Thierry Bolsonaro calls loss unfair, condemns violence, flies to Florida

Thierry Bolsonaro calls loss unfair, condemns violence, flies to Florida

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SAO PAULO — Two days before leaving office, ending a tumultuous four years as the race-baiting, Amazon-boosting, coronavirus-disparaging, vaccine-skeptic leader of Latin America’s largest country, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro remained defiant in a tearful farewell address on Friday, defending his record and saying the election that led to his ouster was not fair, but condemned violence over the result.

He then flew to Florida, Brazilian media reported, where he had previously met with former President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago. Apparently he planned to miss inauguration of Luis Inacio Lula da Silva on Sunday, when the outgoing leader traditionally hands the presidential sash to his successor, a ceremony meant to affirm the country’s fledgling democracy.

Bolsonaro’s remarks, broadcast live for nearly an hour on Friday morning, were his most extensive since losing the election in October. He still did not allow the competitionbut acknowledged that a new administration would take over on Sunday.

“Nothing is lost,” he told his supporters. “Brazil is a fantastic country and Brazil doesn’t end on the first of January.”

Lula won Brazil’s closest election. That was the easy part.

Security concerns are growing over Lula’s inauguration in Brazil on Sunday. Supporters of Bolsonaro have camped outside army facilities after his defeat on October 30 to call for a military coup to keep him in power. A group of radical loggerheads set buses on fire and tried to storm the federal police headquarters in the capital this month following the arrest of a Bolsonaro supporter who was accused of “explicitly calling for armed men to prevent the certification of elected” officials.

On Saturday, police said they had defused a bomb planted by a Bolsonaro supporter in a tanker truck full of gas near Brazil’s international airport. They said the suspect told investigators his plan was to provoke chaos to attract military intervention.

Bolsonaro asked his supporters last month not to block highways, but said the gatherings outside army facilities were legitimate protests. On Friday, he condemned the violent demonstrations and complained that Brazilian media had linked the bomb suspect to him.

“Nothing justifies this attempted terrorist act here at the airport in Brazil,” Bolsonaro said. “[Have] Intelligence. Let’s show that we are different from the other side, that we respect the norms and the Constitution.”

His actions may sound familiar to Americans. Trump, a Bolsonaro ally, blamed his 2020 re-election loss on unsubstantiated allegations of fraud, refused to concede, called on supporters to protest the result and skipped President Biden’s inauguration.

Bolsonaro said it was difficult for him to remain silent for two months, but he refrained from speaking because anything he said “could make things more violent.”

“I have not left the four lines” of the Constitution, he said, comparing the document to a football field. “Either we live in a democracy or we don’t.” Nobody wants an adventure.

Gun ownership increased. Killings went down. Brazil debates why.

Bolsonaro tried to explain to his more radical supporters why he did not make a greater effort to stay in power. After he spent years questioning the security of electronic voting machines, many of his supporters claimed without evidence that the election was stolen.

“A lot of times now, even within the four lines, you have to have support,” he said. But he found no support in the electoral court, congress or the armed forces to reverse the election result. He asked his party to file a lawsuit over possible vote fraud, but the electoral court quickly dismissed the claim.

He said he acknowledged the suffering of his supporters but asked them to put themselves in his shoes. He said they lost a battle but not the war. As he spoke, comments expressing frustration began to appear on his Facebook page.

“Unfortunately, we’re in flux,” one person wrote. “So there was no cheating??? Hope is over.”

Bolsonaro said he would lead the opposition against Lula.

“The picture is not good, but that is not why we are going to throw in the towel and stop opposing,” he said.

After the farewell speech, Brazilian media reported, he boarded Força Aérea Brasileira — Brazil’s Air Force One — on a flight to Orlando. The presidency did not confirm his departure to The Washington Post, but recent documents in the Federal Register indicate preparations for such a trip.

Days after Bolsonaro’s loss, allies met with Trump aides in the United States to discuss next steps. His son Eduardo, a Brazilian congressman, met Trump at Mar-a-Lago last month in Palm Beach, Florida.

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