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Bolsonaro ponders Brazil poll defeat from Trump hotel

Former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has spoken to hundreds of supporters at a property owned by former United States president Donald Trump.

Florida Bolsonaro Brazil Brazil's right-wing former president Jair Bolsonaro has spoken to supporters at an event in Florida.
February 5, 2023
By Terry Spencer, Eleonore Hughes and Nicholas Riccardi
5 February 2023

Former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has expressed bafflement at how he could have lost October’s election, smiling silently as a crowd of supporters chanted “fraud”.

Bolsonaro did not directly address his supporters’ January 8 assault on the buildings housing Brazil’s Congress and Supreme Court during his appearance in Miami on Friday before a conservative group tied to former United States president Donald Trump.

The event took place at Trump’s Miami hotel, underscoring the connection between two populist presidents who fanned suspicion of their democracies’ elections, leading supporters to turn violent after their losses. 

Bolsonaro had mimicked Trump’s strategy during his 2020 re-election campaign, sowing doubts about the reliability of Brazil’s voting machines for months before filing a petition to annul millions of votes. 

He is now under investigation for allegedly inciting the uprising.

Bolsonaro has not conceded the election, but unlike Trump, has never explicitly said he lost due to fraud. 

During a question-and-answer session with Charlie Kirk, head of the conservative Turning Point USA, the former Brazilian president rattled off his administration’s accomplishments and then provided backers with an opening.

“Brazil was doing very well,” Bolsonaro said.

“I cannot understand the reasons why (the election) decided to go to the left.”

After the cries of “fraud” died down, Kirk, who helped spread Trump’s election fraud lies after his loss, replied, “all I can say is, that sounds very familiar”.

Trump and Bolsonaro were political allies who shared an overlapping set of advisers. 

Shortly before Bolsonaro’s opponent Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took office, Bolsonaro moved to the state of Florida, where Trump is based.

Much of Bolsonaro’s speech was a defence of his four years in power, touting job gains, what he said was a lack of corruption in his administration and, in a reference that drew loud cheers, “freedom” for those who opted out of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Some of Bolsonaro’s backers in Brazil have expressed disappointment he left the country before January 8 and remained circumspect about the attack. 

The former president faces legal jeopardy not only from a mushrooming number of investigations into the January 8 uprising but from Brazil’s supreme court, which has censored websites that have spread what it calls lies about Brazil’s election.

Bolsonaro acknowledged Brazilians who have left the country for the US in his speech, including himself in that category.

“As well as we feel here, we always worry about our friends and family that stayed there,” he said, referring to Brazil.

He also reassured the crowd about the country’s future.

“I believe in Brazil and I am certain that Brazil will not end with the current government,” he said.

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