Bolsonaro says he won’t lead opposition as he returns to Brazil for first time since riots

Brasilia, Brazil

Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro claimed on Wednesday he would no longer lead the country’s opposition as he boarded a flight home for the first time since his election defeat that resulted in thousands rioting of his supporters to protest the result.

Bolsonaro, who denies instigating violent attacks in the capital Brasilia on January 8, faces an investigation into his alleged involvement upon his return, among other legal issues. Meanwhile, Brazilian authorities said security would be tightened and urged his supporters not to greet the former leader at Brasilia airport on Thursday morning.

Speaking to CNN affiliate CNN Brasil at Orlando airport in Florida on Wednesday night, Bolsonaro said he would not lead opposition to Brazilian President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva upon his return – despite support from conservative activists and far-right groups during his three years. one-month stay in the United States.

“You don’t have to oppose this government. This government is an opposition in itself,” Bolsonaro told CNN Brasil.

Instead, Bolsonaro said he plans to help his center-right liberal party “as an experienced person,” collaborating with “anything he wants,” the former president told CNN. Brazil. He added that he will tour the country ahead of the municipal elections next year.

Bolsonaro’s return comes amid deep political divisions in Brazil after he left the country last December, just days before Lula’s inauguration.

Although he denounced the invasion of Brasilia by his supporters, in the days following the election he hailed peaceful protests as his party filed petitions for an audit of voting machines, alleging fraud. He fed his supporters crumbs of misinformation about voter fraud and made vague comments hinting at a potential coup.

The Brasilia attacks bore similarities to the January 6, 2021, uprising at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, when supporters of former US President Donald Trump – a close ally of Bolsonaro – stormed Congress in the purpose of preventing the certification of his election. defeat.

Brazil’s Supreme Court is investigating Bolsonaro’s alleged involvement in the Brasilia riots, particularly to find out who or how far-right mobs who support the ex-leader ended up trashing government seats.

Bolsonaro is also under scrutiny for jewelry he allegedly received as a gift from the Saudi government during his tenure. On Wednesday, he denied any “irregularities”, saying “the objects were registered”, CNN Brasil reported.

Brazilian federal prosecutors are also investigating whether Bolsonaro attempted to smuggle two diamond jewelry sets into the country without paying import taxes.

The polarizing politician plans to greet supporters upon his arrival in the capital and is expected to attend a reception hosted by his party before heading to his residence, CNN Brasil reported.

Brasilia’s public security chief Sandro Avelar urged Bolsonaro supporters not to disrupt the capital’s airport, where 40,000 passengers fly daily.

“We urge you to respect this decision which has already been made, for the well-being of the former president’s supporters and his own,” Avelar said Wednesday at a joint press conference with security force chiefs. brazilian.

Bolsonaro will use a separate entrance at the airport and will be escorted by Federal Police officers. Avelar said security forces would be ready to close the airport – and access to the government district, if necessary.

A joint task force made up of military police, a highway patrol and other security forces are working to secure the arrival of the former president with minimal impact on the population and disruption to traffic and flights, he added.

According to Federal Police Commissioner Cézar Luís Busto, Bolsonaro’s advisers have been in contact with authorities and are aware of the plan. Busto said he sees no reason to worry at this time.

The U.S. Embassy in Brasilia issued a nationwide “security alert” to its Brazilian citizens on Wednesday, warning that pro-Bolsonaro supporters may be near Brasilia’s international airport. .

In a statement, the embassy said: “Brazilian authorities inform that access to the airport will be limited and could potentially cause disruptions and delays. Please plan accordingly to accommodate these events.


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