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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Daniel Carvalho, Simone Iglesias and Jennifer Jacobs

Bolsonaro has no intention of cutting his stay in Florida short

WASHINGTON — Brazil’s former president Jair Bolsonaro is in no rush to leave Florida, making life deeply uncomfortable for the White House as it gets ready to welcome his successor and bitter rival next month.

Back home, Bolsonaro is under investigation on multiple fronts, including his involvement in the Jan. 8 riots by supporters who refused to accept he lost the election to Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. His continued presence in the U.S. was already awkward but he’d indicated he’d cut his holiday short and leave at the end of January.

Instead, he’s applied for a six-month visitor visa, according to a person familiar with the matter. That will add to the diplomatic discomfort for this U.S. administration. Bolsonaro, a close ally of former President Donald Trump, decamped to Orlando two days before Lula’s inauguration on Jan. 1.

He had been traveling on a diplomatic visa that expired when he left office, leaving him with a 30-day window to apply for another type of visa that would permit him to stick around.

Not only is he aiming to stay in the condo he has occupied in the Orlando area but he’s also expected to participate at an event — $50 a head — prepared in his honor by the Brazilian diaspora.

At least 30,000 Brazilians have settled in Orlando, according to city estimates, and hundreds of thousands come as tourists every year. Brazilian voters in Florida cast ballots for Bolsonaro by a 4-to-1 margin, in stark contrast to his narrow loss to Lula back home, according to official Brazilian election results.

News of his change of plans began to filter through over the weekend when his eldest son, Flavio Bolsonaro, told reporters that his father doesn’t have a deadline to return to Brazil and dismissed the idea of extradition by the U.S.

“The far left in the U.S. plays the role of the far left here,” he said. “I believe that the U.S. is a serious country that won’t do anything illegal.”

Bolsonaro’s whereabouts is a problem both for the U.S. and the new Brazilian government.

The Supreme Court judge that heads the case could order his return but Lula’s administration would be wary of turning Bolsonaro in a political martyr after his narrow defeat in an October runoff.

The news of Bolsonaro staying longer in the U.S. also looms on Lula’s visit to the White House, which is expected to take place in early February. Biden has quickly moved to rebuild relationships with Brazil after the leftist president took over, seeking compromises in topics from the environment to green energy.

Two close advisers to Lula, who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations, said the president doesn’t want to waste any energy thinking about Bolsonaro. One of them acknowledged that Lula’s advisers are split about the best way to handle Bolsonaro’s case.

The State department declined to comment on Monday. Earlier in January, State Department spokesman Ned Price said government officials in the U.S. no longer doing “official business” have 30 days to request to change their immigration status.

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