LatinNews Daily - 01 February 2023

BRAZIL: Bolsonaro plans for a political comeback

In one of his first public appearances since leaving Brazil for the US at the end of December, on 31 January the country’s far-right former president Jair Bolsonaro (2019-2023) signalled his intention to remain active in politics, as he addressed 600 supporters at a fundraising event in the city of Orlando, Florida. 


Since he flew out of Brazil on 30 December, avoiding taking part in the official transfer of power to his left-wing successor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Partido dos Trabalhadores, PT), Bolsonaro’s intentions have been something of a guessing game. At the fundraiser, however, he said he would continue to “be involved in Brazilian politics”. He noted that his wife Michelle Bolsonaro had already returned to Brazil and said he would “stay a little longer”. His lawyer confirmed that Bolsonaro had entered the US late last year on a 30-day A-1 diplomatic visa and had requested a further 30-day tourist extension.

  • Some commentators believe Bolsonaro is unlikely to return to Brazil in the immediate future, since he faces a number of electoral and criminal investigations and could be imprisoned. Of the cases against him, perhaps the most important is an investigation by the supreme court (TSF) into his alleged role in the 8 January attack on the three seats of government by a mob of his supporters, which is seen by some as an attempt to trigger a coup d’état.
  • Bolsonaro may be seeking a more proactive role in Brazilian politics, even from a distance. He said that today (1 February) was “very important” as it is the inaugural meeting of the new, conservative-dominated congress.
  • It is likely that two conservative figures, Arthur Lira and Rodrigo Pacheco, respective presidents of the chamber of deputies and the senate, will be re-elected for another two years. Both worked closely with Bolsonaro but took distance from him after his unsubstantiated claims of electoral fraud and after the events of 8 January. As well as their traditional conservative backers, both candidates are now being supported by Lula’s centre-left coalition.
  • From Florida, Bolsonaro said he had confidence in the new congress, and that his Partido Liberal (PL) would be supporting the far-right candidate for the senate leadership, Rogério Marinho. Marinho is controversial, having served as Bolsonaro’s regional development minister and led the allocation of congressional funds known as the “secret budget”. However, he is also seen as a credible challenger: if he defeats Pacheco, he will have placed the bolsonaristas in a key position to block or delay important pieces of legislation. Even if he loses but attracts a respectable vote tally, he will be credited with leading the beginnings of a bolsonarista comeback.
  • The PL however may face ongoing legal challenges because of its association with anti-democratic causes. TSF justice Alexandre de Moraes ruled on 31 January that PL leader Valdemar Costa Neto should be interviewed by the federal police after he told newspaper O Globo in an interview that he had received multiple secret documents proposing a coup d’état to stop Lula taking power but had been “careful to shred them all”.       

Looking Ahead: Bolsonaro remains a major potential destabilising factor for the new Lula administration. The White House has announced that Lula is to pay a state visit to meet President Joe Biden on 10 February. That means the US authorities may have to manage pro- and anti-Bolsonaro rallies on their home turf.

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