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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro speaks to supporters

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro speaks during the formal launch of his reelection campaign on July 24, 2022 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo: Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

Sanders Warns That 'Like Trump, Bolsonaro Is Attempting to Undermine Democracy in Brazil'

"The enemies of democracy are working together across borders," said the Vermont senator, "and supporters of democracy must do the same."

Jake Johnson

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders warned after meeting with Brazilian civil society leaders on Tuesday that the Latin American country's far-right leader, President Jair Bolsonaro, appears poised to replicate Donald Trump's attempt to subvert the democratic process in a bid to stay in power as he trails in the polls to leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

"Like Trump, Bolsonaro is attempting to undermine democracy in Brazil, the largest country in Latin America," Sanders (I-Vt.) told the Washington Post's Ishaan Tharoor. "It is important that the Biden administration and the U.S. Congress stand for democracy and support the results of the upcoming election. The enemies of democracy are working together across borders, and supporters of democracy must do the same."

"We hope very much that the results of the election will be recognized and respected and that democracy will in fact prevail in Brazil."

Following a playbook that Trump drew from in his 2020 presidential campaign, Bolsonaro has been preemptively casting doubt on the legitimacy of Brazil's October 2 presidential election—including by questioning the integrity of the country's electronic voting machines—before a single ballot has been submitted.

Alarmingly, the leaders of Brazil's armed forces have joined Bolsonaro in questioning the electoral system, heightening fears of an attempted military coup should voters opt to unseat the incumbent leader in favor of Lula, who served as the country's president from 2003 to 2010 and left office massively popular among the Brazilian public.

During an event formally launching his reelection campaign on Sunday, Bolsonaro—who has presided over a disastrous Covid-19 response and accelerated deforestation in the Amazon—declared to cheers from his supporters that "the army is on our side."

"It's an army that doesn't accept corruption, doesn't accept fraud," Bolsonaro said. "This is an army that wants transparency."

This week, as Tharoor reported Wednesday, a "delegation of Brazilian civil society leaders, coordinated by the Washington Brazil Office, a human rights organization, is touring the American capital city and pressing U.S. officials to back Brazil's democratic institutions."

"On Tuesday, they had meetings at the State Department and called on Sen. Bernie Sanders," Tharoor noted. "They will also meet with Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the House panel investigating the Capitol riot."

The U.S., which supported the 1964 military coup in Brazil that Bolsonaro has praised, has in recent weeks spoken out in defense of the Latin American country's elections, with the State Department calling them a "model for nations in the hemisphere and the world."

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Sanders said that Bolsonaro's attempts to sow doubt and suspicion about the integrity of Brazil's upcoming presidential election "sounds all too familiar to me because of the efforts of Trump and his friends to undermine American democracy."

"So I'm not surprised that Bolsonaro would try to do the same in Brazil," the Vermont senator added. "We hope very much that the results of the election will be recognized and respected and that democracy will in fact prevail in Brazil."

In a column for The New Republic on Wednesday, historian Andre Pagliarini noted with trepidation that "Bolsonaro is right, to a point, that the army is on his side: He has stuffed his administration with men in uniform who have so far proved willing to back his authoritarian designs."

"Crucially, however, the active-duty heads of every military branch insist they will not support anything other than the proper constitutional order," Pagliarini continued. "Bolsonaro retains a strong core of support among the law-and-order crowd, a segment of the population more likely than most to be armed in a country where, compared to the U.S., it is still relatively difficult to purchase guns."

"One can only hope," he added, "that the military and the police stay out of the election and that Bolsonaro's fate is the same as Trump's: to crawl unceremoniously out of the presidential palace and await possible criminal indictments."

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