Former President Bolsonaro returns to Brazil after three months in Florida The far-right leader went to Florida after losing his bid for reelection, days before his rival was inaugurated. While in Florida, Bolsonaro frequently met with supporters and conservative groups.

Former President Bolsonaro returns to Brazil after three months in Florida

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It was a much anticipated and somewhat subdued homecoming today for Brazil's far-right former president.


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing in Portuguese).

FLORIDO: To cheers of, the captain is back, the former army captain Jair Bolsonaro was warmly greeted by party faithful and supporters in the capital, Brasilia. Bolsonaro has spent the last three months in Florida in self-imposed exile. Back home now, he faces several investigations, including some that could send him to prison. We're joined now by NPR's South America correspondent Carrie Kahn in Rio de Janeiro.

Hey, Carrie.


FLORIDO: Were there big crowds out to greet Bolsonaro this morning?

KAHN: Not that big. At the airport, there was a good turnout of supporters. They're always carrying Brazilian flags, and they wear soccer jerseys with the green and yellow colors of Bolsonaro's nationalist party. He, however, didn't get to see the crowd, and he was ushered out a side entrance. He got into a small convoy of vehicles and then whisked away to his Liberal Party headquarters.

FLORIDO: So he got taken out the side door, huh?

KAHN: Yes.

FLORIDO: What has he said today?

KAHN: He waved to a crowd that was gathering outside the party headquarters, but he didn't speak there. Once inside, some short videos and pictures were tweeted out. In this short video that I'm going to play for you, he's complaining about the lack of security given to him, especially that there were no bulletproof vehicles.


JAIR BOLSONARO: (Speaking Portuguese).

KAHN: He says that when he was in office, he never persecuted an ex-president and always granted everything that they had asked for. He says that this lack of security detail today - that's what he called it - was the government sending him a signal. And while Bolsonaro's clearly here taking swipes at the new government, it is important just to say that he was attacked on the campaign trail back in 2018. He was stabbed in the stomach, and he still suffers complications from that assault.

FLORIDO: Carrie, what does Bolsonaro's return today tell us about the political climate in Brazil and his relations with the new government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva?

KAHN: The climate here is tense. It's very polarized. Those elections last October were very, very close and contentious. Bolsonaro never conceded defeat, and he still likes to question - you know, without providing any evidence - Brazil's electoral system, which he says is just vulnerable to fraud. Bolsonaro's also facing several investigations in Brazil here. Some are even criminal.

Electoral officials have launched probes, too, over his alleged dissemination of fake news and whether he incited supporters to attack the Capitol on Jan. 8. And such electoral violations could bar him from running for office in the future. And just recently, there were some headline-grabbing inquiries into his mishandling of jewels worth millions of dollars that he got as a gift from Saudi Arabia. So there was a lot of speculation today about whether he would be arrested upon his return.

FLORIDO: Well, now that he is back and not arrested, what are people saying about his far-right nationalist movement and its future in Brazil?

KAHN: Of course, it all depends on who you ask. I talked to Marcio Coimbra from the Economic Freedom Foundation. It's a conservative free-market group. And he says Brazil's right is tacking more to the middle now.

MARCIO COIMBRA: Bolsonaro is going to be an important player, but not the main player on the Brazilian right. There are new names that will be able to lead much more than Bolsonaro.

KAHN: Bolsonaro's base, however, stands firmly behind him. But his nationalist movement was discredited greatly since Jan. 8 and the attacks on the Capitol, back then, by hundreds of his supporters. And then there's Bolsonaro himself. He's been giving mixed messages about what his role will be. He talks about being more of, like, an elder adviser now that he's back in Brazil.

FLORIDO: NPR's Carrie Kahn in Rio de Janeiro.

Thank you.

KAHN: You're welcome.

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