Bolsonaro wants to return to Brazil soon as US stay angers Biden

Joe Biden’s government is under mounting pressure from Latin American leftists and US politicians to bar Jair Bolsonaro from a post-presidency retreat in Florida following his supporters’ brazen attack on the Brazilian capital over the weekend.

But the far-right ex-president can forestall any plans for such a sharp rebuke.

On Tuesday, he told a Brazilian media outlet that he was postponing his return home, initially scheduled for late January, after being hospitalized with abdominal pain from a stabbing in 2018.

“I came to spend some time with my family, but these were not quiet days,” Mr Bolsonaro told CNN’s Portuguese-language affiliate in Brazil.

Almost two years to the day, when the US Capitol was attacked by fascists, we see fascist movements abroad attempting to do the same in Brazil. The US must stop granting sanctuary to Bolsonaro in FloridaAlexandria Ocasio Cortez

“First there was this sad episode in Brazil and then my hospitalization.”

Mr. Bolsonaro arrived in Florida in late December and skipped the Jan. 1 swearing-in of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who became the first Brazilian president-elect since democracy was restored in the 1980s not to receive a presidential sash from his predecessor.

Mr Bolsonaro is reportedly staying at the home of Brazilian mixed martial artist Jose Aldo, a fervent supporter, in the Orlando area.

His visit to the Sunshine State went largely unnoticed in the US until Sunday, when thousands of die-hard supporters who camped outside a military base in Brasilia for weeks and refused to accept Mr Bolsonaro’s narrow defeat in a runoff election in October were attacked.

Their invasion of Brazil’s Congress and Presidential Palace left shattered glass, smashed computers and shattered artwork.

Almost from the moment the images of destruction were broadcast to the world, Democrats voiced concern about Mr Bolsonaro’s continued presence on US soil and drew parallels between the shooting spree in Brazil and the uprising by Donald Trump’s allies dated January 6, 2020, which stormed the Capitol to attempt to overturn the results of the US Presidential election.

Among those urging President Joe Biden to give Mr Bolsonaro the boot was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

“Almost two years to the day, when the US Capitol was attacked by fascists, we see fascist movements abroad trying to do the same in Brazil,” said the New York politician.

“The US must stop giving sanctuary to Bolsonaro in Florida.”

It should be a no-brainer for the White House, experts say.

Mr. Biden has never had a close relationship with Mr. Bolsonaro, who was in league with Mr. Trump’s best far-right allies.

And any move to expel him should go down well in Latin America, where Mr. Biden is courting a host of new left leaders who have risen to power in places like Chile and Colombia and are voicing similar concerns about threats to democracy.

“It’s one thing to make statements in support of democracy,” said John Feeley, a longtime US diplomat in Latin America who resigned as ambassador to Panama in 2018 over differences with Mr Trump’s administration.

“It’s another thing to actually take action in your own home, where you have sovereign control, with someone who is clearly allied with the same people that brought you here on January 6,” Mr Feeley said.

So far, however, the Biden administration has proceeded cautiously.

On Monday, State Department spokesman Ned Price, who dodged questions about Mr Bolsonaro’s presence, said anyone entering the United States on a so-called A-1 visa, reserved for incumbent heads of state, has 30 days to either leave the country or adjust his status with the Department of Homeland Security at the end of their term.

Mr Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, was similarly circumspect, saying only that any request from the Brazilian government regarding Mr Bolsonaro would be considered in the light of precedent.

Typically, the US is reluctant to discuss visa issues for privacy reasons.

Mr. Feeley said the longer the Biden administration waits, the weaker its perceived support for democracy in the region is.

One place Mr Bolsonaro does not appear to be going is Italy. The former president is the descendant of 19th-century immigrants from northern Italy, and Brazilian media speculated for months that he and his children would seek Italian citizenship, fearing he could face criminal charges in Brazil for corruption or his abuse of the coronavirus pandemic be tracked.

But Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani told state radio on Tuesday that Mr Bolsonaro has never applied for citizenship – despite being granted honorary citizenship in 2021 by the small town where his great-grandfather was born.

“There are laws that deal with who gets citizenship,” Mr Tajani said, underlining his strong condemnation of his far-right government’s crackdown on Brazilian government institutions by Bolsonaro supporters.

“It’s not a political, arbitrary decision.” Bolsonaro wants to return to Brazil soon as US stay angers Biden

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