‘Golden Chainsaw’ Winner Brings Liberal Agenda to Brazil’s Left-Wing Ticket

(Bloomberg) -- In another example of the unpredictable nature of Brazil’s presidential race, a Senator who describes herself as a center-right liberal is the vice-presidential pick of a left-winger who sends shivers down the spine of the financial markets.

Katia Abreu, 56, is the running mate of Ciro Gomes, the fourth-placed presidential candidate who has pledged to buy back oil fields sold to foreigners during the current administration and also revoke a cap on public spending. Still, in an interview on Thursday, Abreu stressed her commitment to free markets, insisting there was no contradiction between her beliefs and his.

"I would never even support a candidate who felt radically differently to me," she said.

A former president of umbrella group Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock, or CNA, and agriculture minister under President Dilma Rousseff, Abreu’s robust defense of Brazil’s farming sector has won her considerable political support, while attracting the ire of environmentalists. Greenpeace even awarded her a "Golden Chainsaw" in 2010 for her contribution to deforestation in Brazil -- a trophy she attributed to her high visibility in support of the country’s rural producers.

"Our business is productivity and not deforestation," she said, adding that she wanted to see Brazil’s agricultural sector increase its share of the global market from its current 7 percent to 10 percent. A Gomes government, she added, would be "absolutely" committed to ensuring Brazil’s compliance with its Paris Agreement emissions targets.

Pivoting toward Asia, and China in particular, would be the focus of a future Gomes administration, with the aim of ensuring Brazil features prominently on Beijing’s "new silk route." Dismissing fears of Chinese investment in the region, Abreu said that the U.S stalled for years until accepting the purchase of Brazilian beef.

"China has bought it for years and never mistrusted us," she said.

Property Rights

Gomes, who is scheduled to attend a women’s event on Thursday in Sao Paulo, lags behind ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, ex-Army captain Jair Bolsonaro and environmentalist Marina Silva in polls, though Lula will most likely be barred from running to serve out a jail sentence.

On Gomes’ plans to buy back oil fields and revise the possible deal between Embraer and Boeing, Abreu said that this process would take place under the strictest legal criteria, and there was no chance whatsoever of expropriating property.

This, she argued, was one of the key differences separating Gomes from Lula, whose supporters include landless workers’ activists.

"Many left-wing movements damaged farmers who believe strongly in property rights," she said. "Please, for the love of God, no invasions, not in the countryside or in the city."

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