An election that worries the White House

From Washington, the government of Joe Biden carefully analyzes how the political campaign in Brazil has been decanting and, although it has chosen to maintain a neutral position, it has not hidden its fear of the possibility that Jair Bolsonaro will obtain his re-election or, even more, , seek to perpetuate himself by force in the presidential position.

Obviously, it is not that the Biden administration has fallen in love with Lula da Silva’s candidacy but, all in all, a victory for the left would imply a lesser evil against a president who, even defeated, does not recognize the results and decides to remain for force in the Brazilian government, thus denying the victory of the PT in the first round or rejecting the call for the ballot to be held on October 30.

In this sense, the public alignment of the Brazilian leader with Donald Trump, with whom he shares his ideology and, in general, his way of understanding the world and politics, has generated tensions with the White House, even before the Democratic leader assumed. Indeed, Bolsonaro only recognized Biden as the new president of the United States on December 15, almost a month and a half after the presidential election of November 3, 2020 had taken place.

At this time, from Washington they assure that, if the government does not recognize its defeat on Sunday, October 2, the conditions would be given for the deepening of instability in Brazil and for a pronounced increase in the level of violence in the streets. Above all, if one takes into account that, according to a recent study by the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, in the first half of this year there were 40 deaths for political reasons, most of them PT militants.

Within the prospective analyses, it is feared that in a scenario of political crisis and progressive deinstitutionalization of democracy, the military corporation, the main support of the government, could assume a clear role in supporting a weakened president in the interior of Brazil. and increasingly isolated on the external front, particularly in strategic relations with the United States.

Thus, what finally happens in Brazil could become one of the most serious concerns for the Biden administration. Therefore, the initiatives deployed from the White House to influence the electoral scenario have been multiple, either to prevent Trump’s ally from continuing in government if he is defeated, as well as to contribute to the victory of a popular leader. that, in addition, could help order the South American political map.

The first reaction, six months after the capture of the Capitol, was the sending to Brasilia of William Burns, director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), who held meetings with the president and the main government officials. In all cases, in his speeches he maintained the importance of sustaining democracy and not causing interference or fomenting doubts about the electoral system. The meetings, always secret, only became known almost a year later, in May 2022.

Doubts about the president’s potential actions were cleared up on July 18, 2022 when, in a deliberate gesture, he questioned the voting system and fed versions of alleged fraud by the opposition in a meeting with some 40 accredited ambassadors in Brasilia. . For Washington it was clear that Brazilian democracy would enter a risk zone in the following months.

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However, the lack of dialogue between Washington and Brasilia, and the growing concern about the real involvement of the Armed Forces in the presidential elections, influenced Joe Biden to appoint Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin as his main interlocutor. In the background, the Secretary of State led by Antony Blinken and the National Security Council commanded by Jake Sullivan also began to operate.

The Pentagon chief’s trip to Brazil at the end of July, with a message based on respect for democracy and civic values, did not seem to intimidate Bolsonaro’s intentions, who deepened his criticism of the voting system and the electoral court. Hence, without neglecting the influence they could gain over the president, in recent months the US strategy seemed to focus on the possible intervention of the military in the Brazilian political scene.

At the beginning of September, and through a public letter addressed to the Brazilian military high command, eight former Secretaries of Defense and five former military chiefs of the United States sent a signal of subordination to the Constitution and civil power. Although there would be guarantees of neutrality on the part of the military authorities, doubts still exist today around the intermediate cadres of the military body.

Therefore, the toughest initiatives were prosecuted by the legislative caucus of the Democratic Party. About forty representatives and senators from that party sent a letter to Biden warning that Brazil will be isolated from the US and the world if there is an attempt to “subvert the electoral process.” For the same reason, Brazil would lose its status as a global partner of NATO, and would give up US support for its entry into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The corollary of this succession of initiatives took place on September 21, when Lula da Silva held a meeting with the charge d’affaires Douglas Koneff, the main authority of the United States embassy in Brasilia and an official with extensive experience in the Secretary of State. . These types of meetings are usually held in a reserved manner but, this time, there was a deliberate interest because it would spread in the press.

Thus, Brazil arrives on October 2 in a context of uncertainty regarding democracy that undeniably affects the country itself but that, progressively, could begin to spread to other South American countries as well.

In the midst of a conflict with no solution in sight in Ukraine that also threatens to spread to Europe, and faced with renewed possibilities of a trade war with China, what Washington wants least of all right now is a scenario of instability in South America. It will not allow it, mainly because it fears that, in the midst of the crisis of Brazilian democracy, its main antagonists in global geopolitics will take advantage of it to strengthen themselves in the region.

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