Outgoing Brazillian President Jair Bolsonaro fled to Florida just before his successor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was inaugurated on Sunday following a tearful speech that on Friday urged supporters not to be violent even though the election was "unfair."
“Nothing justifies this attempted terrorist act here in Brasília airport,” Bolsonaro said. “[Have] Intelligence. Let’s show we are different from the other side, that we respect the norms and the Constitution.”
“Nothing is lost,” he told supporters. “Brazil is a fantastic country, and Brazil doesn’t end on January first.”
After the hour-long speech, Bolsonaro flew to Orlando, Florida, where he met with former President Donald Trump, who had been an ally during his time in office.
His trip has led to speculation about whether Bolsonaro will seek exile in the U.S. to avoid a litany of charges that have been leveled against him in the waning days of his administration.
Bolsonaro has been accused of embezzling public funds, the theft of staff wages, and grossly mishandling COVID-19 while in office. His presidential immunity expired when he left office on January 1, and he expressed to at least two aides that he fears being imprisoned once out of office.
Despite a bomb threat that was averted on Saturday, Lula was inaugurated without incident.
Like the U.S., Brazil is strongly polarized between support for conservative Bolsonaro and far-left communist Lula. The election was close, and many strongly believe Bolsonaro actually won.
It is likely that Brazil may go down a similar path as the U.S. now that Lula has taken power, with out-of-control spending and even higher inflation becoming the norm.
And Lula faces his own corruption charges, having been in jail until just three years ago when corruption and money laundering charges against him were anulled by the Supreme Court because it said he was denied due process. It is his third term as president since 2003.
Unlike in the U.S., however, there was a strong push by Bolsonaro supporters for a military coup to keep him in power, and thousands of supporters remain camped out at army barracks around the country.
This is “a reminder of the significant share of Brazilians who are deeply opposed and hostile to the Lula administration,” co-founder of the Rio think tank Igarapé Institute Robert Muggah said. “The risk is that they could be mobilized in a more substantial way in the coming year should the incoming administration make any significant missteps.”
Are these two men really the best Brazil has to offer to its people? One who might end up in jail for corruption and one who has already been there?
Like the U.S., the candidates who can garner the most support seem lackluster at best, and the dearth of ethical leadership will most likely be a challenge for Brazil for the coming years.