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Bolsonaro assesses next steps with input from aides to Trump, Bannon and Miller

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correction

An earlier version of this article misrepresented the nature of the action Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party was seeking in last month’s election. The party asked the Superior Electoral Tribunal to invalidate the votes recorded in the second round of voting on October 30 by some 250,000 machines manufactured before 2020, and not some 250,000 votes recorded by these machines. The article has been corrected.

RIO DE JANEIRO — As tens of thousands of supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro camp outside military installations across Brazil to protest his electoral defeat, members of Bolsonaro’s inner circle are meeting with advisers to former President Donald Trump to discuss next steps.

Brazilian Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro, the president’s son, has been in Florida since the Oct. 30 vote, meeting with Trump at Mar-a-Lago and strategizing with other political allies over the phone. He spoke to former Trump strategist Stephen K. Bannon, who was in Arizona helping GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake’s campaign, about the power of pro-Bolsonaro protests and potential challenges for the Brazilian election results, Bannon said. He had lunch in South Florida with former Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller, now CEO of social media company Gettr, and discussed online censorship and free speech, a said Miller.

Neither Trump nor Eduardo Bolsonaro responded to requests for comment.

These conversations mirrored the debates taking place in Brasilia, where Bolsonaro supporters are discussing next steps for his populist conservative movement. This movement faces a judgment similar to that of the American right after Trump’s defeat in 2020 on how to sustain itself when its charismatic standard-bearer has been defeated.

Brazil’s right-wing has some advantages heading into the new year, when left-leaning former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva takes office. While Bolsonaro lost, his party and his allies made gains in Congress and in the governorates. Tens of thousands of his supporters continue to camp outside military bases in more than 20 cities, with some calling on commanders to intervene in the vote.

Protesters were pictured holding handmade signs that read “#BrazilianSpring” and “#BrazilWasStolen” in English, demonstrating the close ties between right-wing movements in the two countries. The phrases were posted several times on Brazilian Twitter this month. The “Brazilian Spring” was coined shortly after the election by Bannon, they and others say; he has since dedicated several episodes of his podcast to an election he calls one of the most important political events in the world.

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Some of Bolsonaro’s advisers, including Bannon, want him to challenge the results, an effort that would likely fail but embolden the protesters. On Tuesday, Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party filed a petition with Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court to invalidate votes recorded by some 250,000 machines made before 2020. Fact checkers say the survey is based on false information about older machines.

Federal Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes, president of the electoral court, said the machines were used in the first and second rounds, and said the party should also seek a review of the votes in the first round – which could jeopardize the election. of its winning candidates. He gave the party 24 hours to respond.

Others want to move on to bigger fights which they believe could have greater international appeal. At the heart of this approach would be an attack on the legitimacy of the nation’s highest courts, which can take people offline and arrest them if they post misinformation about the electoral process or other “anti-democratic content.” While many Brazilians view the courts as a bulwark of democracy, the justice system is increasingly accused by jurists of abuse and political targeting. Many rulings are sealed and terms such as “disinformation” and “fake news” – the English phrase, used by Trump to describe coverage he found unflattering, are enshrined in Brazilian law – have not of clear definition.

Brazil’s supreme and electoral courts, which are among the strongest regulators of online speech in any democratic nation, have in recent weeks ordered tech companies to delete the social media accounts of several pro-Bolsonaro politicians and journalists. , and in September ordered raids on the homes of corporate executives accused of promoting election disinformation and advocating a military coup in a WhatsApp group.

Bolsonaro did not concede defeat and encouraged his supporters to keep their protests away from military bases. But he has instructed his chief of staff to transition into Lula’s administration, parts of which are proceeding rapidly, people told The Washington Post.

Miguel Lago, executive director of the Rio-based think tank Institute for Health Policy Studies, said Bolsonaro’s three-week silence “cost him critical time when he could have rallied the troops more.”

American friends, themselves reeling from Republicans’ historic underperformance in the US midterm elections, act as cheerleaders and advisers. Bolsonaro and Trump built a strong alliance when they were both in power, with Trump seeing a kindred spirit in the explosive, social media-driven Bolsonaro. Trump advisers have been drawn to Bolsonaro’s love of guns, his nationalism, his willingness to antagonize Brazil’s longtime allies and roll back environmental regulations, and his embrace of culture wars.

Eduardo Bolsonaro, the third son of the president, has often been the cement of relations between the two worlds. He made several trips to Mar-a-Lago during his father’s tenure and was in Washington during the January 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection. He helped bring the Conservative Political Action Conference to Brazil.

Some insiders say the Brazilian movement is bigger than any leader.

“What’s happening in Brazil is a global event,” Bannon told the Post. “People say they have been grossly disenfranchised. [The movement] overtook the Bolsonaros the same way it overtook Trump in the United States.

The cannibal versus the satanist: toxic politics is poisoning Brazil

Brazilian MP Carla Zambelli, a supporter of Bolsonaro, also visited the United States after the election. In Washington, she tried to drum up international support after Brazil’s top court kicked her off social media this month, costing her nearly 10 million followers. She had chased a Lula supporter in São Paulo while brandishing a gun and encouraged protesters to block highways after Bolsonaro’s defeat, but the reasons for the ban are not publicly known. The court’s full decision in his case has not been released.

Zambelli told the Post that she met with several US politicians to demand the restoration of her bullhorn online and tried to appeal the ban to the Organization of American States.

Zambelli said the idea that an elected official can be censured by an opaque court that is openly antagonistic to one party should resonate around the world. She said she hoped to bring together politicians and supporters from both countries “on this international front for free speech.”

Supporters of those whose social media use was restricted by the court tweeted messages to Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter, to reinstate their accounts.

Restrictions only affect streams from Brazilian users. Twitter executives reviewed them at Musk’s request, but determined the company couldn’t unblock them without clashing with the Brazilian government, according to a person familiar with the discussions, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe them. freely.

Bolsonaro against Lula: a referendum on the young Brazilian democracy

Miller told the Post that Bolsonaro was not running against Lula but against Brazil’s Supreme Court. He described it as a “supreme court, attorney general, FBI and U.S. attorney all rolled into one.” Gettr, his company, appealed to the Brazilian court to restore Zambelli’s profile to his service.

João Gabriel Pontes, a constitutional lawyer affiliated with the State University of Rio de Janeiro, said the Brazilian right’s calls for free speech ideas are fallacious. Many of those banned by the court were accused of promoting misinformation, he said, and Brazilians don’t believe people should be able to say whatever they want online.

“Not the average person gets their posts deleted,” Pontes said. “These are the businessmen and public figures – powerful people linked to the Bolsonaro family and a network that is intentionally trying to discredit our electoral process.”

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