In August of last year, the then president of TSE (Superior Electoral Court), minister Luis Roberto Barrosoinvited the Armed forces to participate in the Transparency Commission created at the Court after the president Jair Bolsonaro (PL), candidate for reelection and runner-up in the polls, make a series of baseless attacks on electronic voting machines. On the occasion, Bolsonaro even praised the initiative saying that, “with the Armed Forces participating, you have no reason to doubt electronic voting”.
Initially, Barroso had invited a Navy admiral specializing in information technology to compose the commission. But the Ministry of Defense, to which the Forces are subordinated, indicated a name of their own: that of the Major General Heber Garcia Portella. Head of the Army’s Cyber Defense Command (ComDCiber) since March 22, 2021, Portella was responsible for sending, at the beginning of the year, a series of questions to the TSE’s technical area about the security of electronic voting machines. The episode is at the origin of the recent clash between the Ministry of Defense and Minister Barroso, who said at an international event that the Armed Forces seem to be being “oriented” to attack the electoral process. In response, the Defense Minister, Paulo Sergio Nogueira de Oliveiraclassified the speech as a “serious offense” to the institution.
Before assuming the Cyber Defense Command and joining the TSE Transparency Commission, Portella was in charge of the Northeast Military Command, based in Recife (PE). He has also held the position of commander of the 28th Light Infantry Battalion in Campinas, in the interior of São Paulo. In the past, he was an instructor at the Agulhas Negras Military Academy and the Chilean Army War Academy.
The questions about the ballot boxes made to the TSE by the representative of the Armed Forces were initially seen as commonplace. What worried was when Bolsonaro, during a live, said that the Army had identified “dozens of vulnerabilities” in the polls. This information, in addition to being inaccurate, was restricted to members of the Transparency Commission, and its disclosure in a live was considered inappropriate by people connected to the group.
Since then, Bolsonaro supporters have been disseminating messages in Telegram groups about the alleged weaknesses found by the military in the TSE systems, which indicates that this will be one of the trenches in the war of narratives about this year’s electoral process. One of the messages circulating in the Bolsonarista groups says that the TSE tried to use the military to legitimize the elections, but “it ended up in a dead end, because, like it or not, it has to accept the FFAA’s (Armed Forces) questions”.
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