2022 Race

U.S. officials expect Bolsonaro to try (but fail) to disrupt elections

US Bolsonaro disrupt elections Washington
U. S. Department of State headquarters. Photo: Mark Van Scyoc/Shutterstock

A group representing 19 Brazilian organizations toured Washington this week to discuss the risks to Brazilian democracy with U.S. officials. The meetings included a 90-minute sitdown with U.S. State Department officials, but there were no clear answers on whether the White House will immediately recognize the results of the October 2 election.

In a recent meeting with ambassadors in Brasília, President Jair Bolsonaro urged foreign governments not to take the election outcome at face value, spouting unfounded claims that the country’s electronic ballot boxes are susceptible to fraud. Recent polls suggest former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is in line to win in a first-round landslide. 

The organizations visiting Washington believe a quick answer from the White House could dissuade the Bolsonaro camp from trying to overturn the election, as Mr. Bolsonaro has threatened for more than a year now.

Sources tell The Brazilian Report the U.S. government expects Mr. Bolsonaro to try to disrupt the election, but they expect him to fail.

“We hear that the U.S. government will remain consistent in its position of expressing confidence in the electoral system and supporting democratic institutions that have a history of free and fair elections,” Paulo Abrão, director of think tank Washington Brazil Office (which organized the visit), tells The Brazilian Report.

“In all the meetings, the interlocutors expressed gratitude for the information received and recognized organized civil society and social movements as the main sources of reliable interpretation of what is happening in Brazil today,” says Mr. Abrão.

The group also met with members of U.S. Congress, discussing the possibility of Jair Bolsonaro’s supporters staging riots similar to the Capitol invasion of January 6, 2021.

“I’m very concerned with what is happening in Brazil, as it could turn into something very similar to what we saw on January 6,” says Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin, a member of the House committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riots.

“Jair Bolsonaro is a great admirer of Donald Trump and his friends. We know he’s been involved with Steve Bannon, who, of course, is a key political aide of Mr. Trump’s, and was already before January 6.”

U.S. officials also expressed concerns about disinformation and political violence in the lead-up to the election. Earlier this month, a member of Lula’s Workers’ Party was murdered at his own birthday party by a Bolsonaro supporter. Prosecutors indicted him for politically-motivated aggravated murder.

“This is typical of fascist parties, who don’t accept the result of electoral processes when they lose,” adds Mr. Raskin. “They end up encouraging violence, which only makes the situation worse.”