In Brazil, the discreet return of Jair Bolsonaro

Gone are the days of crowds

In Brazil, the discreet return of Jair Bolsonaro

Gone are the days of crowds. Arrived at 6:40 a.m. at Brasilia airport on Thursday March 30, Jair Bolsonaro was unable to take selfies with the approximately 200 supporters who were waiting for him, dressed in Seleção jerseys and Brazilian flags. For almost an hour, supporters shouted slogans in homage to their "myth", to no avail.

The former president flew away on December 30, two days before the end of his term and just before the inauguration of his rival Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. An attitude considered "cowardly" by many Brazilians. "He fled Brazil because he was scared," said 28-year-old Clara Frontins. Now, I think he has to go back to answer several inquiries… But I hope he will be behind bars soon. During the eighty-nine days of his American exile, the ousted president said little. Those around him considered him "depressed", "melancholy". The defeat of October, with some 2 million votes, is still struggling to pass.

Without saying a word, the former president spun in the direction of the Liberal Party (PL), with which he ran in the presidential election of 2022 and of which he is now honorary president. He had taken care to deny access to the Brazilian press, but from the headquarters of the PL the temptation was too great: Jair Bolsonaro gave a long interview to the conservative television channel Jovem Pan. Between little jokes, familiarity and laughter, the tone was very friendly.

Sitting at a desk, surrounded by his party allies, Jair Bolsonaro tried to make his return to the political scene credible. "The Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE) has no reason to make me ineligible," wanted to reassure the former president. He is worried about fifteen legal proceedings at the TSE and six investigations at the Supreme Court. These range from handling the pandemic to attempts to discredit electronic ballot boxes and inciting the January 8 anti-democratic riots. Now that he is a private citizen again, the courts of first instance will be able to take charge of the cases.

Inclinations that could be thwarted by Brazilian justice. Added to the high number of investigations is the very recent Saudi jewelry scandal. Since March, one, then two, and finally three sets of diamond jewelry and watches from luxury jeweler Chopard have been making headlines in the Brazilian press. These multimillion-euro gifts were given between 2019 and 2021 by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia to Jair Bolsonaro when he was President of Brazil. According to the Minister of Justice, Flavio Dino, Jair Bolsonaro could be prosecuted for illegal appropriation of public property or for tax evasion.

The "jewelry affair", as it is known in Brazil, seriously tarnished the image of Jair Bolsonaro, who presented himself as a "champion" in the fight against corruption. "All Brazilians were waiting for this man to finally be a representative of the nation of quality and he is involved in scandals", regrets Mauricio Souza, a disappointed voter of the former president. Less than a week after his return, Jair Bolsonaro already has an appointment with the federal police on April 5 to explain himself about the Saudi gifts.