Teary Bolsonaro calls loss unfair, condemns violence, flies to Florida


SAO PAULO — Two days before leaving office, ending four turbulent years in which Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro remained defiant in a tearful farewell speech on the day of seduction, Amazon development, coronavirus depreciation, and vaccine skepticism. Friday, defending his record and saying the election that led to his removal was not fair, but condemning the violence against the outcome.

Brazilian media reported that he then traveled to Florida, where he met former President Donald Trump in Mar-a-Lago in the past. He apparently planned to skip Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s inauguration on Sunday, when the outgoing leader presents the presidential sash to his successor, a ceremony meant to reaffirm the country’s young democracy.

Bolsonaro’s remarks, which were broadcast live for about an hour Friday morning, were the most sweeping since he lost the election in October. He has not yet conceded the race, but has acknowledged that new management will take over on Sunday.

“We haven’t lost anything,” he told his supporters. “Brazil is a wonderful country, and Brazil doesn’t end on January 1st.”

Lula won the closest ever Brazilian election. This was the easy part.

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Security concerns are growing around Lula’s inauguration in Brasilia on Sunday. Bolsonaro’s supporters have camped outside military facilities since his October 30 defeat to call for a military coup to keep him in power. A group of extremist Bolsonaroists set fire to buses and attempted to storm the federal police headquarters in the capital this month after arresting a Bolsonaro supporter who was accused of “explicitly summoning armed persons to prevent the accreditation of elected officials”.

On Saturday, police said they had defused a bomb planted by a Bolsonaro supporter in a tanker truck filled with gas near Brasilia’s international airport. They said the suspect told investigators his plan was to create chaos for a military intervention.

Bolsonaro told supporters last month not to block highways, but said rallies outside army facilities were legitimate protests. On Friday, he condemned the violent demonstrations – and lamented that the Brazilian media had linked the bomb suspect to him.

“Nothing justifies an attempted act of terrorism here at Brasilia airport,” Bolsonaro said. “[Have] intelligence. Let’s show that we are different from the other side, that we respect the rules and the constitution.”

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His actions may sound familiar to Americans. Bolsonaro ally Trump, who has blamed his 2020 re-election loss on baseless allegations of fraud, has refused to concede, urging his supporters to protest the outcome and skip President Biden’s inauguration.

Bolsonaro said it was hard to stay mostly silent for two months, but he declined to speak because anything he said “could make things more turbulent.”

“I did not leave the four lines” of the constitution, he said, comparing the document to a football field. “Either we live in a democracy or we don’t. Nobody wants adventure.”

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Bolsonaro sought to explain to his more radical supporters why he should not embrace stronger efforts to stay in power. Having spent years questioning the security of electronic voting machines, many of his supporters have claimed without evidence that the election was stolen.

“Now, many times, even within the four lines, you need support,” he said. But he found no support in the electoral court, Congress or the armed forces to reverse the outcome of the election. He asked his party to file a lawsuit alleging possible ballot fraud, but the Electoral Tribunal quickly dismissed this claim.

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He said he recognized his supporters’ suffering, but told them to put themselves in his shoes. He said they lost a battle, but not the war. As he spoke, comments expressing frustration began to appear on his Facebook page.

“Unfortunately we are adrift,” one person wrote. “So there was no fraud??? Hope is over.”

Bolsonaro said he would lead Lula’s opposition.

“The picture is not good,” he said, “but that’s not why we’re going to throw in the towel and stop dissenting.”

And Brazilian media reported that after the farewell ceremony, Forsa Aria Brasileira – the Brazilian Air Force One – boarded a flight to Orlando. His departure was not confirmed by the presidency to The Washington Post, but recent recordings with the Federal Register indicated preparations for such a trip.

Days after Bolsonaro lost, allies met with Trump aides in the United States to discuss next steps. His son, Eduardo, a Brazilian congressman, met Trump at Mar-a-Lago last month in Palm Beach, Florida.


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