Brazil presidential candidate Bolsonaro offers false hope, says rival's aide

SAO PAULO, July 12 (Reuters) - Brazil presidential candidate Geraldo Alckmin’s top economic adviser criticized poll-leading, right-wing rival Jair Bolsonaro as offering false hope to the private sector, hiding statist views that would hamper the recovery from a deep recession.

Alckmin, the center-right candidate for the Brazilian Social Democracy Party in the October election, is stuck with single-digit support in polls. Bolsonaro, a seven-term federal congressman, leads in surveys excluding jailed former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The head of Alckmin’s economic team, Persio Arida, said in a Wednesday interview that the former Sao Paulo governor’s support should rise as Brazilians begin focusing on the race and examining the economic platforms of candidates.

He rejected Bolsonaro’s courting of Brazil’s business class with more free-market talk this year.

“Bolsonaro ... is where he has always been: with the left,” said Arida, a former central bank governor. “It is a con, the only people who cannot see that are those that do not want to.”

He pointed to Bolsonaro’s past votes against the “Plano Real” economic stabilization plan that tamed hyperinflation in the mid-1990s and against breaking up state oil and telecom monopolies. This year, his support for higher public-sector salaries and opposition to a national credit scoring system suggest little interest in pro-market reforms, Arida said.

Bolsonaro’s top economic adviser, investment banker Paulo Guedes, told Reuters in May that the former army captain had come around to a business-friendly agenda, including further privatizations.

As Arida and others have noted, that would mean breaking with Bolsonaro’s record of praising the nationalist, state-driven economic policies of Brazil’s military government in that 1970s. The congressman has also softened protectionist rhetoric lately, after raising concerns that Chinese investors are “buying up” Brazil.

Arida, one of the architects of the “Plano Real,” said the former governor Alckmin was committed to opening the most closed major economy in the Western Hemisphere.

“This xenophobia against foreign investment makes no sense,” he said. “Any foreign investment from any country in the world should be welcomed in every sector in Brazil.”

He said Alckmin would slash tariffs and stop protecting industries to promote competition and technological advances. Brazil’s services sector would be opened up to foreigners under Alckmin, who would also push for free trade agreements, he said.

He also proposed a sharp cut in Brazil’s corporate tax rate, compensated by the introduction of a tax on dividends. (Reporting by Iuri Dantas and Brad Brooks in Sao Paulo Editing by Marguerita Choy)