiro, broadcaster TV Globo reported, citing firemen at the crash.
A former leftist guerrilla, Sirkis was involved in the kidnapping of foreign diplomats to secure the release of political prisoners during Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship.
Following years in exile and one year after Brazil returned to democratic rule, Sirkis co-founded the Green Party with fellow environmentalist Marina Silva, who came third in the 2010 elections with 19% of the vote.
Silva said Sirkis was an invaluable companion with whom she fought difficult political battles side by side.
“He was explosive and passionate about everything he believed in, sincere in criticism as in praise, a tireless activist of the causes he defended, a warrior of infinite tenderness,” she said in a statement.
Sirkis was elected to Congress but decided not to run for re-election in 2014.
He was a regular member of Brazil’s delegation to global climate change talks. In 2015, he founded a think tank, the Brazil Climate Center, that is affiliated with Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project.
He also served as coordinator of the government-backed Brazilian Forum for Climate Change until 2019, when he was fired by right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, who has sought to dismantle environmental protections in the country.
“For me it was absolutely no surprise,” he told Reuters at the time. “Because I’m a militant environmentalist for more than 30 years … I’m too politically involved in the environmental struggle.”