White House under pressure to expel Jair Bolsonaro after Brazil riots
Joe Biden condemned the violent unrest in Brazil as the White House faced calls from Congress to expel Jair Bolsonaro, the former president of the Latin American country, from the US, where he has remained since leaving office.
“Canada, Mexico and the United States condemn the January 8 attacks on Brazilian democracy and the peaceful transfer of power,” the US president said in a joint statement Monday with Mexican leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
They added: “We stand with Brazil as it defends its democratic institutions. Our governments support the free will of the people of Brazil.”
Bolsonaro, who has faced investigations since his time as president, has been in self-imposed exile in Florida for about two weeks. He was hospitalized for observation due to “abdominal discomfort,” his wife Michelle posted on social media on Monday. “We are praying for his health and for Brazil.”
Some Democratic lawmakers have called for the former Brazilian president to leave the US. The questions come after his supporters on Sunday stormed the country’s Congress, supreme court and presidential palace in riots that bore a striking resemblance to the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
“The United States should not be a haven for this authoritarian who has inspired domestic terrorism in Brazil,” Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro said on CNN. “He must return to Brazil.”
Prominent progressive lawmaker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also called for Bolsonaro to return to Brazil. “We must stand in solidarity with the democratically elected government of @LulaOficial,” she tweeted on Sunday, referring to the country’s president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. “The United States must stop providing refuge to Bolsonaro in Florida.”
Republicans have not joined calls for Bolsonaro’s ouster, although a handful have condemned the protests, including Florida Sen. Rick Scott and disgraced Republican congressman George Santos, whose parents were born in Brazil.
Brazilian politicians on Monday also joined calls to bring Bolsonaro back to the country. Renan Calheiros, a prominent senator, asked Brazil’s supreme court for the “immediate” extradition of the former president, saying his involvement in Sunday’s riots was “undeniable.”
The court will consider the request, which required Bolsonaro to return to Brazil within 72 hours.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan said the US had not received any formal request from the Brazilian government about Bolsonaro’s status in the country.
“If and when we do, we’ll deal with it,” he said.
He declined to talk about Bolsonaro’s specific immigration status, citing a policy of avoiding specifics about individual visa cases.
Sullivan said he expects Biden to speak with Lula in the coming days.
On Sunday evening, Bolsonaro had tried to distance himself from radical supporters. The former army captain said the attacks, which damaged government property and works of art, had “crossed the line”.
While the U.S. State Department declined to comment specifically on Bolsonaro’s visa or his status in the U.S., spokesman Ned Price said Monday that foreign leaders or diplomats who have entered the country on a diplomatic visa known as an A visa have 30 days to leave the US. or request an updated visa if they are no longer performing official business.
“If an A visa holder is no longer engaged in official business on behalf of their government, it is the duty of that visa holder to leave the US or seek change to another immigration status within 30 days,” Price said.
“If an individual has no basis to be in the United States, an individual is subject to removal by the Department of Homeland Security,” he added.
A former senior US official who has worked on immigration issues said Bolsonaro may have traveled to the US on an existing visa, which may have been for diplomatic or tourism purposes.
He argued that it would not be straightforward for the US government to remove Bolsonaro. “It is not easy legally to remove someone from the US who is unwilling to go. They often have significant protections once they are physically in the US,” he said.
He added that it might be possible for Bolsonaro to stay in the country in a new capacity, for example if he found another job.
In any case, any removal action “could be a protracted, multi-year effort,” the former official said. “It wouldn’t be a quick process.”
Under US immigration laws, an individual can be deported if the Secretary of State deems them harmful to US foreign policy. “The question is whether the Secretary of State will do it,” he said.
Additional reporting by Michael Pooler