Lula vows to avoid Rousseff’s mistakes, deliver a “stable” Brazil

(Bloomberg) — Brazilian presidential candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva pledged to lead a stable economy and avoid the mistakes of his successor, Dilma Rousseff, if elected.

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During a 40-minute interview on the country’s most-watched news show, Lula said he would govern with predictability, stability and credibility in comments that sought to reassure undecideds and voters who have doubts about a third term for the leftist.

“I want to come back to make a better government than me,” Lula, who ruled Brazil from 2003 to late 2010, said Thursday.

Lula, 76, said his governments had reduced inflation, built international reserves and reduced debt levels and would do the same again if elected, building confidence at home and abroad. He pointed to the choice of Geraldo Alckmin, a market-friendly former foe, as his running mate in an example of political consensus.

He also said he is working on a major infrastructure investment plan.

Lula’s campaign is seeking to broaden his appeal, including to the middle class, as incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro chips away at his electoral advantage with about five weeks to go until the first round of voting.

The former union leader’s calls for a stronger social safety net and environmental protections have been matched by the rise of leftist leaders in neighboring countries such as Colombia and Chile. But the current administration is pulling out all the stops, including an $8 billion economic package, as part of an effort to cushion the impact of inflation while improving its chances of staying in power.

“Lula’s challenge is to keep his position,” Marcia Cavallari, chief executive of pollster Ipec, said Wednesday at a Bloomberg News event in Sao Paulo. “He can’t make mistakes.”

Rare review

The leftist candidate was positioned as the best candidate to revive the economy.

During the interview, Lula took a rare swipe at Rousseff, a former minister she helped elect as his successor who was subsequently impeached in 2016, saying tax breaks and gasoline subsidies given under her government were error.

Lula appeared on the program even after previously blaming the media, especially Globo TV and the Jornal Nacional that aired Thursday’s interview, for damaging his reputation.

Lula’s lead has narrowed to 15 percentage points from 18 previously, according to a DataFolha poll published on August 18. While popular among the poor, the leftist candidate trails Bolsonaro by 13 percentage points among middle-class workers who earn 6,000 reais ($1,170) to 12,000 reais a month.

Bolsonaro has backed expanded cash payments for the poor as well as tax cuts on goods from gasoline to utilities as part of a latest push to improve his popularity. Consumer prices posted their biggest mid-month plunge on record in August, providing relief to millions of people in the region’s largest economy.

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