Bolsonaro directly spread disinformation on Brazil's voting system, police report says

Presidential guard change ceremony at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro looks on during the change of presidential guard ceremony, at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil December 16, 2021. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

BRASILIA, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro had a "direct and relevant" role in spreading disinformation about the country's electoral process during live streams on social media, a federal police document reviewed by Reuters on Friday said.

Federal police commissioner Denisse Ribeiro wrote in the document that Bolsonaro's streams had a "clear purpose" of misguiding Brazilians in regards to the integrity of the country's elections.

Bolsonaro said multiple times that the electronic voting system was rigged during the 2018 presidential election, which he won. He claims he should have been elected in the first round of voting, but never presented any evidence of fraud.

He has also cast doubt on the integrity of next year's elections, implying he might not accept the results if the electronic system is not changed to one that includes printed receipts that can be recounted. Bolsonaro currently trails former leftist president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in opinion polls.

Brazil's president office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ribeiro noted in her report that the far-right leader questioned actions of a series of public workers involved in the electoral process, while also promoting misinformation backed by his conservative supporters.

"This investigation allowed us to identify that His Excellency President Jair Messias Bolsonaro had a direct and relevant action in promoting disinformation, following a pattern already used by other countries' governments," she said.

The report was sent to Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes, who leads a fake news-related inquiry.

The federal police investigation was prompted by a video broadcast by Bolsonaro in August, in which he raised a number of questions about the safety of the electronic voting system used in Brazil since 1996.

Reporting by Ricardo Brito in Brasilia; Additional reporting by Eduardo Simoes in Sao Paulo; Writing by Gabriel Araujo Editing by Alistair Bell

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