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There was no peaceful transfer of power in Brazil.
There was no peaceful transfer of power in Brazil. Photo: Andressa Anholete/Getty Images

Lula is inaugurated, Bolsonaro missing as he takes refuge in Florida

The disgraced former President of Brazil was not present to transfer over power, but was in Florida as he faces investigations back home.

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Former President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro was not present in the capital of Brasília on Sunday, Jan. 1, for the peaceful transfer of power to newly-elected Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a move comparable to that of former President Donald Trump when he decided to leave D.C. hours before the inauguration of his successor Joe Biden in 2020. 

It is an important symbol of peace that has been in Brazil since 1985, when its over 20-year dictatorship ended. This is Lula’s third term in office, with his first stint being consecutive terms from 2003-2011. 

It was a grand celebration complete with a motorcade, food and music as hundreds of thousands filled the city center, but Bolsonaro’s absence was well noted. 

While many would point to Bolsonaro’s non attendance being because of his stubbornness to not accept defeat, points have been raised that the former President is perhaps waiting out several criminal investigations against him back home. Instead of staying put in Brasília, Bolsonaro was waking up across the Americas in sunny Orlando, Florida. 

Reports emerged before the New Year that Bolsonaro had headed to The Sunshine State on Friday night, Dec. 30, but a video earlier on Jan. 2 confirmed that the former president is staying in a rented house owned by professional Brazilian mixed-martial-arts fighter Jose Aldo. He is expected to stay for at least a month. 

Bolsonaro has been a controversial figure in recent times as he has been compared to Donald Trump. And like Trump, he has questioned Brazil’s election systems without evidence in the months leading up to election night. Following his loss, he refused to concede. 

Before heading for Florida, Bolsonaro spoke to the Brazilian people for what is likely the final time as a president. On Friday, he broke weeks of silence and gave an address that included saying that he tried to block Lula from taking office. 

“Within the laws, respecting the Constitution, I searched for a way out of this,” he said. 

He then appeared to encourage his supporters to move on.

“We live in a democracy or we don’t,” he said. “No one wants an adventure.”

No one wants an adventure according to Bolsonaro, but he may be looking at one in the near future as he faces five criminal investigations, with one about his release of documents related to a classified investigation. Another focuses on his public outbursts on voting machines, in addition to one diving into his alleged connections to “digital militias” that spread misinformation on his behalf, particularly during the election. 

With Bolsonaro no longer a leader and just a mere citizen, he will lose the prosecutorial immunity he had. Other cases will likely be moved to local courts. 

Several top federal prosecutors attached to the cases have told the New York Times that there is enough evidence to convict, especially in the case regarding the release of classified material, according to the prosecutor. 

But Bolsonaro being in Florida could protect him from prosecution back home. The state has historically acted as a safe haven for Brazilian conservatives. 

According to The Times, it has also been reported that an anonymous source, a friend of the Bolsonaro family, said the former leader is taking up refuge in Florida as he waits to see if Lula and his administration will actually go forward and advance the investigations. 

With Lula completing the ultimate political comeback with his win, he faces a tough task ahead as he will have to tackle deforestation, a crippling economic crisis, and hunger. He also made sure to take a shot at Bolsonaro, saying he had threatened Brazil’s democracy.

“Under the winds of redemocratization, we used to say, ‘Dictatorship never again,’” he said. “Today, after the terrible challenge we’ve overcome, we must say, ‘Democracy forever.’

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