The auction for global telecommunications companies to bid on building Brazil’s 5G Internet will allow Huawei, a Chinese company with close ties to the communist regime, to bid despite global national security concerns, the New York Times noted Monday. Allowing Huawei to participate may come as a snub to President Joe Biden after anti-Bolsonaro remarks during the 2020 election cycle.
Speaking to the nation’s Communications Minister Fábio Faria, the newspaper confirmed the minister traveled to Beijing in February and met with Huawei executives. In the process of discussing issues related to Huawei’s business, Faria confirmed to the Times he had asked the Chinese company for help procuring Chinese-made coronavirus vaccines which Huawei does not produce. Faria insisted “no quid pro quo” occurred, though the newspaper described the timeframe in which both events happened as “striking.”
Faria told Brazilian media outlets last week, given national security concerns, Huawei did not meet the National Telecommunications Agency’s (Anatel) prerequisites for building the federal government a secure, private 5G network. The New York Times did not clarify if Huawei being allowed to participate in the auction meant Brasilia was overlooking this shortcoming or simply that Huawei was highly unlikely to win the bidding as it is coming into the contest with a clear disadvantage compared to companies not tied to the Chinese Communist Party.
Conservative President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration came to power in part on campaign promises to curb national security risks to the country stemming from the Chinese Communist Party. Prior to Bolsonaro, subsequent socialist administrations had deeply-entrenched Chinese interests in the Brazilian economy and China remains Brazil’s largest trading partner.
As president, however, Bolsonaro has embraced Chinese business profits, traveling to Beijing in 2019 and signing eight bilateral agreements with the Communist Party – while at the same time employing fiery anti-communist rhetoric towards China-allied regimes in Latin America. Bolsonaro recently claimed he would personally block the importing of Chinese-made coronavirus vaccines claiming Brazilians did not deserve to be “guinea pigs,” but ultimately relented and thanked the Communist Party for shipments of its questionably-effective vaccine candidates.
Brazil has one of the largest rates of Chinese coronavirus infections in the world, documenting over 11 million cases as of Tuesday since the pandemic began. Brazil is second only to America in the number of documented coronavirus cases, not taking into consideration extensive evidence rogue regimes such as China, Russia, Iran, and Venezuela have significantly undercounted coronavirus cases and deaths.
The New York Times, citing a Brazilian political expert, noted another potential reason the Bolsonaro administration may have opened bidding to Huawei: President Joe Biden’s bizarre attacks against the country while he was a presidential candidate, particularly a threat to destroy the Brazilian economy issued during a debate against his predecessor Donald Trump.
“The election of President Biden, who has harshly criticized Brazil’s environmental record, made the Brazilian government unenthusiastic about being in lock step with Washington,” the New York Times reported citing political risk consultant Thiago de Aragão.
De Aragão appeared to be referencing Biden’s comments during a debate with Trump in September in which he threatened the unilateral destruction of Brazil’s economy in response to a question on climate change policy. The debate featured no foreign policy questions and the moderator had not mentioned Brazil.
“Brazil, the rainforests of Brazil are being torn down, are being ripped down. More carbon is absorbed in that rainforest than every bit of carbon that’s emitted in the United States,” Biden asserted abruptly. “Instead of doing something about that, I would be gathering up and making sure we had the countries of the world coming up with $20 billion, and say, ‘Here’s $20 billion. Stop, stop tearing down the forest. And if you don’t, then you’re going to have significant economic consequences.'”
Biden appeared to be referencing a global left-wing campaign blaming Bolsonaro for allegedly out-of-control fires in the Amazon Rainforest propelled in part by a false post from French President Emmanuel Macron on Twitter using a photo from at least 2003. Bolsonaro has been president of Brazil since 2018.
Bolsonaro replied to Biden in a letter referring to him as a “coward” and saying his threats were “unnecessary” and “difficult to understand.” Bolsonaro subsequently threatened to declare war on the United States, asserting that, in light of Biden’s comments, “diplomacy alone is not enough.”
Upon his inauguration, Bolsonaro congratulated Biden and urged him to negotiate a free trade agreement with Brazil.
Brazil is planning to build one of the world’s largest 5G networks, making its bidding process among the most lucrative. Anatel, the telecommunications agency, announced the official rules for bidding in February. The auction is scheduled to begin in July and the winner will have to guarantee a functional 5G system in Brazil’s largest cities by July 31, 2022. The winner must guarantee they can also build 4G networks in every Brazilian municipality with over 600 people, 48,000 kilometers (about 30,000 miles) of high-speed internet wiring, and a private 5G communications network for federal government use only. The latter is the prerequisite Faria recently insisted Huawei could not meet, though none of the rules for bidding explicitly exclude Huawei – the overture the New York Times linked to the vaccine deals.
“Today, Huawei is not apt to participate in [the building of] the government’s private network,” Faria said on March 9, leaving the door open for Huawei to modify itself by the time bidding starts. “There are already several countries making private networks and Huawei has not entered any nation until now.”