Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro leaves for the US ahead of Lula’s inauguration

Sao Paulo, Brazil

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro left for the United States on Friday, according to CNN Brasil, two days before the inauguration of his successor, President-elect Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva.

Bolsonaro took off from Brasília Air Force Base in a Brazilian Air Force plane. He was accompanied by advisers and first lady Michelle Bolsonaro, CNN Brasil reported.

“I’m on a flight, I’ll be right back,” Bolsonaro told CNN Brasil.

His decision to leave comes after the Brazilian government issued a regulation on Friday authorizing five officials to accompany “future ex-president” Bolsonaro to Miami, Florida between January 1 and 30, 2023.

While it’s unclear when Bolsonaro plans to return, his trip to the US could break Brazil’s convention of outgoing leaders attending the inauguration ceremony of their successors. Lula da Silva will be inaugurated on Sunday.

Bolsonaro said goodbye to his supporters in an online shared live broadcast earlier on Friday.

“Brazil doesn’t end on January 1, you can be sure of that,” the outgoing president said, referring to Lula da Silva’s inauguration date.

“Today we have a mass of people who know more about politics,” he continued. “They understand that they are in danger. The good will win. We have leaders all over Brazil. New politicians or re-elected politicians, they will make the difference.”

Supporters of outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro watch his farewell video outside the Alvorada Palace in Brasilia on Friday.

He also condemned an airport bombing in Brasilia.

The suspect, who was arrested last weekend, said in a written statement to police that he planned to “create chaos” to prevent former Lula da Silva from taking office again in January.

“There is no justification, here in Brasília, for this…terrorist act, here in the Brasília airport region. Nothing justifies it.” Bolsonaro said Friday.

Bolsonaro’s government has said it will cooperate with the transfer of power, but the far-right leader has not explicitly admitted his election loss on October 30. In protest, thousands of his supporters have gathered in military barracks across the country for the military to intervene as they claim, without evidence, that the election was stolen.

But on Friday, Bolsonaro rescinded a regulation barring Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and other authorities from that country from entering Brazil.

The request to lift the ban came from Lula da Silva’s team, the president-elect’s press officer said. Maduro was invited to the inauguration.

The regulation, which took effect in August 2019, was issued by Bolsonaro himself. A new regulation was published in the federal government’s official journal on Friday.

In November, Maduro announced on social media that he and Lula had agreed to resume a “cooperation agenda” between the two countries after Bolsonaro’s government took a hostile stance towards Brazil’s Latin American neighbour.

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