Amendment 893 to National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 calls to end military aid to Brazil if its armed forces tamper with this year’s presidential elections.
by Brian Mier
Brazilian President Bolsonaro and his cabinet ministers, nearly half of whom are military generals, have made repeated threats against the integrity of this years upcoming elections over the past year. As former President Lula da Silva opened a 20 point lead in the polls, the threats worsened. Last week former Defense Minister, now Bolsonaro’s Vice Presidential candidate, General Braga Neto, told a group of businessmen that the military will not honor this year’s election results unless the Superior Election Court changes the ballot system according to the Army’s orders. A few days later, an allegedly exasperated President Bolsonaro reiterated this threat in a meeting with his cabinet.
Since taking office the Biden administration has given mixed messages on Bolsonaro. It warned the Bolsonaro government against undermining the elections, then invited the Brazilian President to a one on one meeting with the US President at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles where, during the same week when people around the World criticized Bolsonaro for the murders of Bruno Pereira and Dom Phillips, Biden praised his management of the Amazon rainforest.
Regardless of what Biden himself may be thinking about Brazil, a group of Democratic lawmakers moved to help him make up his mind this week by inserting an amendment into H.R. 7900- The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023, which puts continuation of all military aid to Brazil in 2023 contingent on non-interference by the Brazilian military in this year’s presidential elections.
Amendment 893, entitled, “Neutrality of Brazilian Armed Forces During Presidential Elections”, requires that within 30 days of the passing of the Act (which still has to pass Congress), the US Secretary of State must deliver a report on Brazilian armed forces interference on the October, 2022 Presidential elections, and to consider such actions as “statutory guardrails on US security assistance.”
“It calls for the “discontinuation of security assistance”, says a Washington insider who prefers to remain anonymous, “basically a way of saying ‘you need to consider whether these actions amount to a coup because, if so, that would necessitate cutting off US. assistance.'”
Over the last several years a growing group of progressive Democratic lawmakers led by Congressman Hank Johnson have pressured the federal government to clarify its role in the Lava Jato investigation and the arbitrary, 2018 election-year arrest of presidential front runner Lula da Silva. The signatories of this amendment include some of these familiar names like Johnson, Raul Grijalva, Ilhan Omar and Susan Wild. The author of the amendment, however, is New Jersey Congressman Tomasz Malinowski – a moderate with not much of a track record on Brazil. This shows that more and more Democrats are worried about the ramifications of a possible military coup in Brazil this year.
Essentially, although the role of the US DOJ and State Department during the 2016 coup against Dilma Rousseff and kangaroo court procedure against Lula da Silva appear to have slipped under the radar of the handful Democratic lawmakers who genuinely care about Brazil, this amendment gives a signal to the State Department and intel community that the legislative branch is watching and that some lawmakers will cause problems if they attempt to support another coup in Brazil this year. Likewise, it sends a signal to Brazil’s notoriously entreguista military that it may not have as much support from the US Government as it thought it did.