Brazil’s former president Jair Bolsonaro has said he is preparing to leave the US and return home within the next few weeks, after coming under fire in the wake of an attack on his country’s capital by thousands of his radical supporters.
The far-right populist has been in Florida since the end of last year when his term in office ended, following election defeat to left-winger Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
“I came [to the United States] to stay until the end of the month [January], but I intend to bring forward my return,” he told CNN Brasil.
After rioters calling for the overthrow of Lula’s new government invaded the Congress, supreme court and presidential palace in Brasília on Sunday, the White House has faced calls from prominent politicians to expel Bolsonaro.
Critics in the US and Brazil have accused the former president of fomenting extremism and disrespect towards democratic institutions.
Bolsonaro, who is subject to multiple legal investigations in his home country, has distanced himself from the attacks, which he said “crossed the line”.
But he appears to have pre-empted any potential expulsion from his trip abroad and is expected to travel back voluntarily.
The 67-year-old was admitted to a hospital on Monday with abdominal pains related to injuries sustained when he was stabbed on the campaign trail in 2018.
Bolsonaro told CNN Brasil that doctors in Brazil were more familiar with his intestinal obstruction, which has resulted in previous hospital stays.
“I came to spend some time away with the family. But I didn’t have calm days. First, there was this regrettable episode [on Sunday] in Brazil and then this hospitalisation of mine,” he added.
A person close to the Bolsonaro family said the ex-president wanted to seek treatment from medics in his homeland.
The decision will ease a headache for the administration of president Joe Biden. Democratic lawmakers Joaquin Castro and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are among those demanding Bolsonaro be kicked out.
Bolsonaro has rejected Lula’s allegations that he encouraged the violent disorder. In scenes redolent of the US Capitol invasion two years earlier, perpetrators trashed government buildings, which were unoccupied due to a summer recess. Hundreds of people have been arrested and detained.
“Do not try to create a narrative of lies as if Bolsonaro had any connection with these irresponsible acts,” Bolsonaro’s son Flávio, a senator, said during a Senate session on Tuesday. He added that his father had been “virtually incommunicado” since the election loss.
Renan Calheiros, a prominent Brazilian senator, on Monday asked the country’s Supreme Court for the “immediate” extradition of the former president, saying his involvement in Sunday’s disorder was “undeniable”.
Additional reporting by Carolina Ingizza