Biden's CIA chief warned Brazil against undermining country's October elections
Washington previously expressed concerns over Bolsonaro’s allegations of fraud in the 2020 U.S. election – and has warned that he has since cast similar doubts about Brazil’s electronic voting system
May 5, 2022 12:50pm
Updated: May 5, 2022 4:51pm
A new report reveals that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director warned senior Brazilian officials that President Bolsonaro should stop casting doubt on his country’s electoral system in the run up to Brazil’s elections in October.
Although CIA Director William Burns made the comments in a closed-door meeting last July, Reuters first learned of the exchange after speaking with two sources familiar with the matter on condition of anonymity.
A third source in Washington also confirmed that Burns led a delegation to Brasilia where he told Bolsonaro’s top aides that the president should stop undermining confidence in the Brazilian voting system.
Burns remains the most senior Biden administration official to meet with Bolsonaro’s government and travelled to Brasilia just six months after the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riots.
Washington previously expressed concerns over Bolsonaro’s allegations of fraud in the 2020 U.S. election – and has warned that he has since cast similar doubts about Brazil’s electronic voting system.
In the lead up to the heated election – in which polls have shown that leftist former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva holds a small lead – pundits have said the president could reject the official results, like he’s mentioned in the past.
Burns, a career diplomat nominated by Biden last year, made an unannounced trip to Brazil last year and met with Bolsonaro and two senior intelligence aides at the presidential palace. The CIA chief also dined at the U.S. ambassador’s residence with Brazilian national security adviser Augusto Heleno and Bolsonaro's then-Chief of Staff Luiz Eduardo Ramos.
According to one of the sources, both Heleno and Ramos attempted to dismiss the significance of Bolsonaro’s allegations of voter fraud, but Burns rebuked them saying the democratic process was “sacred.”
"Burns was making it clear that elections were not an issue that they should mess with," said the source. "It wasn't a lecture, it was a conversation."
Burns’ message was reinforced in August when U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan visited Bolsonaro and raised similar concerns about his election fraud rhetoric.
"It is important that Brazilians have confidence in their electoral systems," a U.S. State Department official told reporters, adding that Washington is confident of Brazil's institutions, including free, fair and transparent elections.