Video has emerged of former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro talking to supporters in Florida, having skipped his successor’s swearing-in and left the country – reportedly to avoid multiple criminal investigations.
The footage shows Mr Bolsonaro, casually dressed in a T-shirt, shorts and running shoes, shaking hands with fans outside the Florida holiday home of a Brazilian mixed martial arts fighter and long time supporter, Jose Aldo.
Reports said Mr Bolsonaro, 67, flew to Orlando on Friday night where he was seen entering Mr Aldo’s property, located a few miles from Disney World.
In a move that echoed Donald Trump’s departure from Washington DC hours before his successor, Joe Biden, was sworn in and delivered his inaugural address on 20 January 2021, Mr Bolsonaro left Brazil ahead of the swearing-in of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, better known as “Lula”.
Politics aside, imagine leading the 12th biggest world economy and 220 million people and weeks later you’re meandering around an Orlando suburb directionless? pic.twitter.com/IJKauCLicB
— Hayden Clarkin (@the_transit_guy) January 1, 2023
Lula, 77, was sworn in on Sunday for the third term as president. It appears that at the time the footage of Mr Bolsonaro was taken over the weekend, he would have still been Brazil’s president.
Indeed, the footage showed what appeared to be several security officers among the crowd.
The footage, posted on social media, showed Mr Bolsonaro shaking hands with supporters and smiling. One person is heard to say – in Portugese – “Mr President”.
The New York Times said Mr Bolsonaro, a right-wing populist who was was frequently praised by Mr Trump, who had backed his re-election bid, was linked to five separate inquiries, including one into his release of documents related to a classified investigation.
“As a regular citizen, Mr Bolsonaro will now lose the prosecutorial immunity he had as president,” it said.
“Some cases against him will probably be moved to local courts from the Supreme Court.”
In another echo of Mr Trump, Mr Bolsonaro had – without evidence – questioned the reliability of Brazil’s election systems for for a large part of his election campaign.
When he lost in October, he refused to concede fully, sparking fears that his supporters could launch widespread violence. As it was, that did not happen.
As he left Brazil on Friday, he told supporters: “Within the laws, respecting the Constitution, I searched for a way out of this.”
He also appeared to suggest it was time for those who had backed him to move forward.
“We live in a democracy or we don’t. No one wants an adventure.”
🟥 #BOLSONARO #BRASILE
Bolsonaro in questo momento è ospitato da Josè Aldo in Florida.Josè Aldo è un ex lottatore di arti marziali brasiliano. Le notizie che circolano è che i legali di Bolsonaro lo abbiano consigliato di lasciare il paese perchè non gode più dell'immunità. pic.twitter.com/AosGZhoswq
— Angel Van Lang (divergent)Z✊🇵🇸 NATOexit (@angelo_falanga) January 2, 2023
In his speech on Sunday, Lula, a veteran left winger, said he wanted to rebuild a country left in “terrible ruins”.
He said: “I promise to maintain, defend and fulfill the constitution, observe the laws, promote the general good of the Brazilian people, support the unity, integrity and independence of Brazil.”
Video showed Mr Bolsonaro entering the home of fighter Mr Aldo, 36, a former World Extreme Cagefighting and UFC Featherweight champion. The president is expected to stay in the country until the end of January.