A month ago, Marina Silva entered the race to become the president of Brazil, after the candidate from her Socialist Party was killed in a plane crash. Now the candidate, who is in a head-to-head race against the incumbent, has given her first foreign interview since joining the race.

Silva is in a "dead-heat" race with Dilma Rousseff, the incumbent, The Associated Press reports. The incumbent is the candidate for the Workers Party, which Silva helped found.

In her interview, Silva explained how she plans to assuage concerns of Brazilians who lament an ineffective and corrupt political system.

"It's neither the parties nor the political leaders who will bring about change," she said. "It's the movements who are changing us."

Silva has gained popularity thanks to her past work as an activist for the Amazon rainforest and as an environment minister. During her time as environment minister, she helped her country deter deforestation of its jungles.

"Brazil has a great opportunity to become a global leader by leading by example," Silva said in reference to environmental and human rights issues. "Our values cannot be modified because of ideological or political reasons, or because of pure economic interest."

Because of her dedication to human rights, Brazil's approach toward countries like Cuba, China, Iran and Venezuela may see a different focus if Silva becomes president.

"The best way to help the Cuban people is by understanding that they can make a transition from the current regime to democracy, and that we don't need to cut any type of relations," Silva explained. "It's enough that we help through the diplomatic process, so that these [human rights] values are pursued."

If elected, Silva also plans to fix the relationship between the U.S. and Brazil. The countries' relationship has been strained ever since the National Security Agency was found to have targeted Brazilian officials like Rousseff via espionage programs more than a year ago.

"Both nations need to improve this situation, to repair the ties of cooperation," Silva said. "The Brazilian government has the absolute right to not accept any such interference, but we also cannot simply remain frozen with this problem."

Brazilians will cast their vote for president on Oct. 5, but the vote is expected to go into a second-round ballot three weeks later.

If she wins, Silva will be the country's first black president, AP reports.

"If elected, she has such a remarkable personal story that she'd come to the presidency with a lot of legitimacy, tremendous excitement and high expectations," Michael Shifter, president of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue, said.


Follow Scharon Harding on Twitter: @ScharHar.