Brazil’s Bolsonaro lands in Florida, avoiding extradition to Lula

Brazil’s Bolsonaro lands in Florida, avoiding extradition to Lula

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BRASILIA, Dec 30 (Reuters) – Outgoing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro landed in Florida on Friday after delivering a tearful message to supporters less than two days before his fierce leftist rival Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva takes office.

An official Brazilian plane landed in Orlando, Florida late Friday, flight-tracking website FlightAware showed. Although Bolsonaro’s destination has not been officially confirmed, his security team is already in place in Florida.

Bolsonaro’s departure from Brazil came after he repeatedly said he would not hand over the presidency to Lula at Sunday’s inauguration, breaking with Brazil’s democratic tradition. He could also face legal risks from staying in Brazil, as his presidential immunity expires when Lula takes office.

His departure followed an emotional final address on social media earlier Friday, in which he recounted the highlights of his time in office, tried to defend his legacy and tried to inspire his followers to continue the fight against Lula.

Vice President Hamilton Murao is now acting president after Bolsonaro left the country, his press office said. But Murao will not pass the presidential sash to Lula, a spokesman noted, raising doubts about who will perform the ceremonial handover.

The presidential plane took off from Brazil shortly after 2 p.m. local time.

“I’m flying, I’ll be back soon,” Bolsonaro was quoted as saying by CNN Brasil earlier in the day. His press office did not respond to a request for comment.

The US State Department did not respond to a request for comment. The U.S. Embassy in Brazil referred questions about Bolsonaro’s trip to the Brazilian president’s office.


Bolsonaro’s resignation follows weeks of silence after he lost Brazil’s toughest election in a generation.

Some of Bolsonaro’s supporters refused to accept Lula’s victory, citing his baseless claims that the October election had been stolen. This has contributed to a tense atmosphere in the capital, Brazil, with riots and a foiled bomb plot last week.

In his address on social media, Bolsonaro described the bomb plot as a “terrorist act” for which there is no justification. He tried to distance himself from George Washington Sousa, the man who has admitted to making the bomband who told police that Bolsonaro’s call to arms inspired him to build an arsenal of weapons and explosives.

“The man had ideas that are not shared by any citizen, but now he is classified as a ‘Bolsonista,'” the president said.

But Bolsonaro also praised the protesters who were camping outside army barracks across the country, calling on the military to stage a coup.

“I have not encouraged anyone to get into a confrontation,” he said, adding that his supporters were simply seeking “freedom.” He said the protests were “spontaneous” without leadership or coordination.

Bolsonaro’s quick exit was a disappointment to many on the right, where his reputation has suffered because of his silence since the election. Some of his hardline supporters at the entrance to the Alvorada Palace, the presidential residence where he lived, called him a “coward” during his speech, according to a Reuters witness.

Others felt left behind by his departure.

“I feel like my friend has left me,” said Daze Casella, a 57-year-old widow, touching the Brazilian flag that was lowered after Bolsonaro left the residence. “I’m grieving again.”

Reporting by Ricardo Brito, Gabriel Araujo, Wesley Marcelino and Anthony Bowdle; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Kim Coghill

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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