Brazil’s former highway police director has been arrested in a probe into election interference

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Police arrested the former director of Brazil’s Federal Highway Police and conducted several raids Wednesday as part of an investigation into possible political interference in last year’s presidential elections, police said.

Brazil’s Federal Police said in a statement that officers had carried out ten search and seizure warrants and arrested one person, without giving the name. A federal police official in Brasilia, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, confirmed that the former highway police director, Silvinei Vasques, was arrested Wednesday morning in Santa Catarina state

Allegations surfaced after the Oct. 30 election that highway police had interfered in support of former right wing President Jair Bolsonaro in the tense final round of voting that pitted the incumbent against his leftist rival, now-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Some highway police were accused of blocking buses that were transporting voters as tens of millions of Brazilians were going to the polls. The roadblocks happened especially in Brazil’s northeast, a historical Lula stronghold, and in spite of a Superior Electoral Court order that highway police not carry out any such operations on election day.

On the eve of the vote, the former highway police director called for his followers to vote for Bolsonaro in a post on social media that he later took down.

Police said Wednesday that their investigation showed that highway police had directed “human and material resources” to hindering the transportation of voters under the guise of patrols in Brazil’s northeast. Some members of the highway police had begun conspiring on the plans in early October, the statement said.

The federal police conducted searches Wednesday in the states of Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul, Rio Grande do Norte and the capital city of Brasilia.

AP reporter Maurico Savarese contributed to this report from Sao Paulo.

Copyright © 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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