Feb 1, 2023
Bolsonaro Resurfaces in Orlando to Say He Won’t Leave Politics
(Bloomberg) -- Brazil’s former President Jair Bolsonaro has reemerged from a self-imposed exile in Florida to tell supporters he’s not done.
At a Tuesday night event in Orlando filled with prayers and patriotic symbols, he urged a captive audience to keep tuning into him with an eye to the country’s own midterm elections in two years’s time.
It was Bolsonaro’s first public gathering since leaving Brazil and it made clear his intention to keep stoking the political fires. He came to the US on a diplomatic passport after losing to his bitter rival Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and now is overstaying his welcome by applying for a tourist’s visa.
“I am 67 years old and I intend to remain active in the Brazilian politics,” he said, dodging a question on the country’s next presidential race in 2026.
Back home, Bolsonaro faces multiple investigations including on his alleged involvement in the Jan. 8 riots by supporters who refused to accept his loss in October’s election to Lula. In the US, authorities are not quite sure how to manage what has become a diplomatic headache for President Joe Biden.
During his speech, however, the former conservative president didn’t say when he will go home. “I’ve been here for 30 days and I intend to stay for a little longer.”
Read More: Bolsonaro Applies for Six-Month US Visa, Reviving Biden Dilemma
Bolsonaro’s presence in the US, living just a few hours drive from the home of his close ally and former president Donald Trump, comes as Biden is getting ready to host Lula at the White House on Feb. 10.
The optics of both Bolsonaro and Lula in the country at the same time, along with the uncomfortable parallels with election deniers and attacks on democracy, pose a problem for the administration.
A return to Brazil would also be a delicate issue for Lula’s administration, which faces the prospect of turning Bolsonaro into a political martyr depending on how courts handle allegations against him.
It would be one thing if Bolsonaro were laying low but he has effectively committed a U-turn. He had indicated he would leave end of January. He hasn’t. He’s now signaled to his supporters that he’s far from a spent political force but doing so from afar.
For example, the former president is backing his ex-cabinet member Rogerio Marinho’s bid to lead the Senate in a key election Wednesday.
“I’m hopeful about the new congresspeople who will make opposition to Lula,” he told an audience who paid between $10 and $50 per ticket to hear him. Marinho is trying to defeat the current Senate’s head, Rodrigo Pacheco, who is running for reelection.
Read More: Bolsonaro Cheered by Florida Supporters Who Say ‘Don’t Go Home’
And all signs point to this just being the beginning of what is increasingly looking like rallies in all but name. He’s taking part in another gathering in Miami on Feb. 3, at one of Trump’s golf courses no less.
In this case, the event is organized by Turning Point USA, a Phoenix-based organization that describes itself as platform to “rise up against the radical left in defense of freedom, free markets, and limited government.”
--With assistance from Daniel Carvalho and Simone Iglesias.
(Updates with comments from Bolsonaro in sixth and eleventh paragraphs.)
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