Hospitalized Jair Bolsonaro Promises Return to Brazil After Riot

AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, Jair Bolsonaro /

Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said in an interview on Monday that he planned to return to his country next month after departing for Florida in December – potentially setting up a legal battle in light of this weekend’s riot in the capital that partially destroyed the headquarters of the three branches of government.

Bolsonaro confirmed on Monday night that he is currently hospitalized in the greater Orlando, Florida, area after suffering intense abdominal pain. The former president survived an assassination attempt, a stabbing, during a campaign stop in September 2018 that significantly damaged his digestive system, leaving him vulnerable to painful intestinal blockages. He has undergone six surgeries since a socialist attacker identified as Adelio Bispo de Oliveira stabbed him repeatedly.

Bolsonaro’s presence in the United States has prompted calls from far-left American lawmakers to extradite him home in the aftermath of a thousands-strong riot on Sunday by many who identify as fervent supporters of the former president. Bolsonaro is already reportedly facing dozens of lawsuits from political opponents attempting to hold him criminally liable for a host of alleged infractions including his opposition to civil rights restrictions to stop the spread of Chinese coronavirus and his alleged lack of support for environmental regulations.

Opponents of socialist convicted felon President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva stormed the headquarters of the Brazilian Congress; the top court, the Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF); and the presidential office, Planalto Palace, on Sunday. Protesters broke through police barriers protecting the buildings and broke the glass facades of the Congress and STF headquarters, as well as damaging or destroying priceless artifacts in all three buildings. An assessment following the conclusion of the riot found the STF building totally unusable, as the protesters targeted and destroyed the offices of the ministers (the formal title for supreme court justices) and the chambers where cases are deliberated.

The protesters reject Lula’s win over Bolsonaro in October’s presidential election on the grounds that Lula was convicted on multiple appeals of taking bribes during his prior presidency and should not have been allowed on the ballot. Lula was in prison and had been sentenced to serve nearly 25 years when the STF intervened in 2021, overturning his conviction on jurisdictional grounds. The STF never presented any exculpatory evidence or made the case in any way that Lula was innocent.

Those who participated in the riot are a subset of Bolsonaro supporters who believe that the Brazilian constitution allows the military to intervene and oust Lula given the circumstances of the election. Many expressed frustration that the armed forces have ignored their pleas.

Many also expressed fervent support for Bolsonaro. Posting from Planalto on social media, rioters showed off Bolsonaro’s official presidential portrait as a trophy, the only one apparently not smashed to pieces. Bolsonaro’s portrait remains missing as of Tuesday.

Bolsonaro condemned the riot on Twitter late on Sunday but had largely abstained from making any public statements otherwise, save for posts on Twitter boasting of his achievements during his presidential term. On Monday, CNN Brasil claimed to have heard from Bolsonaro directly, quoting him explaining his health woes and confirming that he plans to return to the country shortly.

“I came [to the United States] to stay until the end of the month [January], but I intend to return,” Bolsonaro reportedly said. “Because, in Brazil, the doctors already know about my intestinal obstruction problem due to the stabbing. The doctors didn’t accompany me here.”

CNN Brasil’s quotes did not indicate that Bolsonaro described his return to Brazil in political terms, but rather referred to it as a medical necessity. Bolsonaro also reportedly lamented that his attempt to vacation following the end of his presidential term did not grant him much time to relax.

“This is going to be my third hospitalization for severe intestinal obstruction. I came to spend some time abroad with family but I have not had calm days,” Bolsonaro reportedly said. “First, that lamentable episode happened yesterday in Brazil [the riot], and then this hospitalization of mine.”

Adding to evidence Bolsonaro intends to return to Brazil, the government of Italy denied rumors on Tuesday that Bolsonaro had sought Italian citizenship and suggested that, even if he did, it is unlikely he would receive it. Bolsonaro is partly ethnically Italian; two of his sons have reportedly applied for citizenship.

Reports of Bolsonaro’s hospitalization began circulating on Monday. Bolsonaro confirmed the news with a photo on Twitter posted Monday night.

“After the stabbing I suffered in Juiz de Fora/[Minas Gerais], I was subject to 5 [sic] surgeries. Since the last one, I twice had adhesions that resulted in other medical procedures,” Bolsonaro wrote. “Yesterday, a new adhesion and hospitalization in Orlando/USA … Grateful for the prayers and messages to get well soon.”

Far-left American politicians have demanded that leftist President Joe Biden deport Bolsonaro, claiming his presence in Florida was an attempt to seek refuge following the Brasília riot. Reps. Joaquín Castro (D-TX) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) have led the charge in demanding an end to Bolsonaro’s stay in their country.

Journalists and legal observers have publicly speculated that, following Lula’s remarks blaming Bolsonaro in part for the riot, and his reported collapse in popularity following the incident, the former president could face criminal charges.

“The political calculus of loyal allies, the more vulnerable Bolsonaro is and the less popular support he can attract, the greater the chances that he becomes ‘easy prey’ for the judiciary and ends up in jail,” the newspaper O Globo reported on Monday.

Police have arrested over 1,500 people following the riot, most of them members of pro-Bolsonaro encampments around the headquarters of the armed forces, where they had installed themselves to ask for the military to oust Lula.


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