A Brazilian military request to buy Javelin anti-tank missiles for up to $100 million has been stalled in Washington for months over concerns from US lawmakers about far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, including his attacks on Brazil’s electoral system, multiple sources said. Americans to Reuters.
Brazil’s offer to acquire some 220 Javelin missiles was originally made when former President Donald Trump, a Bolsonaro ally, was in the White House. The State Department gave its blessing to the proposal late last year, despite objections from some lower-ranking US officials, according to two people familiar with the matter.
But the previously unreported confidential deal was left in procedural limbo amid mounting concerns from Democratic lawmakers over Bolsonaro’s remarks about the vulnerability of the electoral system ahead of Brazil’s Oct. 2 vote. sources said.
Brazil’s request for the US state-of-the-art missiles, which have gained fame for their effective use by Ukrainian forces against Russian armored vehicles, has been delayed by a Democrat-led effort to send a message to Bolsonaro and his military.
“He’s holding up on Capitol Hill and he’s not going anywhere anytime soon” due to misgivings about Bolsonaro, said a source who has followed the proposed deal.
The delay underscores the impact that Bolsonaro’s anti-democratic rhetoric is having in Latin America’s largest country. It also hints that Brazil could become more isolated internationally if Bolsonaro follows Trump’s lead and refuses to accept an electoral defeat to former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
The government of President Joe Biden, marked by the storming of the Capitol by Trump supporters on January 6, 2021, has been increasingly concerned about Bolsonaro’s authoritarian comments, sending delegations to Brasilia to ask for caution.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin brought a message of respect for democracy to Brazil at a meeting of defense ministers from the region in July. That followed a visit last year by CIA Director William Burns, in which he told Bolsonaro aides that he should stop undermining confidence in the country’s electoral process.
Bolsonaro, who trails Lula in the polls, has ignored them. Instead, he has continued to question the credibility of Brazil’s electronic voting system and has claimed that there was fraud in the last election without providing evidence.
Brazil doesn’t need them
The possible post-election role of Brazil’s armed forces, which led a military dictatorship for two decades after a 1964 coup, is an open question. Bolsonaro has called for the Armed Forces, the largest in Latin America, to conduct their own parallel vote count, saying “the army is on our side.”
Washington is also concerned about the rollback of environmental protection under Bolsonaro, as well as his friendly relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he has refused to criticize for the invasion of Ukraine.
Manufactured by defense giants Lockheed Martin Corp and Raytheon Technologies Corp, the Javelin has become one of the world’s best-known weapons due to its success against Russian tanks in the war in Ukraine.
Brazil does not face similar threats, leading to the question why it would need such firepower, the sources said. Brazil’s military is primarily focused on securing its borders, among the longest in the world, and on international peacekeeping missions.
“Brazil doesn’t need them,” said a former congressional adviser who worked on weapons issues.
Another source said the State Department’s support for the sale showed it wanted to satisfy Brazil’s weapons wish list to help nurture relations with one of Washington’s most important military allies in the region.
Bolsonaro’s office directed requests for comment to the Defense Ministry, which did not respond to a list of questions.
The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.