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Former President Bolsonaro says he intends to return to Brazil this month


NATIONAL HARBOUR, Md. — Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro told NBC News on Saturday that he plans to return to Brazil, where an investigation is underway into whether he played a role in inciting of his supporters to storm government offices after his failed re-election bid.

The comments were made in an interview with NBC News during the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, in what is it is believed to be Bolsonaro’s first filmed interview with a US newscast since the October election defeat and since the January 8 uprising in Brasilia.

Bolsonaro left Brazil at the end of December, after his defeat, and moved to a community in Orlando, where he remained because Brazilian prosecutors said he was the subject of a wider investigation into who had instigated the the riot.

Bolsonaro said on Saturday that he was not responsible for the riots, saying through a translator:I was no longer president and I was out of Brazil. He also claimed bad left-wing actors were to blame for Brasilia’s destruction.

“All the good rallies in the last four years have been peaceful and we have nothing to do with that,” Bolsonaro said. said. “Our people would never do what the people did on January 8. So we are more and more certain that it is people on the left who planned all this.

He said through an interpreter that they are “fighting for an investigation” into what he said was the left’s nefarious involvement in the uprising.

Bolsonaro said through the translator that he intends to return to Brazil this month as the investigation continues and he faces potential legal risk.

When asked if he would stay in Brazil and face the charges, Bolsonaro said he was not responding to the lawsuits and “wasn’t cited in any way.”

Bolsonaro refused to admit on Saturday that he had lost the election to leftist rival Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who narrowly won the second round with 50.9% of the vote to Bolsonaro’s 49.1%.

Instead, he said, “the Brazilian people protested the election results and the other side – the people – did not celebrate the election of the other candidate.”

“I had more support in 2022 than in 2018,” he added, through a translator.

Days after da Silva’s inauguration on January 1, a crowd of Bolsonaro supporters stormed the presidential palace, Congress and the Supreme Court to decry the election results, drawing a parallel with the attack on 6 January 2021 against the US Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump. .

Longtime Trump strategist Steve Bannon called the protesters, about 1,500 of whom were arrested following the incursion, “Brazilian freedom fighters”.

Several American elected officials have called for his expulsion from the United States after the January 8 riot.

Bolsonaro arrived in the United States on a visa for diplomats and representatives of foreign governments. The visa expired in February and Bolsonaro is awaiting a decision from the US State Department on a six-month extension.

He hesitated when asked if he would stay in Brazil if charges were to be brought against him, saying, in the alternative, his “suspicions that it was a trap”.

Ahead of the defeat, Bolsonaro sowed doubt in Brazil’s electoral process, pointing to allegations of voter fraud by Trump in 2020.

Bolsonaro has said throughout the campaign that the country’s electronic voting system is prone to fraud, casting doubt and claiming after the election that a software bug thwarted his victory.

During his speech at CPAC, Bolsonaro, who spoke through a translator, said his “relationship with President Trump was nothing short of exceptional.”

His speech drew a sizable crowd at the conference, which his son, Brazilian Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro, also attended. The former president received several standing ovations and had one of the biggest rounds of applause when he spoke about Covid-19 vaccines. Bolsonaro has been widely criticized for his handling of the pandemic.

Denis Romero contributed.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.