Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro apparently left the country a few days before the end of his term in office. He was on his way to Florida, it said in the official gazette on Friday. According to websites for tracking flight routes, a military plane took off at around 2 p.m. (local time) in the capital Brasilia, bound for Orlando.
A number of cabinet members and government officials were allowed to accompany "the future ex-president" to Miami between January 1 and 30 to give him "advice, security and personal support". Further evidence of Bolsonaro's departure was a statement from Vice President Hamilton Mourão's office that he was now acting head of state. Official business is handed over to the deputy when a Brazilian president travels abroad.
Bolsonaro had previously said goodbye to his supporters in a tearful video message. "I did my best," he said. Bolsonaro again refrained from admitting his narrow defeat against Lula in the runoff election at the end of October.
On Sunday, left-wing ex-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will be sworn in as the new head of state. By leaving the country, Bolsonaro is breaking with the tradition that an outgoing president should be present at the inauguration of his successor. It is now unclear who is to hand over the President's sash to Lula. According to Mourão's press office, this is not one of his duties.
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will be officially inducted into his third term on New Year's Day. Around 300,000 revelers and more than a dozen heads of state and government are expected to attend the swearing-in ceremony in the capital Brasília.
In online networks, the celebration was christened "Lulapalooza" in reference to a US music festival that has been taking place since the 1990s. The inauguration will be accompanied by a huge concert with well-known Brazilian artists, including drag queen Pabllo Vittar and samba legend Martinho da Vila.
However, the party is overshadowed by security concerns. A bomb attack failed in Brasília on Christmas Eve. An arrested supporter of former right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro is said to have planted explosive devices on a tanker truck in an attempt to spread chaos before the change of power. The suspect told investigators that he wanted to prevent the “introduction of communism in Brazil”.
Lula's Minister-designate for Public Safety, Flávio Dino, then announced that all available police officers in the capital would be deployed for the inauguration. Around 8,000 police officers from the city are said to be on site. In addition, the Brazilian Federal Police plans to send 1,000 officers with "intelligence and security-related" tasks. It is the largest security contingent ever for an inauguration in Brazil.
Faced with grief for Pele, Lula tried to strike the right note just before taking office. He honored the three-time world champion as a national hero. "Few Brazilians have carried our country's name as far as he has," Lula explained. As one of his last official acts, his predecessor Bolsonaro ordered a three-day national mourning as a "sign of respect" for Pelé.
Because of the security situation and the rainy weather expected for Sunday, it was unclear whether Lula would traditionally attend the inauguration in a vintage convertible - or in a closed and armored car. This will be decided "at short notice", said future Security Minister Dino.
What is certain, however, is that delegations from at least 53 states will be present at the assumption of office – including 17 heads of state and government alone. This is also a record. In addition to the Spanish King Felipe VI. and the heads of state of neighboring Argentina, Chile and Colombia, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is also expected.
The day after Lula's inauguration, Steinmeier travels to the state of Amazonas to meet scientists and villagers. Lula has promised to reverse Brazilian politics and make protecting the Amazon forest his priority. Under Bolsonaro, deforestation and slash and burn in the rainforest, which is essential for protecting the earth's climate, had increased drastically.
The 77-year-old Lula officially becomes head of state when he takes the oath of office in front of the Brazilian parliament together with his designated Vice President Geraldo Alckmin.
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