Milei’s campaign digital guru targeted in Brazil coup attempt probe

The Supreme Court said Fernando Cerimedo was one of the people responsible for spreading a false electoral fraud narrative

Fernando Cerimedo, chief digital strategist for Javier Milei’s presidential campaign, has been named as a co-conspirator by the Brazilian judiciary in its investigation into the 2023 attempted coup in that country.

Also included in the accusation were Lieutenant Colonel Mauro Cid, former policeman and right-wing politician Anderson Torres, Army majors Ângelo Martins Denicoli and Sérgio Cavaliere de Medeiros, and businessman Eder Balbino, among others.

Asked for comment by the Herald, Cerimedo rejected the accusations and denied having any involvement in the plot. “I have never spoken to Cid or any of the other individuals mentioned,” he said.

On January 8, 2023, following Jair Bolsonaro’s defeat in the 2022 presidential elections, a mob of his supporters attacked three federal government buildings in Brasilia, seeking to overthrow the newly elected Lula Da Silva. Bolsonaro himself has been targeted as part of the plot.

The protestors defended their actions by claiming that there had been electoral fraud, citing online fake news. According to a 135-page document signed by Supreme Court Justice Alexandre De Moraes the Herald had access to, Cerimedo was instrumental in the dissemination of false information. The text called him a member of a criminal organization.

Before advising Milei, Cerimedo worked for Bolsonaro’s campaign and became a visible face of the movement, with bolsonaristas affectionately calling him O argentino careca (Portuguese for the bald Argentine). It should be noted that Milei supporters also made unfounded claims of electoral fraud during Argentina’s presidential elections last year and had several marches against it.

The document cites an investigation by the Brazilian Federal Police into the attempted coup d’état. One element of the plot mentioned in the text was an operation they say aimed at spreading a narrative of fraud in the presidential elections, even before the election was held. Their end goal was to enable an intervention by the Armed Forces. 

The accusation against Cerimedo, who is one of the co-founders of the right-wing media outlet La Derecha Diario, is based on a livestream he hosted in November 2022 from Buenos Aires. During that broadcast, he stated that the newer and older electronic ballot boxes showed voting discrepancies, claiming that ballot boxes manufactured before 2020 allegedly favored Lula Da Silva.

Close to 400,000 people saw the stream before Brazil’s Electoral Court demanded it be taken down.

He also claimed that votes were cast past the official deadline and that the source code had inconsistencies, encouraging followers to remain in front of barracks and Armed Forces facilities.

Twenty days before the stream, Cerimedo met Eduardo Bolsonaro in Buenos Aires, although he denies both things being related.

He said that he got the information from the official website of Brazil’s Electoral Court, although he stated that the authorities have taken down the information. The court has since rejected that. Cerimedo also said that he did not know any of the people mentioned in the investigation and that the investigators did not have evidence to support their claims, calling them “outlandish.”

“I have not even been subpoenaed,” he said when asked if there was a possibility of being extradited. “Next week, I am going to file a legal presentation before the International Human Rights Commission […] to clear my name,” he said.

The Electoral Court, as well as experts and private organizations, have all rejected the possibility of fraud. Felipe Payão, computer security editor at the Tecmundo news outlet, told the Herald that the fraud claims were nothing more than a “political game.”

“[Brazil’s] electronic voting machines are safe,” Payão said. “On the other hand, they could still be safer and more transparent, but this discussion has been capitalized [by the far right] due to a childish political game.” 

In 2018, Payão wrote a report about a cyber attack launched against the Superior Electoral Court’s system responsible for the electronic ballot box. He said that the report was used by the bolsonaristas as proof of the lack of security, even though his text stated that the attack was nowhere close to leaving the system vulnerable to hackers.

“Currently, positioning yourself as someone who sees room for improvements regarding the transparency of electronic voting machines ends up being used by the far right,” he said.


All Right Reserved.  Buenos Aires Herald