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Sao Paulo’s ambitious mayor calls for Petrobras privatisation

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Sao Paulo Mayor Joao Doria backs Brazil’s privatization policies but, signalling the ambition that could take him from Latin America’s most populous city to the presidency, said he believes the government is not going far enough.

Doria, 59, praised current center-right President Michel Temer’s announcement’s this week of a slew of sell-offs, including of the state electricity company and even the national mint. But in an interview Friday with AFP, Doria said Brazil needs to go further in shaking off its long legacy of statist policies, with the privatization of Petrobras — an oil company that is the crown jewel.

That will be heresy to some in Brazil but Doria said it’s time to move on, calling resistance “a tired old debate from a left that has neither evolved with nor reflected on the modern world.” He says, the gigantic “Car Wash” corruption scandal that began at Petrobras and continues to reverberate through the top echelons of politics and Brazilian corporate life wouldn’t have happened if the oil major had been in private hands.

“If we do it gradually, why not all the privatization of at least part of Petrobras?” he asked. Doria — who made a fortune in market and communications before impressing the political world last year by beating the incumbent leftist mayor Fernando Haddad in the first round with 53 percent of the vote — is careful not to talk up presidential hopes.

However, he is widely seen as a potentially credible fresh face in the October 2018 race when Brazilians will replace Temer.

He belongs to the social democrat PSDB party, the most important ally of Temer’s PMDB, but likes above all to portray himself as a political outsider.

“I’m not a politician, I’m just in politics,” he said in an office decorated with photos and newspaper cuttings recording his rise.

Although he said he is not a candidate at present, he thinks Brazilians are hungry for “new people and proposals.” Will he run? “In life you don’t rule things out,” he said. Polls currently give him only 10 percent support against leftist former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s approximately 30 percent. However Doria is not campaigning and lacks Lula’s instant name recognition.