Ex-president Bolsonaro returns to Brazil to lead right-wing opposition

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Brazil’s far-right former President Jair Bolsonaro returned from the United States on Thursday, welcomed back after three months by hundreds of chanting supporters at capital Brasilia’s airport.

Bolsonaro, who never conceded defeat in last year’s election, is expected to lead the opposition to leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, officials in Bolsonaro's PL party said.

Supporters with Brazil flags draped around their shoulders sang the national anthem and chanted “legend” as they awaited Bolsonaro to exit the arrivals area, where security was tight.

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“We are here to receive our president. His job will be to sort out this mess. The Lula government is just doing everything wrong,” said 45-year-old small business owner Anderson Clayton, wrapped in a Brazil flag.

The 68-year-old former president will proceed from the airport to the headquarters of PL, which became the largest party in the House and the second largest in the Senate after the last election.

Before boarding a plane in Orlando, Florida, Bolsonaro downplayed his leadership role and said he will use his experience to help his party campaign in next year’s municipal elections, adding that the vote he lost in October is a closed chapter.

“We have turned a page and now we will prepare for next year’s elections,” he told CNN Brasil shortly before boarding.

Bolsonaro left for the United States two days before he was due to hand over the presidential sash to Lula on January 1. He said he needed rest, but critics say he was avoiding the risks of over a dozen legal investigations he may face in Brazil.

Legal probes have focused on his attacks against Brazil’s voting system and alleged role in encouraging supporters to storm government buildings in January 8 riots that recalled the 2021 assault on the US Capitol.

Bolsonaro, who holds former US President Donald Trump as his political idol, attended the Conservative Political Action Conference this month in Washington where he questioned the result of the October election narrowly won by Lula and said his mission in Brazil was “still not over.”

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