Brazil’s outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro, who has not acknowledged his electoral defeat, left the country Friday, two days before his successor’s inauguration and shortly after bidding his followers a tearful farewell.
The controversial far-right leader left for Florida in the United States on an air force plane around 2:00 pm (1700 GMT), according to several news outlets.
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“I am flying, I’ll be back soon,” CNN Brazil reported Bolsonaro as saying.
His plane landed in Orlando shortly after 9:00 pm (0200 GMT Saturday), according to the aviation tracking website FlightAware.
This means he will miss Sunday’s swearing-in ceremony and will not transfer the presidential sash to leftist president-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, as is the tradition.
Bolsonaro is technically president for two more days.
His vice president, Hamilton Mourao, is now acting president and will give a national address on Saturday, according to the RNR public broadcaster.
The presidency did not respond to AFP questions on the timing and purpose of Bolsonaro’s trip.
Earlier Friday, Bolsonaro assured supporters in a live broadcast on social media that “we will not see the world end on January 1” when Lula takes up the presidential mantle.
“We have a great future ahead,” the outgoing president declared, adding: “Battles are lost, but we will not lose the war.”
It was Bolsonaro’s first live address since his narrow October defeat, after which the active social media user fell uncharacteristically silent.
Lula had won the election with 50.9 percent of the vote to Bolsonaro’s 49.1 percent.
His inauguration would be the first since 1985 without the outgoing president transferring the presidential sash to his successor.
That year, the last president of the military dictatorship, General Joao Batista Figueiredo, snubbed the inauguration of Jose Sarney, according to reports from the time by the O Globo newspaper.
Addressing hundreds of followers who continue to protest outside military installations in Brasilia and other cities demanding the army intervene to stop Lula’s ascension, Bolsonaro said he had given his best.
“I never expected to get here,” he said, in tears.
“At least, we delayed by four years Brazil’s collapse into this nefarious ideology, which is the left… Say the best of me,” added Bolsonaro, who according to a majority of analysts leaves behind a poor record that includes environmental destruction and Covid-19 chaos.
According to Friday’s government gazette, the presidency had authorized a delegation to travel with Bolsonaro to Miami from January 1 to 30 to provide “security and personal support.”
The outgoing leader spoke for the first time Friday about a failed bomb attack in Brasilia a week ago by a man who said he was a Bolsonaro supporter seeking to sow “chaos” ahead of the inauguration and “prevent the establishment of communism in Brazil” under Lula.
“Nothing justifies this attempt at terrorism,” Bolsonaro said.
The failed attempt with explosives placed in a fuel truck, as well as acts of vandalism carried out by other Bolsonaro fans, prompted the authorities to deploy an unprecedented security contingent for Sunday’s swearing in.