In less than two weeks, one of the world’s biggest democracies will hold what many are describing as its most important presidential election in years. The US has been watching this vote in Brazil closely. Why?
There aren’t many issues that staunch opponents in Washington ever agree on.
But they are united on this.
“This is going to be one of the most intense and dramatic elections in the 21st Century, ” former Trump aide Steve Bannon tells the BBC.
“The fate of Brazil’s democracy and of US relations with Brazil will be decided in the upcoming election, ” says Senator Patrick Leahy, one of a number of Democrats taking a strong interest in the particular election.
At a recent reception in Washington to mark 200 years since Brazilian gained independence from Portugal, the talk was of little else.
There are several reasons why this election has grabbed the attention associated with the US – trade, democracy, Trump and climate change.
The fates of the two countries have felt entwined of late, as they face similar challenges and share common interests. Both endured huge death tolls in the pandemic and now face inflation levels above 8%.
There is record trade between them – aircraft, petroleum, iron and steel – and they also make similar commodities. While Brazil is the largest producer of soy and orange, followed by the US, respectively in second and fourth positions, the particular Americans are ahead within corn, beef, turkey plus chicken production, with Brazil in second or third.
In 2021 Brazil became the country in which China invested the most, a blow to the Americans in their most obvious zone of influence in the Cold-War-like rivalry between Washington and Beijing.
So, interest in who takes power within Brazil – current President Jair Bolsonaro or former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva – was always going to become high. But what’s different this time is the number of US officials talking publicly and privately about it, months before the vote.
“There will be a greater interest and this is due to the threat of democratic rupture, ” says Brazilian scholar Carlos Gustavo Poggio, a specialist in Brazil-US relationships and professor from Berea College in Kentucky.
The particular last election was peaceful, he said. “Now we have a president who does not make it very clear whether he will obey the results of the particular polls and who offers a close relationship with the military. ”
Since winning the election in 2018, Bolsonaro has repeated accusations associated with electoral fraud without any evidence. Brazil has had electronic voting machines since 1996 – and no systematic fraud has ever been recorded.
During a recent visit in order to the UK to attend the funeral of Queen Elizabeth, Bolsonaro said that if he received less than 60% of the particular votes then “something abnormal has happened” in the electoral court responsible for counting the votes and announcing the winner. In polling, he has never surpassed 35% and is about 10 percentage points behind Lula.
On other occasions he has said he will certainly accept the election result but some have seen in his remarks echoes of Donald Trump’s false claims of fraud after his defeat to Joe Biden.
“Brazil plus the United States are mirrors of each other, ” says former Deputy US Secretary of State Thomas Shannon, who also served as US ambassador in Brazil in the particular early 2010s. What happens to one of these two democracies happens to the other.
What they stand for
- left-wing, previous trade union leader
- increase protection measures for the Amazon
- eradicate hunger in the country by strengthening income transfer programmes
- resume multilateral international policy and regional leadership
- right-wing populist, former army captain and backbench politician
- made long-awaited pension reform and promises to continue reforming the Brazilian state
- vows in order to battle gender ideology plus govern based on Christian principles
- facilitate access to weapons for ordinary citizens
In a recent address to the nation, Biden was clear within saying he believed Trump’s Maga [Make America Great Again] movement was a threat to democracy. And some see the strong desire for these elections in Brazil as the US confronting its own ghosts of January 6th, when Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol as Biden’s election win was being certified.
In an interview along with BBC Brasil, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, stated that “what needs to happen in Brazil are usually free and fair elections, using the institutional structures that have served you [Brazilians] well in the past”.
A conversation between the particular head of the CIA, William Burns, and Bolsonaro’s aides was leaked, in which Burns asked the B razil president to stop casting doubts on the polls. Bolsonaro denied those words were exchanged.
