As Lula Becomes Brazil’s President, Bolsonaro Flees to Florida

Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right former president of Brazil, has fled to Florida for at least a month following his defeat in the presidential election in October. He faces several investigations related to his time in office and has suggested that he is the victim of political persecution by Brazil’s left and Supreme Court. As Lula becomes Brazil’s president, Bolsonaro has fled to Florida.

As Lula Becomes Brazil’s President Bolsonaro Flees to Florida

On Sunday, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will be inaugurated in a grand ceremony in Brasília, the capital of Brazil. The event will feature a motorcade, a music festival, and a large gathering of supporters filling the central esplanade of Brasília. It is expected to be a momentous occasion for the nation.

Jair Bolsonaro, the outgoing far-right president, will not be present at the inauguration. This means that the traditional transfer of power, represented by the presidential sash, will not take place. This is significant in a country where many remember the military dictatorship that ended less than 40 years ago. The peaceful transition of power is an important symbol in Brazil.

On the day of the inauguration, Bolsonaro will be in a rented house owned by a professional mixed-martial-arts fighter near Disney World in Florida, approximately 6,000 miles away from the ceremony. He left Brazil on Friday night and plans to remain in Florida for at least a month. This comes as he faces various investigations related to his time in office.

Before the election, Bolsonaro had made baseless claims about the integrity of Brazil’s voting systems, and upon losing in October, he refused to fully concede. In a recent statement, he claimed that he had attempted to prevent Lula from taking office but was unsuccessful.

“Within the laws, respecting the Constitution, I searched for a way out of this,” he said. He then appeared to encourage his supporters to move on. “We live in a democracy or we don’t,” he said. “No one wants an adventure.”

Many of his supporters, however, did not seem to believe him. Thousands of them have been camping outside the army headquarters in Brasília since the election, convinced that the military would intervene to prevent Lula’s inauguration.

“The army will step in,” said Magno Rodrigues, 60, a former mechanic and janitor who gives daily speeches at the protests. “The army has patriotism and love for the country, and in the past, the army did the same thing.” He was referencing the 1964 military coup that ushered in the dictatorship.

One man, Rodrigues, has been living in a tent at the encampment for the past nine weeks. The camp has become a small village, complete with showers, a laundry service, phone charging stations, a hospital, 28 food stalls, and even a system for using the bathroom inside the tent.

As Lula Becomes Brazil’s President Bolsonaro Flees to Florida 2
Magno Rodrigues, 60, a former mechanic and janitor, has spent the past nine weeks camped outside the Brazilian Army headquarters, sleeping in a tent on a narrow pad with his wife. © Dado Galdieri for The New York Times

While the Brazilian Army has allowed the protesters to stay, they have made no indication that they will interfere with the transfer of power. Despite the peaceful nature of most of the protests, with more praying than rioting, a small group has resorted to setting fire to vehicles. Lula’s transitional government has indicated that they will not tolerate the encampments for much longer.

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Supporters of Mr. Lula gathered for his inauguration on Sunday. © Silvia Izquierdo/Associated Press

How long was Mr. Rodrigues willing to stay? “As long as it takes to liberate my country,” he replied, leaning on a cane outside the makeshift toilets, clothed in a leather jacket. “For the rest of my life if I have to.”

In contrast to the protests, hundreds of thousands of people, many wearing the bright red of Lula’s leftist Workers’ Party, celebrated in Brasília. The capital, founded in 1960 to house the government, was filled with revelers.

As people arrived in Brasília for the inauguration, they sang rally songs about Lula and celebrated with samba at New Year’s Eve parties. Across the city, people shouted from balconies and street corners, marking the arrival of Lula and the departure of Bolsonaro.

“Lula’s inauguration is mainly about hope,” said Isabela Nascimento, 30, a software developer walking to the festivities on Sunday. “I hope to see him representing not only a political party, but an entire population — a whole group of people who just want to be happier.”

At 77 years old, Lula is making a remarkable political comeback. During his previous presidency, he was highly popular and had an approval rating above 80%. He served 580 days in prison from 2018 to 2019 on corruption charges, including allegations that he accepted a condo and renovations from construction companies in exchange for government contracts.

Lula’s convictions were later overturned by the Supreme Court, which ruled that the judge in the case was biased.

Lula and his supporters believe that he was targeted for political reasons, while Bolsonaro and his supporters argue that Brazil now has a criminal as president.

The divide between these two perspectives, as well as the presence of thousands of protesters who believe that the election was stolen, demonstrate the significant challenges that Lula will face as he begins his third term as president of Brazil, the largest country in Latin America and one of the largest democracies in the world.

During his previous presidency from 2003 to 2011, Lula oversaw an economic boom in Brazil, but the country was not as politically polarized at that time, and the economic conditions were more favorable. Lula’s victory is part of a trend of leftist leaders being elected in Latin America since 2018, driven by anti-incumbent sentiment.

