March 21, 2018 / 6:51 PM / 9 months ago

Guararapes' conservative CEO says will run for Brazil presidency

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The chief executive officer of Guararapes Confeccoes SA, best known for its clothing retailer Lojas Riachuelo SA, said on Wednesday that he will run for president, pledging to push for economic and social conservatism in elections scheduled for October.

Flavio Rocha, who says he is in conversations with six parties about potentially supporting his bid, joins an increasingly crowded field, with multiple center to right-wing candidates already having effectively entered the race.

On Monday, Rocha snagged an endorsement from the conservative Sao Paulo-based Free Brazil Movement (MBL).

“That candidate who is liberal regarding the economy and conservative in terms of customs, committed to the reforms that will make (Brazil) return to being competitive is the candidate that we’re lacking,” he told Reuters. “That’s the space I want to fill.”

Among the candidates he is competing with is far-right congressman Jair Bolsonaro, who is a top contender in the polls. Bolsonaro, who has embraced a tough law-and-order platform combined with strict social conservatism, has long pushed for statist economic policies but has adopted a more free-maket line in recent months.

“Our difference is in the economy because Bolsonaro defends a big government,” Rocha said.

A founder of the Brazil 200 Movement, which emphasizes free-market principles and strengthening public security, Rocha had previously denied he intended for run for president.

Shares in Guararapes Confeccoes had fallen 0.57 percent after the announcement, while Brazil’s benchmark Bovespa index had climbed 0.95 percent.

Reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier; additional reporting by Gram Slattery in Sao Paulo

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