Congressmen Want to Revoke Right-Wing Former Brazilian President’s Visa
WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats are urging President Joe Biden to revoke the visa of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro after insurrectionists stormed that nation’s government buildings this week in a repeat of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot in Washington, D.C.
Bolsonaro is in Orlando, Florida, after losing a reelection campaign. He sought medical treatment and also has been vacationing.
Similar to former President Donald Trump, Bolsonaro claims he lost the election by a slim margin through voter fraud.
His angry supporters responded by breaking into and vandalizing the presidential palace, Congress and Supreme Court in Brasilia on Sunday.
Biden called the attack a threat to democracy. His criticisms were joined Wednesday by 46 House Democrats who said in their letter to the president that Bolsonaro should have no right to a diplomatic visa.
“We know firsthand the impact — both immediate and long-term — when government officials subvert democratic norms, spread misinformation and foment violent extremism,” the letter says.
By losing his status as president after his opponent’s Oct. 30, 2022, victory, he no longer should retain a diplomatic visa, particularly considering the violence he inspired, the congressmen said.
“Mr. Bolsonaro flew to Florida before the end of his presidential term and the inauguration of his successor, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and we are concerned by reports that he currently is residing in Orlando,” the letter says. “The United States must not provide shelter for him, or any authoritarian who has inspired such violence against democratic institutions.”
Bolsonaro flew to Florida on Dec. 30, 2022, two days before Lula da Silva was inaugurated.
He is under investigation by Brazilian authorities over the extent of his involvement in the Jan. 8 riot. Prosecutors are taking action to freeze his financial assets.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., went further, pledging to introduce legislation that would bar Bolsonaro and any other nation’s leader that sought to overturn elections they lost.
“It is shameful and inexcusable that Bolsonaro is in Florida on a U.S. visa taking selfies after sowing disinformation and skipping the swearing in of his fairly elected successor,” Durbin wrote in a separate letter to Biden. “Legislation I will propose would ensure anyone who undermines a fair democratic election or peaceful transfer of power is ineligible for a U.S. visa.”
A White House spokesman has said the president would consider the visa revocation requests but declined to make any promises.
Biden administration officials acknowledge that Bolsonaro has placed them in an awkward diplomatic position. They do not want to alienate the government led by Lula da Silva but they also don’t want to anger Bolsonaro’s right-wing supporters.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a press briefing Wednesday the U.S. government would await a possible request from the Brazilian government before deciding whether to expel Bolsonaro.
“If and when we do, we’ll work expeditiously to respond as we always do,” Blinken said.
Bolsonaro hinted during an interview with CNN Brazil that he might resolve any visa questions by returning to his home country this month.
“I came [to the U.S.] to stay until the end of the month [January], but I intend to bring forward my return,” Bolsonaro said.