Former President Jair Bolsonaro on Friday made his first formal public appearance since concluding his term at the helm of Brazil, bringing his message of “God, fatherland, family, and freedom” to Turning Point USA’s “Power of the People” event in Miami.
Alongside host Charlie Kirk, the founder and executive director of Turning Point USA, Bolsonaro reintroduced himself and touted the successes of his presidency: from reducing the time it takes to establish a small business in Brazil to tax cuts to limiting coronavirus-related lockdowns and other civil rights restrictions:
Bolsonaro mentioned his successor, convicted felon Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and his administration only in condemning socialism generally – and mocking Lula’s campaign promise of “steak and beer” for everyone – dedicating most of his time, instead, to explaining how his policies worked to improve the lives of his people.
Bolsonaro has been staying in the greater Orlando, Florida, area since late December, meeting on occasion with supporters who have begun flocking to the condominium where he has been staying but abstaining from formal public appearances until this week. Bolsonaro is likely to face legal problems at home as Lula blamed him directly for a riot in the capital, Brasilia, on January 8 and has previously made outrageous accusations against him of genocide. Lula has also launched a brutal police crackdown that has resulted in hundreds of arrests following the riot, including arrests of children, the elderly, the disabled, and women with small children.
In one of the most moving moments of the event, Bolsonaro advised his audience, “Freedom is like a great love, we must care for it every day.”
Bolsonaro did not directly criticize the Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF), Brazil’s top court, and its leader, Alexandre de Moraes, who has led a violent police campaign against Bolsonaro supporters in the name of “fake news” since at least 2020. The STF overturned Lula’s 25-year prison sentence in 2021 to allow him to run for president on a technicality, offering no evidence that Lula did not, as multiple courts concluded on several appeals, use bribe money to buy a luxury beachfront property while president between 2003 and 2011.
Bolsonaro narrowly lost to Lula in a bitter race in which the STF’s electoral offshoot, the Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE) – also led by Alexandre de Moraes – banned media from discussing Lula’s corruption but allowed Lula to spuriously accuse Bolsonaro of pedophilia and only partially limited a campaign by the left to brand Bolsonaro a cannibal.
Asked by Kirk to explain how overpowered the judiciary branch is in Brazil, Bolsonaro offered an example of a case that happens to many regular citizens in Brazil, rather than addressing his own woes with the courts’ handling of his campaign or the silencing of political figures.
“Unfortunately, many times, the judiciary branch has been legislating in Brazil. … In Brazil, when you own land and someone invades your private property, you have to go to court so that land is returned to you,” Bolsonaro explained. “Especially in rural areas, these cases can take more than ten years.”
Bolsonaro also addressed the shared values of America and Brazil, describing himself as a “great admirer” of America and stating, “I think that in my four years as president of the Republic, we managed to awaken many things in Brazil, among them patriotism, respect for the family, private property, the legitimate right to self-defense, and turn the heads of many people to see that there is something more important than our lives, which is our freedom.”
“In my campaign, I attracted large crowds in the five regions of Brazil, always mentioning God, fatherland, family, and freedom,” Bolsonaro said later in his remarks, repeating his campaign slogan. “We faced the entire system. We ended our government without any accusations of corruption.”
A lively crowd largely made up of Brazilian-Americans welcomed Bolsonaro to the stage to chants of mito (“legend”), his hometown fans’ nickname for him, and repeatedly interrupted him to cheer on his statements of love for country – emphasizing concerning Brazil that “nobody has what we have” – and the fact that Bolsonaro ended his term with no corruption accusations to his name. The crowd interrupted him at least once to shout “2026!” which is the next year Brazil will host a presidential election. The crowd also erupted in chants of “Michelle!” after Bolsonaro thanked his wife, former first lady Michelle Bolsonaro, for her support and companionship.
Bolsonaro’s Brazilian supporters also cheered enthusiastically for America as Bolsonaro lamented the cases of Brazilians who want to go home but do not feel safe under a socialist government, expressing gratitude to the United States but concluding, “With respect to all the other countries in the world, a better country than our Brazil does not exist.”
Clearly moved by the crowd’s enthusiasm, the only English-language words Bolsonaro shared were “I love you.”
Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.