Reviews | Will Bolsonaro stage a coup? Bernie Sanders warns of the worst.


Earlier this summer, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) met with civil society leaders in Brazil who warned that President Jair Bolsonaro may not accept defeat in elections scheduled for October. This was widely discussed in the international media, and Sanders came out of the meeting convinced that it was not just chatter: the threat of a Bolsonaro coup is real.

These fears prompted Sanders and his team to write a resolution who would seek to forestall such an eventuality. This would express the Senate’s view that if Bolsonaro loses and refuses to step down, the United States will view it as an unacceptable outcome.

The resolution – which we have seen in draft form – declares that the United States will immediately recognize an election result that international observers deem free and fair. And he warns that the United States will reassess its relationship with any government that seizes power by undemocratic means, including a military coup. He says it could jeopardize future US aid.

“It is absolutely imperative that the US Senate make it clear through a resolution that we support democracy in Brazil,” Sanders told us in an interview. “We look forward to free and fair elections.”

Such a vote in the Senate, Sanders said, will make it clear that in the event of an undemocratic outcome in Brazil, the United States “will not support military aid” and “we will not recognize an illegitimate government.”

Sanders’ office confirms that the resolution is supported by some prominent foreign policy-focused Senate Democrats, such as Tim Kaine (Va.), Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.) and Jeff Merkley (Oregon). And Sanders is working to muster additional support in hopes of holding the vote in early September, well before Brazil’s October elections.

There are reasons to believe that Brazil could be facing a crisis. The polls have show challenger Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva first Bolsonaro by considerable margins, and while Bolsonaro denies coup plans, he has relentlessly offensive the country’s electoral system as vulnerable to manipulation.

Bolsonaro also flirted with arguments that the military should play a greater role in administering elections. “If necessary, we will go to war” for the election, he said.

Earlier this year, Bolsonaro travel in Russia to meet Vladimir Putin, then went to Hungary and met its Prime Minister, Viktor Orban. The visits highlight Bolsonaro’s role in an emerging transnational alliance of right-wing authoritarians, strongmen who get elected and then rig their country’s political system to stay in power with an approach sometimes called “competitive authoritarianism.”

Sanders sees this type of evolving right-wing authoritarian international as one of the reasons the Senate should forcefully voice the US insistence on a free and fair election.

“What we’re seeing all over the world are massive attacks and rollbacks of democracy,” Sanders told us, citing Russia, China, Hungary and “the growth of right-wing movements across the country.” ‘Europe, where people are abandoning democracy and moving towards authoritarianism’. .”

“We have groups that have done this right here in the United States,” Sanders said.

All this raises complications. Sanders told us he hopes to convince as many senators from both parties as possible to support the resolution: “I am seeking the support of 100 members of the United States Senate.”

But considering Donald Trump Alliance with Bolsonaro, it’s an open question how many Republicans will join. And Republicans might balk at a resolution that dares to suggest that a Trump ally is anti-democracy (which would be even more perverse at a time when they are shielding Trump from accountability for his efforts to destroy our own democracy).

Still, Sanders suggested Republicans might see wisdom in joining such a resolution. “I hope my fellow Republicans understand that…we must use our abilities as a world leader to move other countries forward in a democratic way.”

Which raises another interesting nuance: such talk of exporting democracy is often associated with the projection of US military power around the world. But Sanders appears to intend to do so as a positive, non-military way. how US power can wield pro-democracy influence abroad, consistent with its calls for a progressive internationalist movement that defends liberal democracy everywhere as the answer to global authoritarianism and the problems of the future.

Such an effort, Sanders argued, will not be enough without tremendous efforts at home and abroad to “strengthen democracy by making governments more accountable to the needs of working people.”

But for now, Sanders said, it’s essential to draw a line against autocracy and authoritarianism where they pose immediate threats: “The United States should make it clear that we support the democratic process in Brazil and in countries all over the world”.

About Timothy Ball

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