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International alerts grow due to threat to democracy in Brazil

International warnings are growing about efforts to “subvert democracy” in Brazil, just days before voters go to the polls for a presidential election that has deepened divisions in the South American nation.

Right-wing incumbent Jair Bolsonaro has suggested he may reject the results if he loses, as most opinion polls show him trailing his left-wing rival, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

The US Senate passed a resolution Wednesday night supporting free elections in Brazil and denouncing “efforts to incite political violence and undermine the electoral process.”

The symbolic measure, adopted unanimously, calls on the US government to “immediately” recognize the result of the October 2 vote if international observers determine it is fair.

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It also urges the Biden administration to “review and reconsider the relationship between the United States [and] any government that comes to power in Brazil by undemocratic means, including a military coup.”

Sunday’s vote pits Bolsonaro against Lula, who according to an opinion poll this week had a commanding lead of 13 percentage points.

Several other candidates are also seeking the presidency. If neither wins a majority of the votes, a second round of voting is scheduled for October 30. The candidates are set for a final debate later Thursday.

For months, Bolsonaro has been making baseless accusations that Brazil’s electronic voting system is vulnerable to widespread fraud, accusations that human rights groups fear may be setting the stage for him to question the results in order to stay in power. .

Other experts have also expressed concern that Bolsonaro’s supporters could take to the streets in large numbers if he fails to win re-election, and that political violence could break out.

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On Wednesday, US lawmaker Bernie Sanders, one of the main sponsors of the Senate resolution, said the measure was intended to send a message that Congress supports democracy in Brazil.

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“It would be unacceptable for the United States to recognize a government that came to power in an undemocratic manner and send a horrible message to the entire world,” Sanders said in a statement.

“It is important that the people of Brazil know that we are on their side, on the side of democracy.”

This week, dozens of European lawmakers also urged the EU to “take additional steps to make it unequivocally clear to President Bolsonaro and his government that Brazil’s constitution must be respected and that attempts to subvert the rules of democracy are unacceptable.”

In a letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, the MPs said it was “crucial” to dissuade Brazil’s military leaders from supporting “a coup”.

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Brazil was under authoritarian military rule from 1964 to 1985, and Bolsonaro, a former army captain, has expressed admiration for the previous regime, which human rights groups have described as a “brutal dictatorship.”

“The EU should declare that it will use different levers, including trade, to defend democracy and human rights in Brazil,” the European lawmakers said.

With almost 215 million inhabitants, Brazil is the second most populous country in the Western Hemisphere after the United States.

It is home to large parts of the Amazon rainforest, often called “the lungs of the planet,” which has been under increasing threat of deforestation.

Climate advocates have criticized the Bolsonaro government for weakening environmental regulations and supporting mining in the Amazon.

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Lula has promised to protect the rainforest and crack down on illegal mining and logging if elected.

Last week, United Nations experts denounced threats, intimidation and political violence in the run-up to the elections in Brazil. “We call on the authorities to protect and duly respect the work of the electoral institutions,” they said.

In August, Human Rights Watch pointed the finger at Bolsonaro for “using a mix of insults and threats to intimidate independent media and the Supreme Court.”

Amnesty International earlier this month also accused Bolsonaro of using a “speech against human rights” before the elections.

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