US politicians have been getting involved as well. Senator Leahy joined Bernie Sanders and four other Democratic senators in order to introduce a resolution supporting democratic institutions in Brazilian. And in the lower chamber, the House of Representatives, Democrats tried and failed to pass a measure that would suspend military aid to Brazil if the army abandoned its neutrality.
“Sometimes it’s formal, other times it’s leaks, but it’s all trying to pass along the message and the thinking of Washington, ” says Nick Zimmerman, senior consultant at the Brazil Institute and former White House foreign policy assistant in the particular Obama administration.
He thinks this speaks to a broader international foreign policy concern of Democrats and some Republicans about global threats to democracy. “The multilateral democratic order built after World War II is at risk in a way that will it hasn’t been over the past 80 years. And that is something with regard to the United States in order to fight for and defend. ”
Questioning the particular electoral process is not the only similarity between Trump plus Bolsonaro, who is also known as “Trump of the Tropics”.
Both campaigned as outsiders, promising to fight the political elites, even though Bolsonaro was steeped in politics. Both encourage nationalism and gun ownership, which within the case of Brazil has led civilians to own more weapons than the Federal Police regarding the first time in the recent era. Both dominate social media.
“Bolsonaro is a great hero for all associated with us, ” says Bannon, who sees Brazil as a key part of a global populist movement. “He’s at the level of [conservative authoritarian Hungarian prime minister] Viktor Orban as someone that has stood for sovereignty and really grassroots. He’s got evangelicals, he’s got working-class people. If you look at Brazil, it is very much like the Maga movement. inch
At the particular other side of this particular electoral contest, requesting the second chance from the Brazilian voters, is Lula, that ended his term within 2010 as the majority of popular president in the country’s history but provides since become an increasingly divisive figure.
Under his successor, Dilma Rousseff, the country plunged into recession and Lula was investigated and convicted for a bribery scandal. The fact his conviction has been later annulled has not dimmed in some people’s minds his association with a corrupt elite.
Beyond the intriguing contrast between the 2 main candidates, and the particular possibility of a contested political election, there is another compelling reason why Brazil is on the agenda of American plus European politicians – the factor that affects individuals the world over.
In recent years, Brazil has accelerated the process of deforestation of the Amazon, the largest tropical forest in the world. The Bolsonaro government reduced spending to prevent the particular devastation of the biome. Last year, its environment minister was investigated and accused by the ALL OF US of being involved in illegal logging traffic.
“It is usually clear the challenge associated with development in the Amazon and the perception that Brazil’s decisions matter to the rest of the world has increased interest, ” says Shannon.
During his 2020 selection campaign, Biden suggested that Americans should lead the particular creation of an international billion-dollar fund that would help Brazil pay for the preservation of the forest area. The promise, however , never got off the particular ground. The main reason, according in order to people familiar with the matter, was the lack of confidence that the Bolsonaro administration would comply.
Lula has been very vocal about his intent to protect the Amazon but he and his successor built hydroelectric dams in the middle of the Amazon, which caused serious damage to the forest and its native population.
If Lula’s new greener stance pleases the US, there is certainly much more dissatisfaction along with his close relationship with the regimes of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Lula was also a great advocate of BRICS, the particular bloc made up associated with India, Russia, China, South Africa and Brazil which some saw as a challenge to western power.
In contrast, under Bolsonaro in 2019, for the first time in history, Brazil voted within support of the US embargo on Cuba, along with the US itself and Israel, plus against 187 other nations. Facing Biden, Bolsonaro might have reminded him that he works as a shield against what he calls the “spread of communism” in Latin America.
Yet over protests from the US, the Brazilian president visited President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in 2022, just two weeks before the start of the war in Ukraine.
For Shannon, regardless of who wins the election, Brazil will end up being a major international player, with whom the united states needs to work, without any pretensions in order to dominate.
“The difference between Brazilian and the US is that the US is a global superpower and they know it, ” he says. “Brazil is a superpower and it hasn’t discovered it yet. ”