Bolsonaro wows hundreds of fans at Trump's Miami club, as probe looms

Former Brazilian President Bolsonaro brags about the size of his crowds and says he can’t believe he lost the election before being mobbed by fans at Donald Trump’s Miami hotel — but steers clear of mentioning growing investigation back home

  • Jair Bolsonaro left Brazil at the end of December before successor was sworn in
  • On Friday he addressed adoring supporters at Donald Trump’s Miami golf club 
  • ‘Brazil is doing very well but we can’t understand why the left won,’- he said

For more than a month former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro lived quietly in an Orlando suburb, waiting for a new U.S. visa amid a growing investigation into the violent attack on government buildings by his supporters last month.

This week he broke cover in decisive style, sending supporters into raptures with a public speech at Donald Trump’s Miami club on Friday.

He channeled the former American president, bragging about the size of his crowds before saying his list of economic achievements made his election defeat all the more mysterious.

‘Brazil is doing very well but we can’t understand why the left won,’ he told an ecstatic crowd of supporters in a chandelier-adorned ballroom.

His host for the afternoon, conservative activist and Trump ally Charlie Kirk responded: ‘All I can say is that sounds very familiar.’

Jair Bolsonaro has lived quietly in an Orlando suburb since flying out of Brazil at the end of last year. On Friday, he received a rapturous reception as he gave a speech at Trump’s Miami hotel

He avoided mentioning a looming investigation into any role he may have played in the Jan. 8 attack on government buildings in the Brazilian capital, before being mobbed by fans

Bolsonaro arrived in Florida at the end of December. He left Brazil without conceding defeat following October’s election, days before his successor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was sworn into office.

His populist rhetoric, pre-election warnings of voter fraud and hardline resistance to COVID measures brought comparisons with Trump.

Those only intensified when his supporters stormed government buildings in the capital Brasilia, calling for a coup to restore him to power. The date, Jan. 8, could barely have been closer to the Trump inspired riot of Jan. 6, 2021.

Hours before he appeared in Trump National Doral’s Crystal Ballroom, Brazilian police said they had carried out another series of raids as they continue to investigate the violence.

None of that mattered to the 500 members of the mostly Brazilian audience.

They cheered as Kirk, the founder of Turning Point USA, introduced Bolsonaro as a bulwark against Latin American communism.

They cheered all the louder as he claimed to have protected their freedoms during the pandemic, when he was condemned by the international community for not doing enough to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

‘Brazil is one of the most digitized countries in the world. And even with the great crisis of the pandemic we finished the year of 2020 even when it comes to the creation of new jobs,’ he said.

‘And we were able during the pandemic to provide for all and most importantly freedom for those chose not to get the vaccine.’

Bolsonaro was speaking at a ‘Power of the People’ event organized by rightwing campaign group Turning Point USA. Charlie Kirk introduced him as a crusader against communism

The venue came with the trappings of a Trump property, including giant chandeliers

Maria Marquez, 63, said Bolsonaro was simply the greatest president of her lifetime for tackling corruption and keeping socialists at bay

While Bolsonaro spoke inside, polo-shirted golf players completed their rounds and made for the hotel bar at Trump’s Miami property on a warm Friday afternoon

Much of it could have come from a Trump rally, as he talked up his achievements and his popularity.

‘During my campaign I attracted massive crowds through the five regions of Brazil,’ he said.

He slammed his successor for undermining his efforts to boost the economy, and hinted that may have more work to do in Brazil.

‘I recharge my batteries in moments like this,’ he said as the crowd roared their approval. ‘Every day that passes I love Brazil more.’

At the end of his speech and a question-and-answer session, he was escorted from the stage through the audience — rather than exiting backstage.

The result was predictable pandemonium. A surge of people trying to get selfies with the former president quickly became a frightening crush, as his security detail battled to keep their charge from losing his footing.  

As he left, he ignored shouted questions about whether he was planning to return to Brazil any time soon.

Hours before he spoke, Brazilian police said they had made another series of raids as they continue to investigate the Jan. 8 attacks by Bolsonaro supporters on government buildings

Supporters of Bolsonaro clashed with police on Jan. 8 in the capital Brasilia, attacking parliament, the supreme court and the presidential palace

Earlier this week The former Brazilian president gave his first hint that he was not done with politics.

On Tuesday night, at an event with supporters he deflected questions about the 2026 presidential race.

But he suggested there was more to come. ‘I am 67 years old and I intend to remain active in the Brazilian politics,’ he said.

Sandra Barney, who had driven an hour and a half from Fort Lauderdale to hear Bolsonaro, said it was too early for him to return.

‘If he goes to Brazil he will be arrested,’ said the Brazilian born dentist, 62, who had claimed a front-row seat.

Maria Marquez, 63, said he was simply the greatest president of her lifetime for tackling corruption and keeping socialists at bay.

‘Lula did not win,’ she said, before echoing Bolsonaro’s train of thought. ‘Everywhere he went the streets were empty. Bolsonaro got one million, two million people.

‘How can that be?’ 

For now, Bolsonaro remains in Florida. He has been staying in the Orlando suburbs at the home of Jose Aldo, a former cage fighting champion. 

The violent protests immediately provoked comparisons with Donald Trump, Bolsonaro’s close populist ally, and the way his supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol two years earlier

Bolsonaro poses for photos with his supporters outside the home he is staying in at Encore resort at Reunion on January 22, 2023 in Kissimmee, Florida

Last week, his lawyer began the process of securing a new six-month visa to replace the diplomatic visa he arrived on at the end of last year, and which became invalid as soon as he was no longer president.

He faces multiple investigations back home but his alleged involved in riots by supporters who refuse to accept defeat.

It leaves the Biden administration with a thorny diplomatic problem. 

Dozens of members of President Joe Biden’s own party wrote to him last month urging him to send Bolsonaro back.

Their letter urged the administration to cooperate with investigations in Brazil over the Jan. 8 violence. 

‘We must not allow Mr Bolsonaro or any other former Brazilian officials to take refuge in the United States to escape justice for any crimes they may have committed when in office,’ said the letter, signed by 46 lawmakers. 

Lula is due to visit the White House next week, only intensifying an awkward situation as Bolsonaro starts to increase his public appearances in Trump’s backyard of Florida. 

Meanwhile Brazilian authorities have moved aggressively against the rioters, making more than 1000 arrests in the days after the violence.

The country’s supreme court also said it would investigate Bolsonaro’s role in inspiring the mob.

One of its justices said Bolsonaro had questions to answer for questioning the country’s electoral system and his attacks on the nation’s institutions. 

At the time, the former president’s lawyer said: ‘President Jair Bolsonaro vehemently repudiates the acts of vandalism and depredation of public property committed by those infiltrating the demonstration.

‘He has never had any relationship with or participation in these spontaneous social movements carried out by the population.’

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