Bolsonaro leaves Brazil ahead of Lula’s presidential inauguration

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (L) left Brazil on Friday ahead of the inauguration of his successor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (R). File Photo by Antonio Lacerda/EPA-EFE

Dec. 31 (UPI) — Outgoing Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has left Brazil ahead of the inauguration of his successor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, thus avoiding the traditional ceremonial handover of power.

After giving an emotional farewell address via Facebook, Bolsonaro boarded an air force plane bound for the United States. The craft landed late Friday in Orlando, Fla., Brazilian media reported.

“Battles are lost but we will not lose the war,” he told supporters, “we are not going to believe that the world ends this Jan. 1.”

Lula da Silva will be sworn in on Sunday. Traditionally the outgoing president hands the presidential sash over to their successor as part of the peaceful transition of power. Bolsonaro’s departure means outgoing Vice President Hamilton Mourao, or the head of the senate, Rodrigo Pacheco, may end up giving Lula the sash instead.

Hundreds of thousands of Lula supporters are expected to attend his inauguration in Brasilia.

Despite his departure, Bolsonaro still refuses to concede the election to his opponent. Supporters of the outgoing president have been protesting across the country, some demanding the military prevent Lula from taking power.

Bolsonaro urged supporters not to go “all or nothing,” and referred to an incident where a man was arrested for allegedly trying to bomb the airport on the day of Lula’s inauguration as an unjustified “terrorist act.”

Bolsonaro came to power in 2018 as a populist right wing leader, unapologetic in his admiration of the anti-communist military regime that ruled Brazil between 1964 and 1985. Critics accused him of bungling Brazil’s COVID-19 response, allowing deforestation, and encouraging racism amongst supporters.

Lula cut his teeth as a union leader opposed to the military government during the 1970s and 1980s, and twice served as president. In 2017 he was convicted on money laundering charges in a controversial trial. In 2018 he was arrested and served over one year in prison before the courts ruled that his incarceration with appeals pending was illegal.

In 2021 the Federal Supreme Court ruled that the court that tried Lula did not have proper jurisdiction over the case and nullified the charges.