Bolsonaro’s decision to spend the first weeks of Lula’s presidency in Florida suggests that he is uneasy about his future in Brazil. He is currently facing five separate investigations, including one related to the release of classified documents and another regarding his attacks on Brazil’s voting machines. There is also an investigation into his potential connections to “digital militias” that spread misinformation on his behalf.

As a regular citizen, Bolsonaro will no longer have the prosecutorial immunity that he had as president.

Some of the cases against him are likely to be transferred from the Supreme Court to local courts. Some federal prosecutors who have worked on the cases believe that there is sufficient evidence to convict Bolsonaro, especially in the case involving the release of classified material, according to an anonymous top federal prosecutor.

While it is unlikely that Bolsonaro’s presence in the United States will protect him from prosecution in Brazil, Florida has become a popular destination for conservative Brazilians in recent years.

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An encampment of Mr. Bolsonaro’s supporters has turned into a village outside the army headquarters in Brasília. © Dado Galdieri for The New York Times

Several prominent Brazilian pundits on popular talk shows are based in Florida, as is a far-right provocateur who has sought political asylum in the United States after being charged with threatening judges in Brazil. Additionally, Carla Zambelli, a close ally of Bolsonaro in Congress, fled to Florida for nearly three weeks after being caught on video pursuing a man with a gun on the eve of the election.

“We have freedom here,” Rodrigo Constantino, a well-known Brazilian right-wing broadcaster who lives in Miami, stated.

Bolsonaro plans to stay in Florida for one to three months, giving him time to see whether Lula’s administration will pursue any investigations against him, according to a close friend of the Bolsonaro family who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“He will try to stay low for a while — to disappear,” Mr. Constantino said.

On Saturday, Mr. Bolsonaro welcomed his new neighbors, many of whom were Brazilian immigrants who took photographs with the departing president, in the driveway of his leased Orlando home. After that, he ate at a KFC.

Former presidents of state frequently reside in the United States for positions in academia or other endeavors. But when the home country is a democratic U.S. partner, it is unusual for a head of state to seek refuge in the United States in order to avoid potential punishment at home.

According to Mr. Bolsonaro and his supporters, the Brazilian left, in particular the Supreme Court, is out to get him politically. They now assert that the election was unfair because Alexandre de Moraes, a Supreme Court justice who oversees Brazil’s electoral bureau, tipped the scales in favor of Mr. Lula, having virtually discarded their earlier allegations of voting fraud.

Due to false claims in Mr. Bolsonaro’s political advertisements, Mr. Moraes participated actively in the race, suspending the social media accounts of several of his supporters and giving Mr. Lula more airtime. In response to Mr. Bolsonaro and his followers’ antidemocratic positions, Mr. Moraes has said that he must take action. Some legal professionals believe he has abused his position of authority by frequently acting alone and in manners that go much beyond those of a regular Supreme Court justice.

A report published Saturday revealed that social media giants Meta—Facebook’s parent company—and TikTok are driving traffic to content promoting a military coup to overthrow Brazil’s democracy.

Nevertheless, Mr. Bolsonaro has come under heavy fire from both the right and the left for how he handled the results of his election. After hinting for months that he would contest any defeat, energizing his fans and alarmed his detractors, he instead chose to remain silent and refused to declare Mr. Lula’s triumph in the open. His administration managed the transition as he withdrew from public view and from many of his formal responsibilities.

Even his vice president, Hamilton Mourão, a former general, expressed his thoughts on Mr. Bolsonaro’s final days as president in his farewell speech to the nation on Saturday night.

“Leaders that should reassure and unite the nation around a project for the country have let their silence or inopportune and harmful protagonism create a climate of chaos and social disintegration,” Mr. Mourão said.

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4 Responses

  1. Lula is a criminal who was taken out of prison and launched as president of the Brazilian nation through fraudulent elections.

  2. This whole article is a propaganda piece

    Lula is a communist and this is a communist coup

    Great Game Media is now garbage propaganda outlet

    No different than CNN

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  4. I have to oppose this statement:
    “Before the election, Bolsonaro had made baseless claims about the integrity of Brazil’s voting systems,”
    Such a comment is straight from the World Economic Forum playbook and suggests Lula was installed in power to be the puppet of this world domination club for billionaire psychopaths. Bolsonaro’s claims could only be described as baseless if they had been investigated. In fact Brazil’s notoriously corrupt Supreme Court, packed with leftists by the convicted criminal Lula after his last period in office.
    Independent reports out of Brazil reveal that Lula’s recent campaign depended heavily on support from the country’s ruthless drug cartels, which tells us all we need to know about how Lula will govern in his second term of office.
    Brazil is heading for civil war.

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