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Bolsonaro Lands Back in Brazil to Lead Right-Wing Opposition

BRASILIA—Brazil’s former President Jair Bolsonaro returned from three months in the United States on Thursday and was welcomed back by hundreds of chanting supporters at the Brasilia airport before heading straight into meetings with his political party.

Bolsonaro, who never formally conceded defeat in last year’s election, has vowed to lead the opposition to President Luiz Inacio Lula’s government, raising the stakes for the new administration after a highly polarized election.

Supporters with Brazil flags draped around their shoulders sang the national anthem and chanted “legend” at the arrivals area of the airport amid tight security.

The 68-year-old former president in a live webcast from the headquarters of his Liberal Party (PL) said conservatives controlled Congress and Lula’s minority government would not be able “to do what it liked with the future of our country.”

Bolsonaro left for the United States two days before he was due to hand over the presidential sash to Lula on Jan. 1.

Jair Bolsonaro
Brazil’s former President Jair Bolsonaro attends a meeting with members of the Liberal Party and allies in Brasilia, Brazil, on March 30, 2023. (Partido Liberal/Handout via Reuters)

Legal probes have focused on Bolsonaro’s attacks against Brazil’s voting system and alleged role in encouraging supporters to storm government buildings in Jan. 8 riots.

Bolsonaro in his webcast said the riots were spontaneous and denied they had been planned.

Bolsonaro attended the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this month in Washington where he questioned the result of the October election narrowly won by Lula and said his mission in Brazil was “still not over.”

His return to Brazil has been eagerly awaited by PL leader Valdemar Costa Neto, who wants Bolsonaro to lead the party into municipal elections next year.

Costa Neto has said that Bolsonaro was losing political capital by staying in Florida and expects his party to triple its slate of elected mayors across Brazil with the help of the former president.

“Bolsonaro will lead the opposition and travel around Brazil preaching the party’s … values ​​and helping the PL grow,” he told Reuters, outlining a plan for a right-wing comeback in the 2026 presidential elections.

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