Defense Minister General Paulo Sérgio Nogueira de Oliveira was asked about the October elections by US Secretary of Defense General Lloyd Austin during a private meeting on the sidelines of the Conference of Ministers of Defense of the Americas (CMDA). Government envoy Joe Biden addressed the issue and again said the United States was confident that Brazil would promote free and fair elections. This Thursday 28, Paulo Sérgio gave pledges of commitment to democracy, as if repeating what he had said to Austin during the face-to-face.
“The commitment of our countries for democracy and freedom is another important aspect which must permanently guide the talks within the framework of the CMDA”, declared the Minister of Defense, the day after the audience with Austin, to the end of the 15th edition of the conference.
The Secretary of Defense, a retired general chosen by Biden, called on the Brazilian army to be held to account, in a statement given to American journalists who accompanied his entourage.
“I would just like to stress that it is particularly vital that the army plays its role responsibly during the elections,” he said, according to Reuters.
To the minister, Austin reiterated the Joe Biden government’s explicit position of confidence in Brazilian institutions and in the reliability of the electoral system. The meeting which took place on Wednesday 27 lasted approximately one hour – of which approximately 5 minutes were devoted to the subject.
US diplomatic sources who attended the reserved dialogue said the agenda was broad, given the range of military cooperation between the countries, and could not be limited to elections. The side conversation focused on health, training and joint operations.
Secretary Austin said he has confidence in the Brazilian Armed Forces and that free and fair elections are the foundation of democracy. He said he was convinced that Brazil would promote, as in the past, “clean and fair” elections.
Austin left Brasilia with the impression that he came from Washington specifically to deliver the message of Joe Biden’s government and demand “dedication to democracy” in the country and “firm civilian control” over the armed forces, in addition transparency.
Defense aides say Paulo Sérgio told Biden’s secretary that the Armed Forces began questioning the security of electronic voting machines, suggested changes to procedures, and appointed an election inspection team to the invitation of the Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE). He said the attitude of the military is to contribute to the security and “improvement” of the election.
According to people who followed the conversation, Paulo Sérgio assured Lloyd Austin that the government stands for democratic values and that elections in Brazil will be “transparent, secure and verifiable”. The effectiveness of the audit is precisely a point of disagreement between the military and the electoral court. Defense wants to change the integrity test and promote independent audits, carried out by private entities and political parties. The head of the TSE says the system already has several possibilities for audit and inspection and that there have never been any discrepancies in the vote count during the tests carried out on election day. But Bolsonaro continues to say the opposite about electronic voting machines.
Active Brazilian military personnel assigned to the election monitoring team appointed by the defense minister say potential vulnerabilities still exist in the electronic voting system and insist on changes for the October elections. The Planalto Palace has launched a behind-the-scenes operation with civil and political ministers to try to convince the TSE to accept some of the Defense proposals, in order to lower the temperature and avoid challenges from President Jair Bolsonaro and possible violent reactions from their supporters. .
Defender of the printed vote, the president promotes a campaign of distrust on electronic voting machines and indicates the possibility of not recognizing a defeat to former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT), something doable according to the polls of intentions of voting. The Biden government demands that the president respect the results of the ballot boxes and has already expressed through diplomatic channels that the Brazilian system is a “model” for the world.
Shortly after the bilateral meeting with Minister Paulo Sérgio, Austin left the country and tasked second-level members of the Ministry of Defense with concluding the Brasilia Declaration negotiations. The document included, under pressure from Americans and Canadians, a critique of the war in Ukraine, albeit in a softer tone than expected and with opposition from Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, three of the major economies from Latin America.
In the final declaration, the ministers reaffirmed their commitment to respect the Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Inter-American Democratic Charter. In line with the standard adopted in recent years, this same commitment is reiterated in the preamble of all statements that close meetings of defense ministers.
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