Former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro plans to return to Brazil in March to lead the opposition. That’s according to an interview with The Wall Street Journal, which is the first Bolsonaro has given since he left Brazil for Florida after losing last year’s election. His comments in the US newspaper are the clearest indication yet of what he plans to do in the future. The statements come as the former president, who no longer enjoys presidential immunity, is being investigated for several cases, including inciting the January 8 riots in Brasília.
“The right-wing movement is not dead and will live on,” said Bolsonaro, who flew to Florida two days before the end of his term. The former president told The Wall Street Journal that he plans to lead the opposition against leftist leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who narrowly won the October 30 runoff. Bolsonaro said he intends to join forces with his allies in Congress to push for economic liberalization, restrict abortion rights and fight against gun control. While a Lula ally is the head of the Senate, the lower house is filled with Bolsonaro supporters and led by one of the former president’s allies.
The Supreme Court of Brazil is investigating Bolsonaro for inciting the violent assault on Brazil’s Congress, presidential palace and the Supreme Court on January 8. Thousands of Bolsonaro supporters stormed the buildings, facing little opposition from the military and police. About 1,000 protesters remain in prison, while police continue to investigate who promoted, financed and perpetrated the attacks.
In the interview, Bolsonaro – who, ahead of the election, had raised doubts about the country’s electronic voting system – offered a more nuanced opinion of his defeat. “Losing is part of the electoral process,” he told The Wall Street Journal, adding: “I am not saying there was fraud, but the process was biased.”
Bolsonaro also made it clear that he does not believe the January 8 riots were an attempted coup. “Coup? What coup? Where was the commander? Where were the troops? Where were the bombs?” said the retired military officer, who does not believe he should be held responsible for the attacks, as he was “not even there.”
Once it became clear to Bolsonaro that he could lose the election, he appeared to follow the playbook of former US president Donald Trump. He raised doubts about the security of electronic voting, questioned the recount and called for the partial annulment of votes in a complaint to Brazil’s election authorities – which was denied within 24 hours. But while Trump was in Washington when his supporters stormed the US Capitol, Bolsonaro was in Florida the day of the riot in the nation’s capital.
What’s more, the Brazilian politician has measured his words very carefully since he lost the election. The few statements he has made have been very carefully worded: he knows that many are watching to see what he will do next.
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