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Demonstrators protest Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and support democratic elections

People stage a demonstration against Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and in defense of democracy and free elections in São Paulo, Brazil on August 11, 2022. (Photo: Paulo Lopes/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Sanders Blasts GOP for Opposing Resolution Warning Against Military Coup in Brazil

"I suspect that my Republican colleagues do not want to antagonize Trump," the Vermont senator said. "That tells us a little bit about the state of democracy in this country and the Republican Party."

Jake Johnson

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday said he has not been able to get a single Senate Republican to support his resolution expressing support for Brazilian democracy and opposition to a military coup, a fact that the Vermont senator lamented as indicative of "the state of democracy in the United States."

"This resolution is very simple and straightforward," Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a floor speech outlining the details of a measure he introduced alongside Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and a handful of other Senate Democrats on Brazil's Independence Day earlier this month.

"It's important for the people of Brazil to know we're on their side, on the side of democracy."

"It does not take sides in Brazil's election, obviously—and that would be unacceptable," Sanders said Wednesday. "But what it does do is express the sense of the United States Senate that the United States government will make it unequivocally clear that the continuing relationship of the United States and Brazil depends upon the commitment of the government of Brazil to democracy and human rights."

The resolution calls on the Biden administration to "continue to speak out against efforts to incite political violence and undermine the electoral process in Brazil." The measure also pushes the administration to "review and reconsider the relationship between the United States and any government that comes to power in Brazil through undemocratic means, including a military coup," and to cut off U.S. military aid to the country in the case of such an outcome.

A companion resolution in the House is led by Democratic Reps. Jamie Raskin (Md.), Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.), and Sara Jacobs (Calif.).

While the resolution's text doesn't mention Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro by name, Sanders noted in his floor speech that the far-right leader has openly signaled he "might attempt to destroy Brazilian democracy and remain in power no matter what the people of Brazil determine in a free and democratic election."

The Vermont senator pointed specifically to Bolsonaro's declaration that "only God can take me from the presidency" and other similar anti-democratic remarks in the lead-up to Brazil's October 2 presidential election, in which leftist former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is currently the polling frontrunner.

"It is obviously not the business of the United States to determine who the next president of Brazil is, or to get involved in Brazil's presidential elections in any way. That is a decision to be made solely by the people of Brazil through a fair and free election," Sanders said. "But it is the business of the United States to make clear to the people of Brazil that our government will not recognize or support a government that comes to power through a military coup or the undermining of a democratic election. That is our business."

Speaking to the Washington Post on Wednesday, Sanders highlighted one potential reason for unanimous GOP opposition to his resolution: Subservience to former U.S. President Donald Trump, an ally of Bolsonaro who attempted to overturn his loss in 2020—an effort that culminated in the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

"I suspect that my Republican colleagues do not want to antagonize Trump," Sanders said. "That tells us a little bit about the state of democracy in this country and the Republican Party."

For months, Sanders has been spotlighting the dire warnings of Brazilian civil society and raising the possibility that Bolsonaro will draw from Trump's playbook if Lula wins in October.

Ahead of the presidential contest, Bolsonaro—handed a megaphone by Facebook and other social media platforms—has been raising unsubstantiated claims of fraud and suggesting that "the army is on our side," heightening fears of violence and a military coup attempt. The U.S. supported the 1964 military coup in Brazil, but the Biden administration has reportedly warned Bolsonaro against undermining the 2022 presidential election.

As the Financial Times reported earlier this week, Bolsonaro still has support in crucial segments of the Brazilian business community that oppose Lula retaking the presidency and favor the Brazilian incumbent's corporate-friendly economic record.

"Bolsonaro's indifference to the razing of the Amazon rainforest may alarm the West," the Financial Times wrote, "but the country's powerful soy and beef farmers instead see a champion of their interests."

In a statement earlier this month upon introducing his resolution, Sanders said it "would be unacceptable for the United States to recognize a government that came to power undemocratically, and it would send a horrific message to the entire world."

"The United States should make it clear that we support the democratic process," Sanders added, "and it's important for the people of Brazil to know we're on their side, on the side of democracy."

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