January 29, 2023

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Staying in Florida, Bolsonaro is making Washington uncomfortable

Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s stay in Florida, where his supporters ransacked iconic official sites in Brasilia, cast the United States in a relatively embarrassing light, particularly evoking previous receptions of controversial Latin American leaders.

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For decades, Florida in the southeastern United States served as the exiled home of former strongmen, autocrats, and recently became Donald Trump’s adopted state.

Among them: Gerardo Machado, nicknamed “Tropical Mussolini” when he was Cuba’s leader nearly a century ago, but took refuge in a villa in Miami after Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza deposed in 1979. Asylum application rejected.

Supporters of Jair Bolsonaro ransacked the presidential palace, Congress and the Supreme Court in Brasilia on Sunday, in scenes reminiscent of an attack on the Washington Capitol on January 6, 2021.

They called, in vain, for the military to intervene against Lula, whose recent inauguration had been ignored by his predecessor.

“Immovable Support”

While Biden appealed to Lula for his “unwavering support” for Brazilian democracy, some US lawmakers want Washington to go further and expel Jair Bolsonaro from the US.

“Domestic terrorists and fascists must not allow the Trump model to undermine democracy,” Democratic lawmaker Joaquin Castro wrote on Twitter. “Bolsonaro should not be granted asylum in Florida, where he is hiding to avoid being held accountable for his crimes,” he added.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the US had not received a request from Brazil about Jair Bolsonaro, but said it would treat such a request “seriously”.

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For Valentina Sauder, manager of the Latin American Center at the Atlantic Council think tank, “in a sense the embarrassment is normal.” “What happened in Brazil pushed the United States into the debate because President Bolsonaro was here,” the researcher explains.

Bolsonaro, who condemned the “destruction of public buildings and invasions” on Twitter, told CNN Brazil that he originally wanted to return at the end of the month, but earlier for health reasons.

The former far-right president was hospitalized in Florida on Sunday with an intestinal “adhesion”, another result of a stabbing attack he suffered in September 2018. He was released on Tuesday evening.

Steve Bannon and Eduardo Bolsonaro

But if he doesn’t want to pull Florida, Mr. Bolsonaro – sometimes nicknamed the “Trump of the Tropics” – has not failed to meet many of his supporters in this US state, where nearly a quarter of Brazilians live in the US. .

There is no meeting between M.M. Bolsonaro and Trump have not been announced since first arriving in Florida, but his son Eduardo Bolsonaro has been close to Steve Bannon.

Donald Trump’s former Eminence Crisis has called for an investigation into Brazil’s electronic voting system, which has long been universally recognized for its effectiveness.

Sentenced to four months in prison in October for refusing to cooperate with a parliamentary inquiry into the attack on the Capitol, the architect of Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 is promoting his nationalist ideology abroad, particularly to far-right European parties.

For Thomas Carothers, an expert on democracy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Donald Trump has elevated electoral dissent to the status of an international movement.

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Brazil is paying the price for him because of the strong parallels it can draw with the United States. Beyond the Trump-Bolsonaro alliance, Brazil has seen an increasing role of religion in politics, and a widening gap between urban and rural areas.

But Thomas Carothers points to other countries, including Turkey and Mexico, where President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has called for a major reform of the electoral system.

Opting out is “not really a new idea,” he says.

“Trump made it a strategy and showed the world that even in America, you can question elections,” Thomas Carothers said.