Bolsonaro finds a new home in Florida

As Brazil lives in the aftermath of mobs breaking into the main seats of power, its former president has moved to a Florida resort, where a crowd of supporters turned out to cheer him on.

Jair Bolsonaro’s followers have traveled in recent days to the former president’s temporary home, located in a gated community with water slides, to have the opportunity to see him. Bolsonaro signed autographs, hugged children and took selfies with the adoring masses, some wearing “Make Brazil Great Again” T-shirts.

“I will always support him,” said Rafael Silva, 31, who left Brazil eight years ago and is now putting up apartments in central Florida, where he stood outside Bolsonaro’s rental house on Monday. “He was the best for the country.”

In the early afternoon, the handful of yellow-shirted supporters dissipated as word spread that Bolsonaro was hospitalized with abdominal pain. His wife, Michelle, said on social media that he had been admitted for observation due to abdominal discomfort related to the stabbing he suffered in 2018 and which has led to multiple hospitalizations in the past. A photo published by the Brazilian newspaper O Globo showed him smiling from his hospital bed. A spokesman for the medical center did not immediately respond to a phone call and text message.

Before mobs stormed Congress, the Federal Supreme Court and Brazil’s presidential palace on Sunday, Bolsonaro had been seen repeatedly in this central Florida community, wandering the aisles of a Publix supermarket, dining alone at a local KFC and most of all surrounded by fans.

Although Osceola County police said they received a request from the Secret Service to provide Bolsonaro with a police escort when he arrived and he was still a sitting president, he has not been surrounded by a notable group of security.

“He will feel at home in Florida’s right-wing scam and podcasting ecosystem, finding allies with anyone who thinks they can use him to further their far-right agenda,” said Andy Reiter, a professor of politics and international relations at Mount Holyoke College. who has investigated foreign leaders.

Their new home, Encore Resort at Reunion, in suburban Orlando, is made up of rental houses furnished with foosball tables, screening rooms, Disney décor on the walls and Mickey Mouse stuffed animals on the beds.

If the sight of the former president of one of the world’s greatest countries wandering through a gated community a stone’s throw from Walt Disney World in shorts seems strange, take a look at history.

Over the past half century, a series of rulers in the region have called this state their home, at least for a while, from Haiti’s Prosper Avril to Nicaragua’s Anastasio Somoza to Panama’s Manuel Noriega. Like other Latin American notables, they have lived in modest homes as well as elaborate mansions and, in Noriega’s case, in a Miami prison cell where he spent 17 years on drug charges.

Asked by reporters Monday if the United States would send Bolsonaro back to Brazil, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the Biden administration had not received any requests from Brazil related to the former president.

Brazil’s Justice Minister Flavio Dino told reporters that, at the moment, Brazil had no plans to ask the United States for Bolsonaro’s extradition.

Central Florida has attracted large numbers of Brazilians over the last two decades, who have transformed the area with the presence of Brazilian shops and restaurants.

Florida has the largest population of Brazilian-born residents in the United States — nearly 130,000 — according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Many more arrive as visitors, around 830,000 in 2019, the third largest international market for the region.

Although Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva won the Brazilian elections by more than 2 million votes, Brazilian voters residing in Florida seem to have clearly favored Bolsonaro. Election data for Brazilians living abroad show 56 voting centers in Miami, the only city in Florida where data is collected.

In each of the 56 areas Bolsonaro won, sometimes by 6-1 margins. In total, more than 16,000 votes were registered among Brazilians in the Miami area, and 81% of them voted for Bolsonaro.

“It’s very popular with Brazilian migrants in central Florida,” said Joel Stewart, a former honorary consul for Brazil in Orlando. Brazil opened a consular office in Orlando last year.

Bolsonaro has long been known as the “Trump of the Tropics,” so it’s not surprising that he ended up living just a few hours’ drive from the former US president’s Palm Beach residence. Both rose to power on the right-wing and others’ frustration with the government, pushed nationalist government programs while in office and spread electoral fraud lies after their own defeats at the polls. Supporters of both ex-presidents lashed out at the seats of power after their candidate lost.

Rodrigo Constantino, an expert on the Brazilian right who lives in Florida, sees similarities between Bolsonaro’s support in the state and the triumphant reelection of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. Both, he asserted, represent a rejection of “wokeist, totalitarian economic egalitarianism, and the sensationalist demagogy of the radical left.”

Whatever the annoyance that may exist against Bolsonaro in Brazil, Constantino assures that Brazilians living in Florida will understand and accept it.

“If you want to come to my house and eat barbecue and talk about football or speak ill of communism, you will be welcome,” Constantino declared.

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