The Biden administration is under growing pressure from leftists in Latin America as well as US lawmakers to expel Jair Bolsonaro from a post-presidential retreat in Florida following his supporters’ brazen attack on Brazil’s capital over the weekend. But the far-right ex-president may pre-empt any plans for such a stinging rebuke. On Tuesday, he told a Brazilian media outlet that he would push up his return home, originally scheduled for late January, after being hospitalised with abdominal pains stemming from a 2018 stabbing.
“I came to spend some time away with my family but these weren’t calm days,” Bolsonaro told CNN’s Portuguese-language affiliate in Brazil.
“First, there was this sad episode in Brazil and then my hospitalization.”
Bolsonaro arrived in Florida in late December, skipping the January 1 swearing-in of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who became the first elected Brazilian president not to receive the presidential sash from his predecessor since democracy was restored in the 1980s.
Bolsonaro is reportedly staying at the Orlando-area home of Brazilian mixed martial arts fighter Jose Aldo, a fervent supporter.
READ MORE: Woman details ‘weird’ Tinder date with Bryan Kohberger
His visit to the Sunshine state went largely unnoticed in the US until Sunday’s attack by thousands of die-hard supporters who had been camping for weeks outside a military base in Brasilia, refusing to accept Bolsonaro’s narrow defeat in an October runoff.
Their invasion of Brazil’s congress and presidential palace left behind shattered glass, smashed computers and slashed artwork.
Almost from the moment the images of destruction were broadcast to the world, Democrats voiced concern about Bolsonaro’s continued presence on US soil, drawing parallels between the rampage in Brazil and the January 6, 2020, insurrection by allies of Donald Trump who stormed the Capitol to try to overturn the US presidential election results.
And any action to expel him is likely to play well in Latin America, where Biden is courting a crop of new leftist leaders who have risen to power in places like Chile and Colombia expressing similar concerns about threats to democracy.
“It’s one thing to make statements about support for democracy,” said John Feeley, a longtime US diplomat in Latin America who resigned as ambassador to Panama in 2018 over differences with the Trump administration.
“It’s another to actually take action in your own home, where you have sovereign control, with someone who is clearly in league with the same folks who brought you January 6,” Feeley said.
But so far the Biden administration has proceeded cautiously.