After nearly two months of enormous protests over the election of left-wing politician Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva as President of Brazil, outgoing President Jair decided to spend the last days of his term in Florida, sparking rumors of exile and a Mar-a-Lago meeting with former President and Bolsonaro ally, Donald Trump.
Forca Aerea Brasileira, Brazil’s equivalent of Air Force One, was tracked by Flight Aware landing in Orlando, Florida, according to the Washington Examiner, which added that Bolsonaro’s security detail was spotted in the city “getting situated.”
Images of the mass election protests in Brazil have circulated on Twitter, with many Bolsonaro supporters convening outside military barracks and reportedly calling for a military coup.
WATCH: #BNNBrazil Reports.
— Gurbaksh Singh Chahal (@gchahal) January 1, 2023
On Friday, just two days before the end of his term, Bolsonaro stopped short of conceding the election, but, in an emotional farewell address that was live-streamed to the Brazilian people, the conservative leader condemned any violent protests, The Washington Post reported.
In skipping Lula’s inauguration, Bolsonaro will be the first outgoing president to decline to present his successor with the presidential sash.
Why he chose to fly to Florida remains unclear, but two theories have emerged.
With the start of the new year, Bolsonaro’s presidential immunity becomes a thing of the past, leading some to speculate that he plans to go into exile in the United States. Without that immunity, the leader is left wide open to prosecution on numerous charges, with allegations ranging from embezzling public funds and stealing staff wages to “crimes against humanity” for his handling of COVID-19, and members of his inner circle told the New York Times in October that he feared imprisonment.
The second theory places Bolsonaro in a meeting with Trump, perhaps to ring in the New Year at Mar-a-Lago, where, according to The Post, Eduardo Bolsonaro, the president’s son, met personally with the MAGA King last month.
Meanwhile, back in Brazil, tensions remain high, with Bolsonaro supporters echoing the sentiments of many Americans following a 2020 election they believe was rigged against Trump.
The parallels between Bolsonaro’s loss and Trump’s in 2020 are enough to raise left-leaning eyebrows.
“His actions might sound familiar to Americans,” writes The Post. “Trump, a Bolsonaro ally, blamed his 2020 reelection loss on unfounded claims of fraud, declined to concede, urged his supporters to protest the result and skipped the inauguration of President Biden.”
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Indeed, in June 2022, Bolsonaro, known to some as the “Trump of the Tropics,” questioned if President Joe Biden was legitimately elected just two days before he was to meet Biden at the Summit of the Americas, BizPac Review reported at the time.
“The American people are the ones who talk about [election fraud],” Bolsonaro said during a television interview. “I will not discuss the sovereignty of another country. But Trump was doing really well.”
“We don’t want that to happen in Brazil,” he added.
Months later, it appears Bolsonaro’s fears came to fruition, at least in the eyes of his supporters, and the ensuing protests have been far more frightening than anything that happened on January 6 at the Capitol.
Last week, one protester was arrested after he was caught with a bomb “in a tanker truck full of gas near the international airport in Brasília,” according to The Post. The activist admitted he was trying to force the military to intervene with the chaos he intended to create.
“Nothing justifies this attempted terrorist act here in Brasilia airport,” Bolsonaro said in his farewell address. “[Have] Intelligence. Let’s show we are different from the other side, that we respect the norms and the Constitution.”
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