Bolsonaro's New Life as a Florida Man: Fast-Food Runs and Selfies

By Tim Craig

"This is either an attempt to get away or a self-imposed exile," said AS/COA's Brian Winter to The Washington Post.

Far from the chaos in his homeland, former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has found refuge among a swell of supporters in an unexpected location: An Orlando suburb near Disney World.

The controversial leader, whose supporters stormed Brazil’s National Congress building, Supreme Federal Court and presidential office on Sunday, landed in the Sunshine State shortly before President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was sworn into office.

In the week since, he has been spotted waiting in line at Publix, eating alone at Kentucky Fried Chicken and posing for selfies with the bevy of fans who show up at the modest, two-story home where he is staying. […]

Brian Winter, editor of Americas Quarterly and an expert on Latin American politics, said it is not uncommon for former Brazilian presidents to leave the country around the time of a successor’s inauguration. But in this case, Winter believes that Bolsonaro may be preparing to seek exile to avoid criminal prosecution in Brazil, although he cautions he may ultimately seek refuge in a country other than the United States.

“He has not officially been charged with a crime yet, so for now this is either an attempt to get away or a self-imposed exile, depending on who you believe,” Winter said. “I lean more toward the idea that it is the beginning of an exile, especially after what happened on Sunday.”…

Winter noted there is no indication that Bolsonaro urged his supporters to storm government buildings, and he did issue a public statement condemning those actions as chaos was unfolding.

“Bolsonaro did not stand in front of the Brazilian Congress and urge his followers to go show their strength,” he said. “He was 4,000 miles away, and at least in public, silent on Sunday.”

Yet, Winter believes the scenes of mob violence in Brasília has increased the pressure on prosecutors to charge Bolsonaro with a crime.

“If Bolsonaro is trying to play the long game, it got more complicated after Sunday,” Winter said. “Most of the people who previously advocated leniency are now saying, ‘If we don’t prosecute, we will continue to run into problems like we did on Sunday.’”

If he is charged, Winter believes Bolsonaro would try to claim exile, either in the United States or perhaps in Europe. If in the United States, Winter doubts the Biden administration would grant it. Bolsonaro’s best hope, he said, could be to drag out the process until after the 2024 presidential election. […]

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