Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who flew to Florida the night before his term in office ended on December 31, is in no hurry to return home amid an investigation into whether he had any role in inciting riots in Brasilia. He has reportedly sought a tourist visa that would enable him to remain in the US for six months.
The former leader “devoted 34 years of his life to public service” and would “like to take some time off,” his lawyer, Felipe Alexandre, told the BBC in a statement on Monday.
Bolsonaro allegedly entered the US on an A-1 visa for diplomats and heads of state, which is set to expire on Tuesday because he’s no longer on official business. After skipping the inauguration of his leftist rival and successor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Bolsonaro has been staying in Orlando, Florida, at the home of Brazilian mixed martial arts legend Jose Aldo.
After narrowly losing his re-election bid on October 30, Bolsonaro challenged the result, claiming that Brazil’s voting machines were prone to fraud. His allegations were shot down in the country’s electoral court, which fined him for denying the result “in bad faith.”
He has denied inciting riots in which protesters breached Brazil’s presidential palace, Congress and Supreme Court on January 8, saying that he supports only peaceful demonstrations.
Although a tourist visa request is normally routine, political considerations could affect Bolsonaro’s application. Democrat politicians in the US demanded earlier this month that the former president be deported.
“Bolsonaro should not be given refuge in Florida,” US Representative Ilhan Omar said in a Twitter post condemning the riot in Brasilia. Several Democrat lawmakers, including Representative Gregory Meeks, signed a letter saying that the US “must not provide shelter for him, or any authoritarian who has inspired such violence against democratic institutions.”
Bolsonaro told CNN’s Brazilian affiliate on January 10 that he planned to return early, rather than staying until the end of the month. However, four days later, his former justice minister, Anderson Torres, was arrested upon returning from a Florida vacation and accused of colluding with rioters.