Ex-Brazil president who has been in Florida since 30 December is being investigated for attempt to topple country’s government
Brazil’s former president Jair Bolsonaro, who is facing investigation as part of an inquiry into an alleged attempt to topple the country’s government, has filed a request for a six-month visitor visa to stay in the US.
The former leader is understood to have entered the US on an A-1 visa reserved for sitting heads of state, which would expire on Tuesday, 30 days from the end of his presidential term.
On Monday, a California-based law firm known for its work with Brazilians said that Bolsonaro had requested a six-month visa to stay in the US.
“We look forward to achieving the highest level of satisfaction and desired results for our client,” AG Immigration Group said in a statement.
Bolsonaro left Brazil for Florida on 30 December, two days before the inauguration of his leftist rival, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The ceremony proceeded without incident, but a week later thousands of Bolsonaro’s diehard supporters stormed the capital and trashed the top government buildings, demanding that Lula’s election be overturned
Bolsonaro is being investigated for whether he had any role in inciting that uprising. It is just one of several probes targeting the former president that pose a legal headache upon his eventual homecoming.
For the first time in his more than three-decade political career as a lawmaker then as president, he no longer enjoys the special legal protection that requires any trial be held in the supreme court.
Bolsonaro’s calculus appears to be to distance himself from the radicals whose destruction in the capital could implicate him in the short term, with the aim of some day returning to lead the opposition, said Mário Sérgio Lima, a political analyst at Medley Global Advisors.
“He is giving it some time, staying away a bit from the country at a moment when he can begin to suffer legal consequences for his supporters’ attitudes,” said Lima. “I don’t think the fact of him staying away is enough. The processes will continue, but maybe he thinks he can at least avoid some sort of revenge punishment.”
Bolsonaro has been staying in a home outside Orlando, Florida, and video has shown him snapping photos with supporters in the gated community and ambling around inside a supermarket.
After the rampage in the Brazilian capital this month, a group of 46 Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to President Joe Biden demanding Bolsonaro’s visa be revoked.
“The United States must not provide shelter for him, or any authoritarian who has inspired such violence against democratic institutions,” they wrote.
Brazil’s last justice minister, Anderson Torres, was also visiting the US during the riot and was arrested on his return.
Bolsonaro was one of the closest international allies of Donald Trump, another former president living in Florida who has made baseless allegations about electoral fraud.
The former leader had previously told CNN Brasil that he had planned to return by the end of January, and was considering moving his departure earlier for health reasons.
The far-right leader was injured in a knife attack in 2018. He has suffered continuing health complications from that assassination attempt, and received hospital care during his stay in Florida.
Bolsonaro’s son, a senator, told reporters at an event this weekend that he was not sure when his father would return to Brazil.
“It could be tomorrow, it could be in six months, he might never return. I don’t know. He’s relaxing,” Flávio Bolsonaro said.
The US state department has repeatedly declined comment to questions about Bolsonaro’s visa status in the US.