The contest to succeed Brazil’s mega-popular President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has taken a turn toward the irrational. Lula’s former chief of staff Dilma Rousseff, and her challenger, former São Paulo governor José Serra, have made the Oct. 31 runoff a campaign against privatization. Rousseff accuses Serra of favoring the sale of state assets like the oil company Petrobras; Serra denies he’d let go of such national treasures.
But the electioneering ignores reality. Much of Lula’s legacy is a direct result of shedding inefficient government firms. As a result, onetime state mastodons have become lean competitors with global appetites. Val—the once lumbering state mining conglomerate that was privatized in 1997—is now an international earthmover, scooping up companies abroad. Even Petrobras was tarred by critics as “Petrosaurus” until Brazil ended the state monopoly on oil. On the stump, Rousseff and Serra may throw stones—but privatization will remain the bedrock of Brazil’s prosperity.