Christopher Johnson said the US government could not predict when it would recognize the election results, but said the ‘will of the people’ had to be respected.
Just a week before the first round of the Brazilian election, Christopher Johnson, the Portuguese-speaking spokesman for the US State Department, said in an interview with BBC News Brasil that the US government trusts the Brazilian electoral system. “We do, yes,” said the diplomat.
Johnson’s statement came after president and re-election candidate Jair Bolsonaro (PL) questioned the safety and smoothness of the Brazilian electoral system.
Throughout most of his tenure and election race, Bolsonaro expressed doubts that the electronic voting machine would not be fraud-proof without presenting evidence.
Johnson, who has served as a diplomat in Brazil, Paraguay and Haiti, said he did not yet know when the US government would announce its recognition of the results of the Brazilian elections, but said his country’s stance was “the will”. “The Brazilian people are respected,” he said.
On the international stage, Johnson says Brazil is a “good candidate” for a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UN).
Currently, there are only five permanent members on the board (US, UK, France, China, and Russia) and 10 other non-permanent members serving on a rotating basis, including Brazil.
But this week, US President Joe Biden said at the UN General Assembly that he favors increasing the number of permanent and non-permanent council seats, a historic agenda for Brazilian diplomacy.
Johnson also spoke about the conflict in Ukraine and Brazil’s position on Russia, which this week announced the mobilization of 300,000 troops and did not exclude the use of nuclear weapons.
Check out key excerpts from the interview:
BBC News Brasil – Brazilian officials, including President Jair Bolsonaro, met frequently with Russian officials, including after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This week, Brazilian Prime Minister Carlos Franca and Russian Chancellor Serguei Lavrov met again. What signals do these encounters give in a context where Russia is threatening to escalate the conflict?
Christopher Johnson – Our priority is to reach the point of ending the conflict in Ukraine. They have partners who are more in line with our stance, but we are engaging in dialogue to find ways to achieve this goal. We don’t always agree on which tools to use, but I think what we all have in common is the sovereignty and independence of each country.
As our UN representative (Linda Thomas-Greenfield) said, the United States does not intend to dominate other countries. We understand that sometimes we will not agree 100%, but there are other challenges we intend to face together and we will continue to persuade other partners and help us achieve peace in Ukraine.
BBC News Brazil – You said there are more compliant countries and less compliant countries. Which group is Brazil in?
Christopher Johnson – There are other countries that do not hold such meetings, right? Brazil’s sanctions etc. I think I need to research what their attitudes are on the issues. I can say that European leaders are more in tune with us.
BBC News Brazil – Recently, Brazil did not vote on the participation of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the UN General Assembly. How does the US evaluate Brazil’s abstention at such a critical moment?
Christopher Johnson – As I said, it would be important to respect the independence and sovereignty of all countries. We prefer that the majority of states agree. […] But all countries have the right to abstain and we will continue to look at options to continue working together.
BBC News Brazil – Brazil has refrained from taking a stand against Russia since Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014. More recently, Brazil has opposed the imposition of sanctions after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Considering President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of a mobilization of 300,000 troops, do you think Brazil is wrong?
Christopher Johnson – I think it will be a position where the Brazilian people will decide. President Bolsonaro was elected by the Brazilian people. We will continue to engage with our partners in Brazil to see how we work on this and other issues.
BBC News Brazil – Both Russia and China are making moves to expand their influence in Latin America, long seen as a sphere of influence for the US. What would cause the US to neglect the region?
Christopher Johnson – The US has always been open to working with partners in the region. We have a common culture and stories. In my case, I am descended from immigrants from the region and these ties are very strong. Regarding the impact of other countries in the region, we aim to inform our partners about the costs of engaging with other countries.
We’ve seen that sometimes countries that make deals with China realize that the cost is higher than they think. But as our Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said, it is not for us to say with whom these countries will partner.
BBC News Brazil – On the one hand, Russia and China are making this move, on the other hand, there are countries in the region that are open to the arrival of these countries. If values are shared, why would they be so open to this approach?
Christopher Johnson – It would be difficult for me to talk about what motives these countries would have. But I can talk about us. Our relations with China continue. Even if there are problems in our relations, it is an important trading partner of the USA. So I think there is a calculation from other countries as well.
BBC News Brazil – Is it possible for the US to regain this leadership position in the region, for example, in a context where China is already the largest trading partner of some countries in the region?
Christopher Johnson – I think so too. The United States remains the leader, but we also have a clearer vision of leadership. As President Joe Biden said in his speech, we are open to reforming the Security Council, the permanent and non-permanent seats, especially to integrate more members from the region.
BBC News Brazil – President Biden said that this reform (UN Security Council) is in his favour, and it is a historic agenda for Brazil. Today, will Brazil, as a permanent member, have the support of the United States to become part of the UN Security Council?
Christopher Johnson – It is clear to us that Brazil would be a good candidate. I think there will be a dialogue process to select the participating countries (as permanent members of the council), but obviously we will be open to Brazil’s candidacy.
BBC News Brasil – Will Brazil get US support to become part of the council permanently?
Christopher Johnson – To respect the diplomatic process, I do not want to specify yet which countries will become members of this council. But like I said, Brazil would be a good candidate. I think the virtues are there.
BBC News Brasil – In a little over a week there will be elections. The current Brazilian president questions the security of electronic voting machines and the electoral system. Does the US trust the Brazilian electoral system?
Christopher Johnson – Democratic institutions are important to the people of North America and the people of Brazil. We will continue to work together to strengthen these institutions and we are mindful of this selection process in Brazil.
BBC News Brazil – Do you trust the Brazilian electoral system or not?
Christopher Johnson – We trust yes.
BBC News Brazil – There is a movement for Western powers to recognize election results as soon as the Supreme Electoral Court releases the numbers. This would be a kind of contention maneuver of results. When will the US recognize the result of the Brazilian elections? Will it be right after TSE’s announcement?
Christopher Johnson – As with any election process in the world, the most important thing is the voice of the people. Therefore, we will pay attention to these results. I cannot predict what the (US government’s) stance will be because the most important thing is what the Brazilian people decide. Therefore, I cannot say what our stance will be as we do not have the details. But what we want is to respect the will of the Brazilian people and the Brazilian people.
BBC News Brazil – Former President Lula has hinted that Zelensky would be as guilty of the war in Ukraine as Putin. What kind of relationship do you expect with a final PT government regarding this Russian issue?
Christopher Johnson – Therefore, I do not find it appropriate to talk about a government and a candidate before the elections. We are currently continuing to engage in dialogue with several members of the Brazilian circle. So, of course, we continue the dialogue with President Bolsonaro, other political parties and Brazilian civil society. But I cannot speak of a government that does not exist.
– This text was originally published https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/brasil-62975715
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