(Brasilia) After a three-month stay in the United States, Jair Bolsonaro returned early Thursday to Brazil for the first time since his presidential defeat against Lula, determined to play an important political role.
The far-right ex-president, the subject of a long series of investigations, faces legal proceedings with possible ineligibility and possible imprisonment, while complicating the political deal for his left-wing successor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Bolsonaro, head of state from 2019 to 2022, arrived at Brasilia International Airport shortly before 7 a.m. (6 a.m. Eastern) on a commercial flight from Orlando, Florida .
Some 200 well-wishers were waiting for him, all carrying Brazilian flags around their shoulders and singing, in the midst of an unusual police deployment, noted an AFP journalist.
But Bolsonaro left the airport without addressing them. CNN Brasil broadcast images of a motorcade leaving the airport.
“We’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time,” Eva Malgaço, an employee of a beauty salon, told AFP-TV at the airport. “He needed this moment for him, to be away. As a patriot, I approved of his departure,” she added.
Bolsonaro had left Brazil on December 30, even before the end of his mandate, boycotting Lula’s inauguration ceremony on January 1.
“I will participate (in the political life) of my party, bringing my experience,” he told CNN Brasil on Wednesday evening at the Orlando airport.
At 68 and after a defeat of less than two million votes that had plunged him into silence, even depression, Bolsonaro declared last week his intention to “travel the country”, and “to do politics”. to defend ultra-conservative values in Brazil.
This return is greeted with nervousness in Brasilia where the Military Police stood ready to quickly close access to the Esplanade des Trois-pouvoirs, in the heart of the capital, as at the airport, in the event of overflows.
Bolsonaro supporters had been called on social networks to welcome him in large numbers. PL MP Gustavo Gayer called for “solid support” to “pave the way for Bolsonaro’s return to the presidency”.
On the political level, “Lula will now have to govern with an organized opposition, that could make a big difference”, advanced for AFP Jairo Nicolau, political scientist at the Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV).
As soon as he arrived, Bolsonaro had to go to the premises of the PL, under escort of Military Police vehicles, like any ex-president. He must be welcomed there by Valdemar Costa Netto, the leader of this party under whose colors he had run for president, and by deputies, allied senators and former ministers.
The Liberal Party, which confirmed to AFP that Bolsonaro, by becoming its honorary president, would receive monthly stipends of nearly 7,000 euros, made great publicity around the arrival of the ex-head of ‘State.
Bolsonaro’s return to Brazil comes as President Lula is going through a difficult streak, less than three months after taking office.
After contracting pneumonia, he had to postpone this week a state visit to China on which his advisers were counting to restore his image following various controversies and untimely statements.
After the premises of the PL, Bolsonaro must go to his future residence, in a very protected residential complex in the Jardim Botanico district of Brasilia, with his wife Michelle.
The 41-year-old fervent evangelical has just taken over as head of the PL’s women’s wing and could possibly run for president in 2026.
Bolsonaro is in the middle of a controversy over luxury jewelry, worth at least three million euros, received from Saudi Arabia that he would have brought illegally into Brazil. He was summoned by the police on April 5 for a statement.
But he is also in the crosshairs of justice for several cases and has lost his immunity.
Bolsonaro is notably subject to five investigations at the Supreme Court in cases that could earn him prison sentences.
The most recent concerns his role in the riots of January 8 against the places of power in Brasilia, ransacked by thousands of his supporters.
The other four relate to alleged crimes during his tenure: disinformation about the electronic ballot box system or about COVID-19.
Jair Bolsonaro is also the subject of no less than 16 investigations at the Superior Electoral Court (TSE).
He could be sentenced to eight years of ineligibility, which would prevent him from running for president in 2026.