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Brazil government sets deadline for Bolsonaro's return to country, face courts

Bloomberg |
Feb 28, 2023 02:41 AM IST

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s administration is considering options to force former President Jair Bolsonaro to return to the country if he doesn’t voluntarily come back by the end of March, according to a high-ranking adviser to the leftist leader.

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s administration wants former President Jair Bolsonaro to appear before Brazilian courts in the next few months and is considering options to force him to return to the country if he doesn’t voluntarily come back by the end of March, according to a high-ranking adviser to the leftist leader.

Bolsonaro, who says he committed no wrongdoing, has been repeating he doesn’t intend to stay in the US for long. (REUTERS)

Bolsonaro, who has been vacationing in Florida since before the end of his term last year, is unlikely to face arrest upon his return to Brazil, said the adviser, requesting anonymity to discuss sensitive information. The conservative leader is under investigation on several fronts, including for allegedly inciting riots in Brasilia on Jan. 8, but no formal charges have been pressed against him.

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Also read: Brazil riots: President Lula slams far-right 'terrorism' as forces clear protest camps

Cases involving the former president also include allegations of planning a coup with some of his close aides, some of whom have been arrested, and his unproven claims about the integrity of Brazil’s electronic voting system in an event with foreign ambassadors. He is expected to be questioned during the investigations. If found guilty, he could lose his political rights for several years, which would leave him ineligible to run for president in the next election.

Bolsonaro, who says he committed no wrongdoing, has been repeating he doesn’t intend to stay in the US for long. But he applied for a six-month US visa on Jan. 30, suggesting that he was in no rush to leave the country. More recently, he told the Wall Street Journal he plans to return to Brazil in March to lead the political opposition to Lula. While prospects of having Bolsonaro leading rallies in Brazil are not particularly appealing to the government, Lula has said numerous times he wants to hold responsible all those who may be involved in the insurrection against his government.

Bolsonaro’s lawyer in Brazil didn’t reply to a request for comment. Lula’s office declined to comment.

After a period of silence following his defeat to Lula in October, Bolsonaro is active on social media again, touting accomplishments from his time in office and doing live broadcasts. This weekend, he appeared barbecuing with friends, including a country music singer and Pedro Guimaraes, the former chief executive of state-owned bank Caixa Economica Federal.

Photo: Pro-Bolsonaro protesters storm Brazil's top government offices

He has also attended a couple of events organized by conservative political organizations in the US, including a rally held at a Miami resort owned by his close ally Donald Trump. Next month, he’s is expected to participate in a conference of the Conservative Political Action Coalition in Washington.

Requests for Bolsonaro’s extradition have piled up at Brazil’s top court and foreign ministry since last month, most of them made by opposition lawmakers and parties in Brazil. Before meeting with Biden on Feb. 10, Lula told reporters he wouldn’t talk about the extradition of his political foe with the US president because the decision is ultimately in the hands of Brazil’s courts.

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