Bolsonaro may have to leave US within weeks, amid diplomatic fallout from Brasilia attack

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The former Brazilian president has taken up residence in Florida, and some Democrats are calling for his visa to be revoked

Supporters of Jair Bolsonaro attack a police vehicle outside the presidential palace in Brasilia, Brazil, on 8 January 2023.
Supporters of Jair Bolsonaro attack a police vehicle outside the presidential palace in Brasília, Brazil, on Sunday. Photograph: Sérgio Lima/AFP/Getty Images

Julian Borger World affairs editor Mon 9 Jan 2023 18.44 GMT

The future of former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, who flew to Florida in his last days in office, is emerging as a potential diplomatic issue between Brazil and the US amid calls for his expulsion for inciting insurrection.

Bolsonaro arrived in Florida on 30 December when he was still president, in which case he could have entered on an A-1 visa reserved for foreign leaders. The state department said on Monday it could not comment on individual cases, but said in general if a foreign official entered the US on an A-1 visa and then ceased to be engaged on official business, it would be the responsibility of that official to leave within 30 days, or be subject to removal by the Department of Homeland Security.

Bolsonaro has distanced himself from the mob which stormed government buildings in the capital, Brasília, on Sunday, denying accusations from his successor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, that he had encouraged the rioters from the US.

Protesters, supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, stand on the roof of the National Congress building after they stormed it, in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

Leading Democrats have called for Bolsonaro’s visa to be revoked, so that he would not be allowed to use Florida as a base for destabilising Lula’s government.

“The United States should revoke any visas held by Jair Bolsonaro and if Brazil requests Bolsonaro’s extradition – whether for crimes related to the January 8 attack or other crimes he may have committed while in office – we should fully comply,” Democratic congressman, Joaquin Castro, a member of the House foreign affairs committee, told the Guardian.

Joe Biden issued a joint statement on Monday with the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, condemning “the January 8 attacks on Brazil’s democracy and on the peaceful transfer of power”.

“We stand with Brazil as it safeguards its democratic institutions. Our governments support the free will of the people of Brazil,” the statement said, adding that the three leaders looked forward to working with President Lula.

The US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told journalists on Monday that there had been no contact between the administration and Bolsonaro, and the US had yet to receive any requests from the Brazilian government related to the former president.

“Of course, if we did receive such requests, we treat them the way we always do. We treat them seriously,” Sullivan said.

Democrats are concerned that Florida, run by a hardline Republican governor and presidential contender, Ron DeSantis, is increasingly becoming a hotbed for far-right putschists. Recent attempted coups in Haiti and Venezuela have been plotted from there and the state has become the permanent home of Donald Trump, a close Bolsonaro ally who continues his refusal to acknowledge his own election defeat in 2020, at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

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