ORLANDO, Florida (LifeSiteNews) — Former right-wing Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, whose reported loss to his socialist pro-abortion opponent Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was the subject of massive protests last year, has announced he’s returning to Brazil to lead the opposition party.
Bolsonaro, a populist president who cultivated a close relationship with former U.S. President Donald Trump and earned recognition among the American right for his conservative stance on issues like abortion and the COVID-19 shots, has been residing in Florida for the past month after his alleged defeat.
Lula has accused Bolsonaro of inciting Brazilian protesters to break into the country’s Capitol buildings earlier this year, something Bolsonaro has roundly denied.
In his first interview since leaving Brazil for Florida on a diplomatic visa, the 67-year-old Bolsonaro told The Wall Street Journal that despite failing to hold onto the presidency, he plans to return to Brazil and retake political power as leader of the country’s opposition party.
According to the Journal, Bolsonaro said he intends to “work with backers in Congress and state governments to push what he called pro-business policies and to fight abortion, gun control and other policies he says run counter to family values.”
“The right-wing movement is not dead and will live on,” he said.
The former president, who accepted without expressly conceding the presidential contest to Lula, spoke about the election without declaring it stolen.
“Losing is part of the electoral process,” he said. “I’m not saying there was fraud, but the process was biased.”
He went on to observe that his reported loss came as a surprise given his evident popularity.
“The people were with me, the agribusiness was with me, most of the evangelicals were with me, the industry was with me, gun owners were with me,” he said.
Bolsonaro’s comments regarding the election come after he filed a lawsuit with the Superior Electoral Court shortly after the election claiming massive voting machine irregularities, LifeSiteNews previously reported.
The case was tossed out by leftist Justice Alexandre de Moraes, who also serves as the country’s elections chief. Moraes proceeded to engage in a crackdown on dissent, reportedly censoring conservatives who questioned the validity of the election on social media and freezing the bank accounts of truck drivers who blocked roads across Brazil.
In December, Bolsonaro gave a speech in which he seemed to suggest that the Brazilian military might step in to prevent Lula from taking power.
“It is you, the people, who will decide my future and what the Armed Forces will do,” Bolsonaro said during a 15-minute speech at Alvorada Palace. “God willing, everything will work out at the right time … the Armed Forces, rest assured, are united, the Armed Forces owe loyalty to our people. They owe respect to the Constitution.”
After thousands of protesters stormed Brazil’s capital buildings on January 8, prosecutors and political opponents sought to accuse Bolsonaro of inciting the riots. Left-wing media outlets in the U.S. were quick to compare Bolsonaro with Trump and link the protests to the riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
In his comments to The Wall Street Journal, Bolsonaro once again dismissed suggestions that he was responsible for the lawless behavior.
“I wasn’t even there, and they want to pin it on me!” he said. According to the outlet, the former president “said he was dismayed by the violence, which he condemned at the time in a post on Twitter,” and argued “it was wrong to say that the attacks amounted to an attempt to overthrow Mr. da Silva’s government.”
“Coup? What coup? Where was the commander? Where were the troops, where were the bombs?” Bolsonaro asked, according to the report.
Bolsonaro told the outlet that he is “the national leader of the right” in Brazil and intends to use his influence to support conservative candidates in over 5,000 municipalities as the country heads toward its 2024 local elections.
In addition to finding favor with conservatives, Bolsonaro has also garnered favor among Catholics. The former president has espoused a staunch pro-life position, and previously offered refuge to priests and nuns fleeing persecution in Nicaragua. In the lead-up to the presidential election last year, he asked Catholic priests to join him in consecrating the country to the Blessed Virgin Mary.