Brazil's Lula wants seasoned politician to run economic policy if he wins -advisers

·3 min read
Former President Lula participates in the 100th anniversary event of the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB), in Niteroi near Rio de Janeiro

By Marcela Ayres and Lisandra Paraguassu

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who leads opinion polls for October's election, wants to recruit a former governor or other seasoned politician to run economic policy if he wins, close advisers to the leftist leader told Reuters.

The advisers, including Lula's former Finance Minister Guido Mantega, said his inner circle has speculated that a handful of Workers Party compatriots with statehouse experience could fit the bill – but Lula himself has not weighed in.

"Lula never talks about names, it is too early for that. He has a profile. He wants a politician, someone who has good relations with Congress, but who knows the economy and public finances," said a senior adviser to Lula, requesting anonymity.

"He doesn't want an academic and, definitely, he does not want someone from the financial market," the person added.

That marks a sharp contrast with current Economy Minister Paulo Guedes, an economist and investor without prior political experience tapped by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro early in his 2018 campaign. Guedes' bold plans for privatizations and pro-business reforms drew early cheers from the private sector but have struggled for traction in the capital Brasilia.

Lula's press office declined to comment on who would run economic policy should he be elected to a third term. Lula served two terms from 2003 to 2010.

It would not be the first time Lula taps a politician for the task. He made Antonio Palocci, a physician and former mayor from the interior of Sao Paulo, his first finance minister, earning the approval of lawmakers and investors alike.

Mantega confirmed to Reuters that over lunch with business leaders this week he floated several names that would fit that political profile, including Bahia Governor Rui Costa, former Piaui Governor Wellington Dias and former Ceara Governor Camilo Santana, all of whom are members of Lula's Workers Party.

Mantega also cited Pernambuco Governor Paulo Câmara, of the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) recently joined by former Sao Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin – a center-right political veteran selected as Lula's running mate to woo moderate voters.

The website of newsmagazine Veja first reported the comments by Mantega.

"I simply mentioned some politicians' names. I didn't even mention them all because there are many qualified to be finance ministers," Mantega said.

Still, three other advisers to Lula, who asked not to be identified, agreed those four politicians had the kind of experience Lula seeks, with an eye toward building support in Congress for his economic agenda.

Whatever the choice, they agreed it would be a long time before Lula makes a formal designation, as the ex-president is eager to be his own spokesman for economic issues on the campaign trail.

"To talk about forming a government now is to be overconfident. It is not Lula's style, he knows there is a long road ahead of us," said one campaign source.

(Reporting by Marcela Ayres and Lisandra Paraguassu; Editing by Brad Haynes and Grant McCool)

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