BRASILIA — In an exclusive interview with the Argentine daily Clarín, Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, spoke of Brazil's judicial system, the state of Latin American politics and international trade.
Clarin: Brazil's former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is in detention. Corruption led to an institutional crisis in Peru, various former presidents are under judicial scrutiny in Ecuador and Panama. In Argentina, former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is being tried. Should she go to prison too?
Bolsonaro: The Argentine justice system will have to decide whether she goes to prison or not. Our justice system worked very well here. The fight against corruption must be effective in any country that wants to be democratic and protect its freedom and wants to gain trust internationally. We have an ex-president in prison here, judged as far as I can see independently, and this may be an example to other politicians who wanted or want to lead a life on the margins of the law, like Lula and practically all his ministers.
But was Lula's prosecution by the now minister of justice and former judge Sergio Moro truly impartial?
His work, as far as I could follow it, was impartial. He was not the only one who came to such rulings. Other tribunals in following trials followed his same line.
Argentina's presidential candidate Alberto Fernández, who is backed by Fernández de Kirchner, has visited Lula in jail, claiming that his conviction showed that rule of law is dysfunctional in Brazil.
That shows his complete ignorance of what is happening in Brazil. The Workers' Party (PT) had a power project. For that reason they stormed state firms. Petrobras was on the verge of destruction, bankruptcy. The pension funds were also emptied. Cristina Kirchner's candidate does not recognize the Brazilian reality. Here we trust our institutions.
Fernández also said he could revise the recent Mercosur trade pact with the EU.
I hope Argentina reflects a lot on that. That will bring economic problems for Brazil, for Argentina, for Uruguay and for Paraguay. We're focused on the economy and a government with a weak economy cannot sustain itself. I don't want Argentina to follow the Venezuelan line. I shall be taking the opposite path. I have already discussed this with Argentina's President Mauricio Macri. We want Mercosur 2.0. When I was a member of congress, I was against Mercosur, but because of its ideological tendency. When I assumed the presidency, one of the people I spoke with was Macri and we came to the conclusion that this ideological trend has to cease to exist, we have to go to the free market and make agreements with as many blocks or countries in the world. We have discussed the possibility of agreements with Japan, South Korea, and now also with the United States. It is (the improvement) of the economy that is going to get people out of the difficult situation they are in.
Bolsonaro (left) with Argentina's President Mauricio Macri — Photo: Marcos Corrêa
What if the opposition to Macri wins in Argentina's presidential elections in October?
Brazil's only rivalry with Argentina is in soccer. We are brothers. Before there used to be a certain antagonism. Over the past few years it stopped existing, especially with my arrival here and with Macri there. Now, I would like the next Argentinian president to feel the same way. The declarations on revising the Mercosur trade deal and the visit to a convict, whose conviction was confirmed three times by the judiciary, area signal that we could have frictions with Argentina, which we do not want.
For Argentina, which exports more to Brazil than the United States and China together, it is vital that the Brazilian economy, which is stagnating, will grow again. When will this growth start?
The mother of our reforms is the new social security. And we're not promoting anything bigger right now in order not to harm this reform. Logically we have taken measures to unblock the economy, dozens and dozens of measures to cut red tape. The economy is starting to grow this year. Under the previous presidency of Michel Temer, we reformed labor laws. If we had not done it, Brazil's situation would be worse. We're making life easier for those who want to start a business, so they can do it in a few days. This used to take months.
Brazil's only rivalry with Argentina is in soccer. We are brothers.
You are being criticized for possibly wanting to appoint your son and legislator Eduardo as ambassador to the United States. Why Eduardo and not a seasoned diplomat
My son is friends with Trump's children, speaks English, Spanish, is still young. The possibility was raised and I am talking of the the po-ssi-bi-li-ty. Imagine if Macri had a son who was ambassador here in Brazil. Macri's son would be different to a professional ambassador. In Brazil it would be referred to the courts, some would call it nepotism. But I am fully convinced that my son, who is a Federal policeman, could do the job fairly successfully for his access to the United States. It is the world's biggest economy and it would be very good for us. But right now it is only a possibility.
Pope Francis told Lula he was spiritually close to him and has also spoken of justice used for political ends, or Lawfare... Do you see the Pope as taking sides in Brazilian politics?
I am a Catholic and I respect the Pope. I don't have any problems with him. He is Argentine and I was so happy with the election of someone from South America. But anyway, I think it is the Pope's personal opinion about Lula. And we know religious people, Christians, will always choose forgiveness. I recognize that in the Pope's heart. For my part, spiritually, I admire Pope Francis and in this personal issue, as a human being, I do not share his ideas (regarding) Lula, who did a lot of harm to Brazil. The PT used the media and fake news so well. Some ambassadors were even saying Lula was above the Pope, between Jesus and the People. When I began growing in the campaign this gained momentum. Fake news on me. I am not in any way homophobic, racist, fascist, none of that. People understood this. There was a democratic vote that brought me to this chair, the presidential chair in which I hope, with God's help, I am doing the best for my country.
See more from World Affairs here