Brazil's Opposing Presidential Frontrunners Harden Their Stances

(Bloomberg) -- Brazil’s leading presidential candidates are entrenching their positions on opposite ends of the political spectrum, as the outlook for Latin America’s largest economy has darkened over recent weeks.

During a day of interviews on Wednesday with presidential candidates hosted by a Brazilian newspaper in the nation’s capital, Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right ex-army captain, sought to strengthen his pro-market credentials, by criticizing taxation on the rich and calling for a smaller state. He also toned down his earlier antagonistic stance towards China, describing it as an "exceptional partner," while cautioning Brazil ought not to be "bought up" by the Asian giant.

The leftist former Ceara state Governor Ciro Gomes, meanwhile, fired a shot across the bows of financial markets by lambasting the central bank’s "criminal" degree of autonomy, saying it acted in the interest of big banks. Instead it should be mandated to target not only inflation but also employment.

After years of recession or anemic growth at best, punctuated by a staggering number of corruption scandals, the Brazilian electorate is angry and restive. Centrist candidates associated with the reformist administration of President Michel Temer are way behind in the polls, collectively only scraping together around 10 percent of the vote. Instead, the frontrunners are those calling for a radical departure from the status quo, albeit both left and right are reluctant to consider privatizing some of the country’s major assets, such as the state-run oil company Petrobras.

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