Insider

Army general questions electronic voting system

voting General Heber Portella. Photo: Army
General Heber Portella has questioned the safety of Brazil’s voting system. Photo: Army

Last December, General Heber Portella, the head of the Brazilian Army’s cyber defense division, sent Chief Electoral Justice Luís Roberto Barroso several questions about the country’s 100-percent electronic voting system. 

Mr. Portella was following orders from Defense Minister Walter Braga Netto, who appointed him to represent the Armed Forces on the so-called Elections Transparency Committee. Yet, as Mr. Portella is still in active service, that chain of command must include Army Commander Paulo Sérgio Nogueira de Oliveira. 

President Jair Bolsonaro claims to have received classified information pointing out several “vulnerabilities” in Brazil’s electoral system. On Thursday, the president mentioned said allegations during a live social media broadcast. Mr. Portella’s staff elaborated on the information. 

“The Armed Forces were invited to participate in the electoral process. As the supreme commander of the Armed Forces, I accept. Then, at the invitation of the electoral court, our staff began to identify potential vulnerabilities. Dozens were raised and we informed the electoral court. This is in the hands of Mr. Braga Netto. He is dealing with this matter and will contact the chief electoral justice,” said Mr. Bolsonaro.

The move increased speculation that Mr. Braga Netto could be in line to stand as Mr. Bolsonaro’s vice president candidate in this year’s election. He is seen as one of the frontrunners, alongside Communications Minister Fábio Faria. 

Meanwhile, Chief Electoral Justice Barroso dismissed allegations about “vulnerabilities”. In an interview to newspaper O Globo, he stated that Mr. Portella only sent a list of questions, which will be answered. 

To include a representative from the Armed Forces in the elections committee was a gesture from Justice Barroso to de-escalate tensions between Mr. Bolsonaro and the Judiciary, after the president had constantly made false claims of electoral fraud. In the same vein, the electoral courts appointed former Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva as its next general director.