In 1962 he was elected president of the UNE (National Union of Students) and the same year, founded the AP (Popular Action), left-wing organisation tied to the Catholic Church. With the military coup of 1964, had to flee the country, following first to Bolivia and then to France.
He left the engineering course, but managed to return to Brazil in 1965. However, he was again persecuted by the regime and decided to go into exile in Chile, where he got master's degree in economics and would met your wife, the ballerina Monica Allende, the mother of his two children, Veronica and Luciano.
In Chile, completed his studies. He was professor of ECLAC (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean) and worked in academic life until the overthrow of President Salvador Allende in 1973. From there, he embarked for the United States, where he earned a doctorate in economics at Cornell University.
He returned to Brazil in 1977, two years before the promulgation of the Amnesty Law, and had a seat as deputy for the MDB (Brazilian Democratic Movement) contested by the regime in the following year. Also taught at Unicamp (Universidade de Campinas).
In the 1980s, he coordinated the government program of Franco Montoro (PMDB) for governor of São Paulo; elected, Montoro put Sierra in charge of the State Secretariat of Planning. He left office in 1986 to compete - and win - a seat in the National Constituent Assembly for the PMDB.
In 1988, he founded the PSDB (Brazilian Social Democratic Party) and in the same year, was one of the defeated candidates in elections for mayor of Sao Paulo. In 1990, he returned to the Chamber of Deputies and in 1994 he was elected senator. The following year he took over the Ministry of Planning. Left office in 1996 to play for the second time the mayor of Sao Paulo. He came in 3rd place.
Serra took over again in a ministry in 1998 to the ex-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso government (1995-2002), this time as Ministry of Health, where he gained enormous popularity due to the implementation of generic drugs and creating a program to combat AIDS - an internationally recognised programme.
Left office in early 2002 to run for presidency. He reached the second round, but lost to Lula (PT) by 61.27% to 38.73%.
In November 2003, Serra was elected national president of the PSDB. He left office in 2005, the year he assumed the mayor of Sao Paulo after defeating the PT candidate Marta Suplicy. A year later, left the post to run for governor of São Paulo.
Elected remained governor until May this year (2010) when he was launched for the second time as a candidate for the presidency.