U.S. Brazil envoy nominee sees 'free and fair election' despite Bolsonaro allegations

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Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro waves before a Flag Day ceremony at the Planalto Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

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WASHINGTON, May 18 (Reuters) - Brazil's democracy can support "free and fair elections" in October despite Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's statements against the country's electoral body, said Elizabeth Bagley, U.S. President Joe Biden's nominee to be ambassador in Brasilia, on Wednesday.

Speaking at her Senate confirmation hearing, Bagley said Brazil is a strong democracy.

"They have a democratic electoral system, they have an independent judiciary and legislature, they have freedom of speech. They have all the democratic institutions that they need in order to have a free and fair election," she said.

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The comments came after Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Representative Bob Menendez asked the diplomat what steps would she take to ensure support for the integrity of Brazil's upcoming elections in October.

Bolsonaro has repeatedly alleged that Brazil's voting system and its machines are liable to fraud, without providing any evidence, even as he was elected in 2018 with the same electronic machines introduced 26 years ago.

Bagley, who has had a career in diplomacy, added that she has been monitoring electoral processes for 30 years and emphasized the country's democratic institutions are working.

"I know it's not going to be an easy time, because a lot of his comments," she said referring to Bolsonaro's allegations.

"What we will continue to do is to show our confidence and our expectation that they will have a free and fair election," she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Relations between the two largest democracies in the Americas have chilled since Biden took office as president. Bolsonaro, an admirer of former President Donald Trump, was slow to acknowledge Biden's election.

Also on Wednesday, a group of lawyers and legal experts petitioned the United Nations to visit Brazil and report the current attacks on the Supreme Court and the Superior Electoral Court that oversees elections, saying the electoral body and courts face an unprecedented campaign of distrust. read more

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Reporting by Ricardo Brito and Carolina Pulice; Editing by Aurora Ellis

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