Brazil Finance Minister Resigns to Assess Presidential Bid

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(Bloomberg) -- Brazil Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles on Friday said he will step down from his post to assess running for the presidency in October’s elections.

Finance ministry Executive Secretary Eduardo Guardia, 52, will take over, Meirelles said. Prior to becoming executive secretary in 2016, Guardia worked at Brazil’s stock exchange operator. He has also held high-ranking positions in the public sector, including treasury secretary and Sao Paulo state finance secretary.

If he does decide to run for the presidency, Meirelles would join a crowded field of roughly a dozen contenders who have stated their intention to compete for the nation’s top job in October. While the former Wall Street executive and central bank president is betting on Brazil’s economic recovery to help propel his candidacy, he will have to overcome numerous hurdles including the current administration’s rock-bottom popularity levels, as well as his own dismal performance in opinion polls.

"I am going to study the possibility of a presidential candidacy," Meirelles told reporters in Brasilia. "I don’t intend to be a vice-presidential candidate and there is no chance of being a candidate for senator or governor."

Overshadowing Meirelles’s announcement was the dramatic stand-off between the authorities and the former head of state and current presidential front-runner, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. On Thursday, a federal judge ordered the ex-president to hand himself in to police by 5 p.m. on Friday to start a 12-year prison sentence for corruption. Lula is currently hunkered down in a metalworkers’ union building outside of Sao Paulo, among thousands of supporters, as the clock ticks down to the deadline.

According to Brazilian law, cabinet members must leave their posts by April 7 in order to compete in this October’s elections. Earlier this week, Meirelles joined the ruling Democratic Movement Party, or MDB, betting that members will help support his presidential ambitions.

Still, his affiliation is a risky bet, given that political parties don’t have to choose their nominees until mid-August. Furthermore, MDB party member and current President Michel Temer has also expressed interest in a re-election bid that may clash with Meirelles’s ambitions.

During the Friday press conference, Meirelles acknowledged that Temer is a candidate, and said that they will start a dialogue regarding their plans. He promised that both would arrive at a conclusion, and added that the MDB party will have only one candidate.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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