November 11, 2019 / 9:16 PM / 24 days ago

Brazil reform process can withstand Lula release, regional tensions - Treasury Secretary

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva greets his supporters after being released from prison, in Sao Bernardo do Campo, Brazil November 9, 2019. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

BRASILIA (Reuters) - The recent release from prison of former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and upsurge in political instability across Latin America will not hinder Brazil’s economic reform process, a senior Economy Ministry official said on Monday.

“I think, in fact, eventually you’ll have more debate about reform, which is good,” Treasury Secretary Mansueto Almeida told Reuters in Brasilia. “When you make changes to society based on proper debate, it’s good, because those changes are done with conviction.”

Regarding Lula’s release last Friday after the Supreme Court overturned a previous ruling keeping people convicted of crimes in jail if they lose their first appeal, Almeida said Brazil should not be concerned about who the “political actors” are.

“At the end of the day, I don’t think we need to be afraid of having a ‘politician A,’ ‘politician B,’ ‘politician C’ (released from jail),” Almeida said. “You have to put the debate to Congress and see how it evolves. If you convince the people and lawmakers, you make the changes. If not, you don’t. That’s democracy.”

On Saturday, Lula gave a speech in which he strongly criticized Economy Minister Paulo Guedes and his economic views, while President Jair Bolsonaro and members of his cabinet took swipes back at the leftist former president.

After approving a landmark pension reform bill that will save the public purse some 800 billion reais ($193 billion) over the next decade, Brazil’s Congress is set to debate other government proposals like tax reform and ‘administrative’ reform.

($1 = 4.15 reais)

Reporting by Jake Spring; Writing by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Richard Chang

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