White House under pressure to oust Jair Bolsonaro after riots in Brazil

Joe Biden condemned violent riots in Brazil as the White House faced calls from Congress to expel Jair Bolsonaro, the Latin American country’s former president, 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 Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

They added: “We stand with Brazil as it preserves its democratic institutions.” Our governments support the free will of the people of Brazil.”

Bolsonaro, who faces investigations dating back to his time as president, including allegations of spreading election disinformation, has been in self-imposed exile in Florida for about two weeks. He was admitted to hospital for observation due to “abdominal discomfort”, his wife Michelle posted on social media on Monday. “We pray for his health and for Brazil.”

Several Democratic lawmakers called for the former Brazilian president to be removed from the US. The questions come after his supporters raided Congress, the Supreme Court and the country’s presidential palace on Sunday in riots that bore striking resemblance to the January 6, 2021 storming of the US Capitol.

“The United States should not be a haven for this authoritarian who inspired domestic terrorism in Brazil,” Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro told CNN. “He should be sent back to Brazil.”

Prominent progressive lawmaker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also called for Bolsonaro to return to Brazil. “We must stand in solidarity with @LulaOfficialdemocratically elected government,” she tweeted on Sunday, referring to the country’s president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. “The US must stop giving refuge to Bolsonaro in Florida.”

Republicans have not joined calls for Bolsonaro’s deportation, although several have condemned the protests, including Florida Sen. Rick Scott and disgraced Republican congressman Jorge Santos, whose parents were born in Brazil.

Brazilian politicians on Monday also joined calls for Bolsonaro to return to the country. Renan Calheiros, a prominent senator, asked Brazil’s supreme court to “immediately” extradite the former president, saying his involvement in Sunday’s riots was “irrefutable.”

The court will consider the request requesting that Bolsonaro return to Brazil within 72 hours.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the U.S. had not received any official request from the Brazilian government regarding Bolsonaro’s status in the country, but added that if it did, we would “treat it seriously.”

He declined to discuss Bolsonaro’s specific immigration status, citing a policy of avoiding the specifics of individual visa cases.

Biden and Lula spoke by phone on Monday, and the Brazilian leader accepted a US invitation to the White House in early February, according to a reading from Washington. Biden expressed “unwavering support of the US. . . for Brazilian democracy and for the free will of the Brazilian people expressed in the recent presidential elections in Brazil, in which President Lula won”.

On Sunday night, Bolsonaro tried to distance himself from the supporters of the radicals. The former army captain said the attacks, which damaged state property and works of art, had “crossed the line”.

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While the US State Department declined to comment specifically on Bolsonaro’s visa or his status in the US, spokesman Ned Price said on Monday that foreign leaders or diplomats who entered the country on a diplomatic visa known as an A visa have 30 days to leave the US. or apply for an updated visa if they are no longer on official business.

“If an A visa holder is no longer engaged in official business on behalf of their government, that visa holder is required to leave the US or request a change to another immigration status within 30 days,” Price said.

“If an individual does not have a basis for being in the United States, the individual is subject to removal by the Department of Homeland Security,” he added.

A former senior US immigration official said Bolsonaro likely traveled to the US on an existing visa, which may have been for diplomatic or tourist purposes.

He claimed that it would not be easy for the US government to remove Bolsonaro. “It is not easy to legally remove someone from the US who is unwilling to leave.” They often have significant protections when they are physically in the US.

He added that it would be possible for Bolsonaro to stay in the country in a new capacity, for example if he finds another job.

In any case, any removal action “could be a lengthy, 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 that he or she is harmful to US foreign policy. “The question is whether the secretary of state will do that,” he said.

Additional reporting by Michael Pooler

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