KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) — A couple dozen fans scored autographs from Jair Bolsonaro on Friday, but the controversial former Brazilian president didn’t emerge to greet them after a stint in the hospital earlier this week.
The right-wing populist has been quietly staying with a supporter in an Orlando suburb since leaving Brazil in late December and skipping the Jan. 1 swearing-in of his leftist successor. On Sunday, supporters back home who refused to accept his defeat brazenly attacked the Brazilian capital, prompting some lawmakers there and in the U.S. to demand the Biden administration to expel him.
Eduardo Carvalho, 47, a Brazilian-born realtor and pastor from Kissimmee, Fla., was among those outside the home of mixed martial arts fighter Jose Aldo on Friday. He said the former president hadn’t fomented the capital attack and should be left alone.
“He came here legally, he didn’t do anything wrong and why ― if this is a free country ― would we treat a former president like that? This is a shame,” he said.
The supporters handed a security guard outside the residence things like Brazilian-themed T-shirts, hats, banners and pieces of paper to be autographed. One women sent in her shoe.
The man went in three times and each time returned minutes later with Bolsonaro’s autographs on the items.
Carvalho, who said he supported Bolsonaro because he had promoted family values and home schooling “free from indoctrination,” said he sent a small gift, a letter and an invitation to a religious gathering.
Bolsonaro was hospitalized Monday with an abdominal adhesion stemming from a 2018 stabbing attack, he wrote on Instagram along with a photo of himself on a bed.
He hasn’t posted about his health developments since, but he told a Brazilian media outlet on Tuesday that he would be returning to Brazil before the late-January departure he originally planned.
He entered the U.S. while still president and would likely have held a visa reserved for sitting heads of state, which would grant him at least 30 days following the end of his term before either having to leave or apply for a change of visa.
A group of 46 Democratic lawmakers wrote to President Joe Biden on Thursday to demand Bolsonaro’s visa be canceled in the wake of Sunday’s rampage, in which his supporters trashed Congress, the Supreme Court and presidential palace. The letter said the U.S. should not shelter a leader “who has inspired such violence against democratic institutions.”
John Raoux in Kissimmee, Fla, contributed to this report.