Ousted Brazilian president Bosonaro asks for US tourist visa

Mr Bolsonaro is under investigation in Brazil after a riotous mob of his supporters stormed government buildings in an attempt to oust his successor

Andrew Feinberg
Tuesday 31 January 2023 16:59 GMT
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Former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has officially asked the US State Department to grant him a tourist visa that would allow him to remain in the United States for up to six months as officials in the country he once led investigate a coup attempt by his supporters.

Mr Bolsonaro, a right-wing general turned politician, came to the US in December, just days before his successor, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was sworn into office. In an echo of former president Donald Trump’s refusal to accept his loss to Joe Biden, the ex-army officer never conceded defeat to Mr da Silva. After suggesting his loss was the result of widespread fraud — but offering no evidence to support the claims — the defeated soon-to-be ex-president decamped for Florida on 30 December, taking one last trip on the modified Airbus A319 known by callsign Brazilian Air Force 01 when the sitting head of state is aboard.

He spent the final days of his presidency in the Sunshine State and was photographed meeting with supporters in the residential neighbourhood where he has been staying, shopping for groceries, and eating Kentucky Fried Chicken just before his term expired.

He was still at the Florida vacation home owned by a Brazilian-born mixed martial arts fighter when a mob of his followers ransacked the buildings used by Brazil’s legislature, Mr da Silva and his staff, and the Brazilian Supreme Court for a period of hours before being driven out by soldiers and law enforcement who arrested more than 400 of them.

While Mr Bolsonaro was not present in the Brazilian capital for the riot, Brazil's Supreme Court has nonetheless agreed to open an investigation into the ex-president for allegedly encouraging the anti-democratic protests that ended in the storming of government buildings.

His continued presence in the US has rankled Democratic lawmakers, 41 of whom have asked the Biden administration to revoke the special visa he used to enter the US and cooperate with the Brazilian probe into the ex-president.

Because Mr Bolsonaro was still the sitting president of Brazil when he traveled to the US, he would have used the diplomatic passport he will be entitled to have for life under Brazilian law. State Department rules state that he was required to apply for and receive an A-1 visa, which is the only type of visa available to sitting heads of state wishing to enter the country.

The expiration of his term as president kicked off a 30-day period during which he must submit a form known as an I-566, along with a letter outlining his travel plans and itinerary, to the State Department’s Diplomatic Liaison Division, asking to adjust his status to a different non-immigrant visa category.

As a Brazilian citizen, Mr Bolsonaro is required to have a valid visa to remain in the US. His attorney, Felipe Alexandre, said the ex-president has asked the State Department to adjust his status and grant him the B-2 visa reserved for foreign tourists.

"He would like to take some time off, clear his head, and enjoy being a tourist in the United States for a few months before deciding what his next step will be," he said. “Whether or not he will use the full six months will be up to him and whatever strategy we agree to embark on based on his plans as they develop”.

The State Department declined to comment, citing US privacy laws which prohibit discussions of individual visa cases.

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