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Bolsonaro lands in Florida, set to skip Lula inauguration

December 31, 2022

In a teary-eyed message before leaving for the US, Jair Bolsonaro praised his supporters who were camping front of army bases and urging a coup against Lula.

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro speaks in Brasilia
A teary-eyes Bolsonaro said in the four years of his government he gave "the best of himself" Image: Presidency of Brazil/REUTERS

Outgoing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro landed in Florida on Friday, where he is expected to stay for the last day of his official term, skipping the inauguration of his rival and successor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva who is set to take office on Sunday.

Bolsonaro left for the US on an Air Force plane around 2:00 pm local time (5:00 pm GMT), local media reported.

According to the flight monitoring website Flightaware, the same military aircraft, designated by the code BRS1, landed in Orlando, Florida little after 2:00 am GMT on Saturday.

Although Bolsonaro's travel plans have not been made public, his security detail was already in place in Florida.

Brazilian Air Force One is seen in Orlando, Florida
According to the flight monitoring website Flightaware, the plane landed in Orlando, Florida little after 2:00 am GMT on SaturdayImage: OCTAVIO JONES/REUTERS

Bolsonaro bids teary farewell

Before leaving, he addressed his followers in a live broadcast on his social networks.

A teary-eyes Bolsonaro said in the four years of his government he gave "the best of himself."

This address followed weeks of silence after he lost the presidential election to Lula and Brazil was roiled by turmoil as some of his supporters refused to accept Lula's victory.

Believing his unfounded claims that the October election was stolen, they have been camping front of army headquarters in Brasilia and other cities, demanding military action to stop Lula from regaining power.

The far-right leader praised these protesters saying that they have merely been seeking "freedom."

The tense atmosphere in Brasilia was further aggravated after a foiled bomb plot last week.

In his social media comments, Bolsonaro described the bomb plan as an unjustified "terrorist act."

George Washington Sousa, the man who confessed to making the bomb, told police that he was inspired by Bolsonaro's call to arms.

Bolsonaro, on the other hand, tried to distance himself from Sousa in his address saying, "The man had ideas that are not shared by any citizen, but now they classify him as a 'Bolsonarista'."

Accused of 'fleeing' Brazil

Bolsonaro has adamantly reiterated that he will buck Brazil's democratic tradition by refusing to give Lula the presidential sash at his inauguration on Sunday.

Analyst Creomar de Souza told the AFP news agency this was an attempt to "continue denying reality, to delegitimise the next government."

"A president passing the presidential sash conveys the idea that the election is over, allows the pacification of the country. (With his absence), it is as if Bolsonaro was telling his followers that he refuses to accept the result," Souza said.

Narrow Victory for Lula

His departure also comes at a time when he may face legal issues in Brazil as his presidential immunity ends when Lula takes office.

The incumbent president is being investigated, among other things, for allegedly disclosing misleading information.

Several detractors accused Bolsonaro of "fleeing" the country.

Vice President Hamilton Mourao is now acting president, his press office said.

ss/dj (AFP, Reuters)