Executive Calendar

Floor Speech

Date: Sept. 21, 2022
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. SANDERS. Mr. President, I rise today to say a few words about the state of democracy, both in terms of the upcoming election in Brazil as well as here in the United States.

It is no great secret that, today, democracies around the world are under great threat from rightwing extremism. That obviously includes our own, as we all saw tragically on January 6, 2021, when there was an attack on this very building by those seeking to overturn our Presidential election.

One of the countries where democracy is now under threat is Brazil, the largest nation in Latin America and one of the largest democratic countries in the world. On October 2, less than 2 weeks from now, Brazil will hold its Presidential election. According to many polls, it appears that the two major candidates in that election are President Jair Bolsonaro and former President Lula da Silva. If no candidate in that election receives over 50 percent of the vote, there will be a runoff election between the top two candidates on October 30.

Mr. President, over the past many months, Brazilians from all sectors of society have publicly expressed serious concerns about ongoing efforts in that country to undermine democracy, including close to 1 million Brazilians who signed an open letter released on July 26, 2022, defending the democratic institutions of Brazil and the rule of law.

And there is, in fact, a very good reason as to why the people in Brazil are concerned about their democracy, and that is that the current President and candidate for reelection, Jair Bolsonaro, has made some very provocative statements which suggest that he might not accept the election results if he loses. In other words, Bolsonaro might attempt to destroy Brazilian democracy and remain in power no matter what the people of Brazil determine in a free and democratic election.

Here are just a few examples of what Mr. Bolsonaro has said over the years.

Back in September 2018, before he won his election, Bolsonaro stated:

I will not accept an election result that is not my own victory.

On September 7, 2021, as reported by the Financial Times, Bolsonaro stated:

There are those who think they can take me from the presidency with the mark of a pen. Well, I say to everyone I have only three possible fates: Arrest, death or victory. And tell the bastards I'll never be arrested. Only God can take me from the presidency.

According to Human Rights Watch, previously, President Bolsonaro had claimed, without providing any evidence, that the last two Presidential elections were fraudulent, including his own election, in which he claimed he got more votes than the final tally showed.

But it is not just Bolsonaro's words that should be of concern to those of us who still believe in democracy. According to a recent survey by the Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is experiencing a 335-percent increase in violence directed against political leaders in 2022 relative to 2019.

Mr. President, it is obviously not the business of the United States to determine who the next President of Brazil is or to get involved in Brazil's Presidential elections in any way. That is a decision to be made solely by the people of Brazil through a fair and free election. But it is the business of the United States to make clear to the people of Brazil that our government will not recognize or support a government that comes to power through a military coup or the undermining of a democratic election. That is our business.

In that regard, Mr. President, I ask my colleagues to support a resolution that I have introduced with Senator Kaine, S. Res. 753. And Senator Kaine, of course, is the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, and that is also cosponsored by Senators Leahy, Merkley, Blumenthal, and Warren.

This resolution is very simple and straightforward. It does not take sides in Brazil's election, obviously, and that would be unacceptable. But what it does do is express the sense of the U.S. Senate that the U.S. Government will make it unequivocally clear that the continuing relationship of the United States and Brazil depends upon the commitment of the government of Brazil to democracy and human rights.

This resolution urges the Biden administration to make clear that the United States will not support any government that comes to power in Brazil through undemocratic means and to ensure U.S. security assistance to Brazil remains compliant with our laws related to the peaceful and democratic transition of power--in other words, no military aid to a military coup in Brazil.

This does not seem to be a complicated or, in my view, controversial piece of legislation. Yet--and I say this with a great deal of sadness, and maybe it tells us the state of democracy in the United States--we have not been able to get one single Republican to cosponsor this very simple, straightforward resolution.

Why is that? And the answer is, I would love for my Republican colleagues to explain to me why they cannot support and add their names to a resolution that simply supports Brazil's democracy and the peaceful transfer of power. Obviously, it would be most effective if this resolution had bipartisan support, and I hope that it will.

Mr. President, in my view, it is imperative that the U.S. Senate make it clear through this resolution that we support democracy in Brazil. It would be unacceptable to the United States to recognize a government that came to power undemocratically; and, if we did that, it would send a horrific message to the entire world. So it is important for the people of Brazil to know that we are on their side.

We are on the side of democracy, and that is what this resolution is about. I ask my colleagues, in a bipartisan way, to support it.

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