Bolsonaro Is Living the American Dream: Retired in Florida and Posting on TikTok

His account offers a (sad) glimpse of the former president’s ordinary routine.

Jair Bolsonaro greets people during the Turning Point USA event. Joe Raedle/Getty

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Between 2019 and 2022, Jair Bolsonaro governed a country with a population of almost 215 million people, but since losing Brazil’s presidential election to the Worker’s Party’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in late October, Bolsonaro’s real-life universe has shrunk considerably. It is now confined to Kissimmee, Florida, in one of two houses owned by José Aldo, a retired Brazilian MMA fighter who has publicly declared support for his president-turned-tenant.

Bolsonaro, who has long propagated false narratives about a rigged electoral system, didn’t take his narrow but indisputable loss gracefully. He left the country two days before the end of his term, refusing to participate in the traditional transfer of power ceremony at Lula’s inauguration. Because Bolsonaro was still president for those two days after exiting Brazil, expenses related to the strictly personal trip were conveniently paid for by taxpayers. 

So how has the man known as the “Trump of the tropics” been spending his time in self-imposed exile? Fortunately for those who are curious about the answer to that question, he has been sharing his activities on a steady stream of TikTok offerings.

@bolsonaromessiasjair

#jair #bolsonaro #jairbolsonaro #38presidente #eua #usa #orlando #brazil #pink #rosa #obrigado #consideracao #thanks #god #country #family #deus #patria #familia #freedom #liberdade #🇧🇷 #somos #todos #iguais #together #brasil

♬ som original – BolsonaroMessiasJair

First, there is his living situation. Aldo’s house inside the gated community of Encore Resort has become a pilgrimage sight of sorts, attracting curious neighbors and devoted admirers flocking from out of state and all the way from Brazil. It apparently features a Minion-inspired room, a slightly ironic indulgence for the 67-year-old former president whose followers are disparagingly referred to as Minions. A stay at one of Aldo’s Orlando “elite vacation homes,” which includes eight bedrooms, a private pool, gourmet kitchen, and is located five minutes from the Disney theme parks, can be secured for at least $519 a night. The fighter has welcomed Bolsonaro’s stay, describing it as being good for “business.” He’s even discussed putting up a sign that reads “The President of Brazil Stayed Here” in one of the rooms, taking inspiration from the Elvis Presley suite at the Westgate Hotel in Las Vegas, or perhaps from the old American trope that “George Washington slept here.” 

Reports and social media posts suggest an ordinary life of a slightly bored and solitary retiree in Florida. On January 1, Bolsonaro was spotted dining alone at a KFC, a sighting that has been memorialized in an oil painting: 

When he is not eating at a self-service restaurant, getting a haircut, or shopping for oranges or bread, Bolsonaro appears to limit his social engagements to greeting fans dressed in Brazil’s soccer jersey, awkwardly hugging and taking photos with children, and signing autographs—not unlike Disney characters at the nearby parks. In one video, Bolsonaro stands almost statue-like, as several teenage fan girls take turns posing next to him.

@bolsonaromessiasjair

#corte #de #cabelo #tradicional #padrao #38presidente #jair #bolsonaro #jairbolsonaro #cut #hair #good #morning #bom #dia #love #❤️ #🇧🇷

♬ som original – BolsonaroMessiasJair

Images of these encounters make up most of the content on Bolsonaro’s TikTok account, which has amassed 5.3 million followers. Sometimes his supporters come bearing offerings, such as a popular chicken-filled Brazilian finger food called “coxinha” and breakfast baskets containing Nutella, shortbread biscuits, and strawberries. (Bolsonaro isn’t known for having particularly expensive or sophisticated tastes: He enjoys bread with condensed milk and once served boxed juice and children’s yogurt to US envoys.)

Such deferential treatment, perhaps combined with fear of the legal predicaments likely awaiting him in Brazil, could help explain Bolsonaro’s prolonged stay in Florida. He faces several investigations in Brazil, including over his alleged involvement in the January 8 attack on Brasilia, when scores of his defenders criminally stormed the government buildings in the capital leaving a trail of destruction behind them. In the days leading up to the insurrection. Bolsonaro wandered around a Publix supermarket, perhaps looking to upgrade his KFC-based diet to a home-cooked meal prepared in Aldo’s gourmet kitchen.

The former president’s A-1 visa reserved for heads of state recently expired, prompting him to seek a change of status to a six-month tourist visa. “He would like to take some time off, clear his head, and enjoy being a tourist in the United States for a few months before deciding what his next step will be,” Felipe Alexandre, the lawyer representing Bolsonaro, told the Financial Times. The lawyer with the US-based AG Immigration law firm said that Florida “will be his temporary home away from home.” Bolsonaro’s eldest son, Flávio, has suggested his father’s return could happen “in six months, [or] he could never come back.” 

Back in January, forty-one House Democrats asked the Biden administration not to offer Bolsonaro shelter and “to ascertain whether there is a legal basis for his stay and revoke any such diplomatic visa he may hold.” The letter also urged the Department of Justice and law enforcement agencies to investigate and hold accountable any potential US-based actors involved in financing and supporting the January 8 attack. A group of US Senators led by Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) has also submitted a resolution condemning the insurrection and calling on President Biden to consider “any future extradition requests for former senior Brazilian officials.” 

After months of mostly keeping it to himself, Bolsonaro came out of seclusion in early February to speak at “Power of the People”—a Turning Point USA event at the Trump National Doral golf resort in Miami. The appearance was reportedly unpaid since Bolsonaro has been advised by his lawyers that his current immigration status doesn’t allow him to be compensated. “We will not give up on Brazil,” Bolsonaro told the heavily Brazilian audience in Portuguese, adding that he was there recharging his energy. “Brazil was doing very well,” he told TPUSA’s founder Charlie Kirk. “I cannot understand the reasons why [the election] decided to go to the left.” Bolsonaro is also taking part in events in Florida organized by Brazilian ex-pats. VIP tickets cost a mere $50. 

The defeated former president once said he only envisioned three options for his future: “Prison, death, or victory.” But in Florida, he might as well have discovered a fourth one: the life of a washed-up celebrity who can still draw a small crowd.

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