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Shunned by Bolsonaro, Huawei has friends in Brazil’s Congress

. Dec 02, 2020
huawei congress brazil Illustration: André Chiavassa/TBR

Next year, Brazil will hold a landmark public auction of its 5G mobile network. The major question mark hanging over the bidding process concerns the involvement of Chinese company Huawei, already banned from participating in corresponding auctions in the U.S., Australia, Japan, and others. With pressure from Washington, the Brazilian government is considering its own veto on Huawei’s involvement, buying into U.S. theories that the company’s technology may have backdoors permitting espionage by the Chinese government.

While the Bolsonaro family is leaning toward a ban, Huawei already has a huge involvement in Brazil’s telecommunications infrastructure and the company has plenty of backers in the country’s Congress.

</p> <p>In Sunday&#8217;s municipal elections, former senator and Goiás state governor Maguito Vilela was elected mayor of Goiânia, the Goiás state capital. Despite being in the hospital with a <a href="https://www.terra.com.br/noticias/brasil/politica/entubado-e-sem-previsao-de-alta-maguito-tera-reabilitacao-demorada-da-covid,72a054e4c3720be0dfb2d8444dcff199da3hq0aa.html">severe case of Covid-19</a>, Mr. Vilela received 52.6 percent of valid votes, beating his opponent, Senator Vanderlan Cardoso. Outside of the municipal dispute, however, the pair share common interests. Mr. Cardoso, along with Maguito Vilela&#8217;s son, former Congressman Daniel Vilela, are two of the biggest defenders of Huawei&#8217;s interests in Brazilian Congress.</p> <p>While still serving as a lawmaker, Daniel Vilela teamed up with Mr. Cardoso to fast-track the <a href="https://brazilian.report/newsletters/brazil-daily/2019/09/12/new-law-modernize-brazil-telecom-sector/">New General Telecommunications Law</a> — a much-needed update of Brazil&#8217;s legal framework which benefited companies with BRL 40 billion (USD 7.5 billion) in pardoned fines and infrastructure assets.&nbsp;</p> <p>The younger Mr. Vilela is known in the corporate world as being a firm friend of telecom firms, with good relationships within Brazil&#8217;s telecommunications regulator Anatel and with Huawei.</p> <p>Vanderlan Cardoso, meanwhile, is a close ally of the Jair Bolsonaro government and a member of the Senate&#8217;s Science and Technology Committee. In 2016, he chaired the committee and helped to fast-track the aforementioned telecoms law.</p> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-map" data-src="visualisation/3335585"><script src="https://public.flourish.studio/resources/embed.js"></script></div> <h2>Telecom poster boy lobbying for Huawei</h2> <p>In February of this year, Daniel Vilela founded Aliança Conecta Brasil F4, which describes itself as &#8220;a think tank, a space for reflection and formulating proposals to develop the broadband ecosystem in Brazil.&#8221; As the organization&#8217;s official website explains, its goal is to represent industries in the telecoms sector — Huawei is one of the Aliança&#8217;s backers.</p> <p>Aliança Conecta Brasil is described as a way to gather representatives of different companies and strengthen lobbying in favor of telecom firms — principally Huawei, according to sources within the telecommunications sector.</p> <p>Huawei&#8217;s CEO in Brazil, Sun Baocheng, was invited to Aliança&#8217;s inaugural event. While addressing those in attendance, Mr. Vilela declared that Huawei is the &#8220;market leader, a great partner of [telecom] operators.&#8221; He also said that the company has &#8220;the best global success cases in connectivity.&#8221;</p> <h2>Ban would be &#8220;purely commercial or ideological&#8221;</h2> <p>While the official line of the Brazilian government is that &#8220;technical aspects are being analyzed&#8221; with regard to Huawei&#8217;s participation in next year&#8217;s 5G auction, Communication Ministry advisors told <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong> that there is nothing to analyze.</p> <p>&#8220;Huawei is already a part of the Brazilian telecom system and there is no reason to exclude it unless it was based on purely commercial or ideological motives,&#8221; said one source from the intelligence area of President Bolsonaro&#8217;s office.

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Débora Álvares

Débora Álvares has worked as a political reporter for newspapers Folha de S.Paulo, O Estado de S.Paulo, Globo News, HuffPost, among others. She specializes in reporting on Brasilia, working behind-the-scenes coverage at the Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary branches of government.

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