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House Democrats ask Biden to revoke Bolsonaro’s visa after Brazil riot

Some of the top Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee sent a letter late Wednesday to President Biden urging his administration to revoke any diplomatic visa that former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro may be using to stay in the United States.

The letter follows a riot in the Brazilian capital on Sunday aimed at reversing Bolsonaro’s loss in October, in an election that he claimed without evidence was infected by fraud. The defeated incumbent flew to Florida on Dec. 30, two days before the inauguration of his opponent, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

“As we understand, since Mr. Bolsonaro entered the United States when he was still the President of Brazil, he may have done so on an A-1 visa that is reserved for individuals on diplomatic or official visits,” states the letter, led by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.) and signed by numerous others, including Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (D-N.Y.), who was chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee until Republicans took control of the chamber this year.

Since Bolsonaro is no longer an officeholder, the letter adds, “we request that you reassess his status in the country to ascertain whether there is a legal basis for his stay and revoke any such diplomatic visa he may hold.”

Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, said Monday the administration had not received any official requests from the Brazilian government related to Bolsonaro but would “treat seriously” inquiries about his visa status.

Bolsonaro’s extended stay in Florida has created an awkward situation for the Biden administration.

Washington wants to avoid being seen as providing safe harbor to a right-wing populist whose supporters violently assaulted Brazil’s democratic institutions. But it also doesn’t want to alienate a broad swath of the Brazilian electorate, which continues to support Bolsonaro despite having misgivings about the riot.

On Wednesday, when asked if Bolsonaro’s stay in Florida was tenable given the violent actions of his supporters, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States would not get ahead of Brazil’s investigation into the events of Jan. 8, especially given the absence of a request from Brazil to extradite Bolsonaro. ‘If and when we do, we’ll work expeditiously to respond as we always do,” Blinken told reporters at the State Department.

Many U.S. officials privately hope Bolsonaro will return to Brazil soon so they can avoid the headache caused by his extended presence. They were encouraged by an interview Bolsonaro gave to CNN’s Brazilian affiliate in which he said he plans to return to Brazil before a scheduled departure in late January.

“I came to stay until the end of the month, but I intend to bring forward my return,” he said, noting his desire to see his doctors following his hospitalization this week. Blinken made reference to the interview on Wednesday, saying “we’ve heard various public statements” about his plans but “don’t have anything to add.”

The letter from the House Democrats also asks U.S. officials to cooperate with Brazilian authorities “investigating any role Mr. Bolsonaro or those around him played in the events of Jan. 8, and any crimes he committed when in office.”

Finally, the signees are urging the Biden administration to pursue an investigation of its own into any role played by U.S. actors in organizing the riot in the Brazilian capital. The Justice Department, the letter advises, should “hold accountable, as appropriate, any actors based in Florida who may have financed or supported the violent crimes of Jan. 8.”

Bolsonaro’s pursuits in Florida have included strolling through the aisles of a Publix supermarket and dining alone at Kentucky Fried Chicken, according to photographs of the ex-president. The humdrum activities stand in contrast to the turmoil in his home country. He has reportedly been staying at an Orlando property owned by Brazilian mixed martial arts fighter José Aldo da Silva Oliveira. A manager for Aldo did not respond to a request for comment.

Castro, in an interview, said the images may offer an incomplete portrait of Bolsonaro’s actions. “We don’t know whom he has been speaking with in Brazil and whether he has continued his attempts to delegitimize the new government behind the scenes,” the congressman said.

“Events like this don’t happen spontaneously,” Castro added. “They’re planned. They’re financed. They’re arranged. They’re assisted by a variety of individuals and organizations. There ought to be a full investigation as to who’s responsible, whether Brazilians or Americans.”

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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