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Exiled Bolsonaro lives it up in Florida as legal woes grow back home | Jair Bolsonaro

Among the most popular traditions at Disney World Florida are daily character appearances that allow the public to get up close to the theme parks’ star attractions.

Just a few miles down the road, under the palm trees of the lushly landscaped Encore resort in Réunion, Brazil’s former president-in-exile seems to have embraced the tradition.

From the rented villa where he has been holed up for a month, Jair Bolsonaro regularly comes out to mingle and take pictures with adoring fans who come to pay their respects, many of whom are vacationers from his own country.

Now, after 30 days as a temporary visitor to the US, after his tearful farewell to Brazil two days before the inauguration of Luiz Inácio’s leftist successor Lula da Silva, Bolsonaro has decided he likes Florida so much that he wants to stay longer.

Apparently fearful that he could be arrested if he returned to Brasilia as investigations into the attack by his supporters on the country’s democratic institutions on January 8 continue, Bolsonaro has applied to US authorities for a six-month visitor visa.

“He would like to take a vacation, clear his head and enjoy a vacation in the United States for a few months before deciding what his next move will be,” said his immigration lawyer, Felipe Alexandre.

The implications of this move are potentially significant for both countries. In the US, Bolsonaro’s bid poses a difficult dilemma for the Biden administration, which is already under pressure from Democrats who wrote a January 12 letter urging the president to revoke his diplomatic visa.

It also disappointed some of Bolsonaro’s legions of supporters at home and in Florida (home to about 130,000 Brazilians, according to the US Census Bureau).

Many hoped that the events of January 8 would herald Bolsonaro’s triumphant return to Brazil. Instead, apparently mindful of the need not to upset his U.S. masters, he denounced violence and “looting and breaking into public buildings” by his supporters. Some analysts believe the uprising bolstered Lula’s position, but most of Bolsonarist’s supporters remain staunchly loyal to their ex-leader, and his discredited claim that his electoral defeat by Lula was a scam.

“Lula is a criminal, a pest,” said Maria Fatima Cordoza, 71, a Brazilian expat who made the eight-hour drive with her American husband from their South Carolina home in Kissimmee for an emotional encounter with the man she calls “eternal president.” . “.

Cordoza said she was among those who wanted Bolsonaro to return home and “take back” the country, which she said was plundered by Lula and the “communists” in its supreme court.

“They stole everything, not just the elections,” she said, joining about 25 other people on the sidewalk as the ex-president stepped out of his villa to sign autographs and pose for pictures.

“The judiciary is corrupt. Only Bolsonaro can save Brazil from these criminals.”

Attempts to ask the notoriously irascible Bolsonaro about his status were thwarted by a security guard who quickly stepped in to stop the reporter’s questions and ensure that exchanges with his supporters were limited to pleasantries.

Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro speaks to supporters outside his rented villa at the Encore Resort at Reunion in Kissimmee.  Florida.
Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro speaks to supporters outside his rented villa at the Encore Resort at Reunion in Kissimmee. Florida. Photograph: Richard Luscombe

But experts in Florida say Bolsonaro is in an undesirable and somewhat awkward position, risking appearing increasingly weak to supporters by not participating in events at home, while at the same time having to refrain from his trademark fiery rhetoric and bombast. .

“He knows that he needs the goodwill of the Biden administration right now, and he better not be doing agitprop, otherwise the Democrats in Congress – there are more of them – will start saying: “Well, why do we need this guy here?” he said. Anthony Pereira, professor of international relations at the Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center at Florida International University and founder of the Institute of Brazilian Studies at King’s College London.

“I don’t know all the calculations on the part of the US government, but one would think that they would wait until the Brazilians demanded extradition. If the US somehow denied his request for six months, or expelled him without any information from the Brazilian side, they might appear somewhat biased.

“He has always managed to create a fairly decentralized, dispersed movement in which a lot of other people speak, and he can be content that he continues to do this … [rightwing blogger] Allan dos Santos or his sons Eduardo and Carlos can do the hardest things, and he can stay out of it.”

Sandra Camara, manager of the Pão Gostoso bakery at the Brazilian mall on the Orlando International Route, says the former leader’s Florida residence is just about the only topic of discussion.

“It’s 99% of it and only 1% of it is football now,” she said. “Everyone here loves Bolsonaro.”

At Camila’s restaurant in the same mall, Brazilian vacationers Vinicius and Mario De Souza believe that Lula’s supporters “sabotaged” the January 8 protests to make Bolsonaro look bad and that the former president would be in danger if he returned. “Without a doubt, Lula would have sent him to prison,” said Mario de Souza.

Meanwhile, in Brazil, Bolsonaro is facing a number of criminal investigations, including an investigation into his alleged role in the Brasília uprising. The Supreme Court launched five parallel event investigations to investigate financial backers and intellectual authors, as well as rioters, while prosecutors indicted almost 500 individuals involved in the robberies.

Political commentator Kennedy Alencar said that Bolsonaro’s attempt to stay abroad amounted to an admission of guilt.

“He is one of the instigators, one of the main instigators of the January 8 coup attempt, there is not the slightest doubt about that. He gave instructions, encouraged and knew that he could be responsible for this, ”said Alencar. told news site UOL.

In addition to the investigations against the former president, Supreme Court Justice Luis Roberto Barroso on Monday authorized an investigation into whether Bolsonaro’s government committed crimes, including genocide, against the Yanomami indigenous people, who are currently facing a humanitarian crisis.

The news that Bolsonaro is trying to extend his stay in the US was met with derision. He really runs away, doesn’t he? tweeted Rogerio Correia, MP for the ruling Workers’ Party.

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