Report: CIA Chief Told Bolsonaro Govt Not to ‘Mess’ With Brazil’s Election

Sources told Reuters CIA Director William Burns made the warning during a trip to Brazil last year

According to a report from Reuters, CIA Director William Burns warned Brazilian government officials last year that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro shouldn’t cast doubt on the country’s electoral system.

Brazil has used an electronic voting system since the 1990s that Bolsanaro has claimed could be subject to fraud. Sources told Reuters that Burns warned high-level Bolsanaro officials during a closed-door meeting in Brazil last July that the Brazilian president shouldn’t be making such comments.

“Burns was making it clear that elections were not an issue that they should mess with,” one source said. “It wasn’t a lecture, it was a conversation.”

Since the meeting, Bolsonaro hasn’t backed down from his claims. On Thursday, the Brazilian leader said that he will seek an audit of the electronic system.

While the CIA has a long history of trying to influence elections, the sources said it was unusual for a CIA director to deliver a political message as Burns did. But President Biden has apparently given Burns the power to be a “low-profile” mouthpiece for the White House.

Burns’ warning was reiterated by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who visited Brazil and met with Bolsonaro the following month, in August 2021. Reports at the time said Sullivan raised concerns about Bolsonaro’s claims about the electronic voting system, although the sources told Reuters that Burns’ warning was stronger.

Brazil’s presidential election will be held in October, and Bolsonaro is trailing behind leftist former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in polls. The US concern is that Bolsonaro’s election fraud allegations mean that he might not concede if he loses come October.

In a sign that the US has plans to further intervene in Brazil, the former US consul general in Brazil wrote an op-ed on Saturday calling for sanctions on the country if Bolsonaro “undermines” the election.

“The United States should make it crystal clear to President Bolsonaro that an attempt to interfere with the integrity of the Brazilian electoral process will be the object of … punitive sanctions on all involved, imposed simultaneously by a broad group of countries,” wrote Scott Hamilton, who recently retired from the State Department.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.