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Supporters of Brazil's far-right president say he was the the subject of fraud

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

After a bruising presidential runoff in Brazil, some supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro are still making claims on social media that the election was stolen, and Brazil's electoral authorities are trying to clamp down on disinformation. NPR's Carrie Kahn reports.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: This week, Brazilians had a day off to celebrate National Republic Day. Most hit the beach.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting in Portuguese).

KAHN: But some die-hard supporters of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, donning fatigues, marched in front of Rio de Janeiro's downtown Army headquarters, calling for the military to save the nation.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Chanting in Portuguese).

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting in Portuguese).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Chanting in Portuguese).

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting in Portuguese).

KAHN: They joined many who've been camping out here since October 30, when Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was declared the winner of the presidential runoff. The former president and leftist won by less than two percentage points.

ERMELINDA GONCALVES: (Speaking Portuguese).

KAHN: With the Brazilian flag draped over her shoulders, 63-year-old Ermelinda Goncalves says she came out to defend her country. "The election was stolen," she insists. "But people won't hear about that," she says, "because everyone is being censored in Brazil."

GONCALVES: (Speaking Portuguese).

KAHN: "By one man - Minister Alexandre de Moraes. He's a dictator, a miserable man," she says. De Moraes is Brazil's top election official. Before the election, as the country faced an unprecedented onslaught of online disinformation, he was granted new special authorities to order disinformation and fake news off the internet.

CONRADO HUBNER: The court was under the highest degree of pressure and threats in its history, or at least in the last 40 years or so.

KAHN: Conrado Hubner, a constitutional law professor at the University of Sao Paulo, says the electoral court had to get creative to control the amount of hate speech circulating in Brazil. Those powers now extend through to inauguration day, January 1, with the electoral court removing social media posts referring to unfounded conspiracies about voter fraud.

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BRUNO AIUB: (Speaking Portuguese).

KAHN: This is one of Brazil's most popular podcasters, Bruno Aiub, better known as Monark, on Rumble, complaining about censorship. Last week, he had his YouTube channel, with nearly 4 million subscribers, deactivated. Along with Monark, two other Congress members with millions of followers were kicked off platforms for encouraging election deniers. Allie Funk is a researcher at Freedom House, a U.S. non-governmental group promoting free speech. She says governments around the world are grappling with how to fight disinformation while preserving free speech.

ALLIE FUNK: Democracy always works best when you have more people in the decision-making process. A diversity of views is essential for functioning democracy.

KAHN: For now, Brazil's top election official, Alexandre de Moraes, isn't backing down. He says he did what he had to do to save democracy.

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ALEXANDRE DE MORAES: (Speaking Portuguese).

KAHN: Speaking to a group of Brazilian business leaders in New York this week, he says democracy was attacked and disrespected, but it survived. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Rio de Janeiro.

(SOUNDBITE OF ERIC TUCKER SONG, "FWM FT. FRE$H") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Kahn
Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.