In a Donald Trump–esque disinformation campaign, far-right Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is gearing up for Brazil’s 2022 general election by preemptively pushing conspiracy theories about electronic ballot counting, attacking the country’s top electoral court, and insisting that he will only lose reelection if mass voter fraud or God are involved. U.S. officials have long expressed concerns regarding Bolsonaro’s attempts to undermine the October 2 election. In a private meeting held last summer, CIA chief William Burns implored top Brazilian officials to clamp down on the president’s unfounded voter fraud claims, according to a Reuters report released on Thursday.
During the meeting, Burns made “it clear that elections were not an issue that they should mess with,” according to an unnamed Reuters source. Likewise, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan used an August visit to Brazil to dissuade Bolsonaro from further eroding voters’ trust in the electoral process, Reuters reported at the time.
Augusto Heleno, Bolsonaro’s national security adviser, told Reuters that the reported conversations between Bolsonaro aides and CIA officials “never happened,” while Bolsonaro called the Reuters report “fake news” on a Thursday livestream.
Dating back to his successful 2018 reelection campaign, Bolsonaro, a nationalist who has been dubbed “the Trump of the tropics” due to his admiration and emulation of the former U.S. president, insisted that the only way he could be defeated was through an election fraud scheme. And in the wake of Trump’s “stolen election” crusade, which culminated in last year’s Capitol riot, Bolsonaro doubled down by lifting from the GOP’s 2020 playbook, criticizing Brazil’s electronic voting machines and warning that the ballots of deceased voters could be used by his opponent.
According to a new survey conducted by pollster Ipespe, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the race’s leftist candidate and Brazil’s former president, continues to lead Bolsonaro by double digits, which is likely why Bolsonaro is laying the groundwork to reject the results as “a farce backed by…the electoral court.” While there are clear parallels to Trump’s 2020 election lies, Bolsonaro has actually gone a step further. Last week, he began floating the idea of using the military to oversee the election and hold its own voter tally, a count that would be used to scrutinize the results of Brazil’s electoral court. This threat is particularly ominous given that Brazil was ruled by a military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985.
During his Thursday livestream, Bolsonaro signaled that his party would also outsource an audit of the election to a private company, noting that such third-party auditors might conclude that it is “impossible” to prove the election results are “free of any suspicion of external interference.”
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