Bolsonaro leaves Brazil ahead of Lula’s inauguration

Brasilia, Dec 30 (EFE).- Outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro left Brazil for the United States on Friday, two days before Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is to be sworn-in as his successor.

Before boarding the presidential aircraft for the flight to Orlando, Florida, the leader of the Brazilian far right addressed supporters for more than an hour via Facebook Live media, urging them to stand firm in opposition to the new government.

Bolsonaro’s decision to depart before the inauguration means that for the first time since the restoration of democracy in 1985, the new head of state will not receive the presidential sash from the previous incumbent.

In Bolsonaro’s absence, outgoing Vice President Hamilton Mourao will present the sash to Lula, official sources told EFE.

Neither Bolsonaro nor the government has offered any details about the trip to the US, but media accounts say that he intends to remain abroad for at least three months.

“We are not going to believe that the world ends this Jan. 1,” a sobbing Bolsonaro told his followers, exhorting them to “not throw in the towel” and to persist in peaceful opposition to Lula within the constitutional framework.

He again proclaimed himself the victim of biased officials who prevented him and his party from denouncing the problems with Brazil’s system of electronic voting, which has functioned without incident since 1996.

Bolsonaro, an outspoken admirer of Brazil’s 1964-1985 military regime, has yet to concede his election to Workers Party founder Lula, a former two-term president.

Though Lula’s base is on the left, he drew votes from across the political spectrum and has included prominent figures from the center and center-right in his Cabinet.

“The new government that is coming will create many problems,” Bolsonaro said Friday. Without mentioning Lula by name, he accused the incoming president of planning to “impose on the country a nefarious ideology.”

The president likewise defended the groups of his supporters who have taken up positions outside military posts calling on the army to stop Lula from taking office.

At the same time, Bolsonaro sought to distance himself from violent protests on his behalf and from last week’s attempt to detonate an explosives-rigged fuel truck at the Brasilia airport.

The man arrested in that case said his aim was to “create chaos” and force the military to keep Bolsonaro in power.

“Nothing justifies a terrorist act,” the outgoing president said. “We don’t want a worse Brazil. We must respect out law and the constitution.”

Despite Bolsonaro’s appeal for non-violence, 15,000 soldiers and police began deploying Friday along Brasilia’s Esplanade of the Ministries as part of massive security operation for the inauguration.

The boulevard was closed to traffic and work got under way on fences that will extend for 2 km (1.2 mi) to control access to the area.

Federal Police said Friday that they were monitoring several caravans of Bolsonaro partisans en route to the capital from various parts of the vast South American nation.

But Lula supporters are also headed to Brasilia and authorities expect a crowd of 300,000 for Sunday’s inauguration, which will feature the presence of a score of heads of state and government.

“No demonstration against the new government” will be permitted Sunday on the Esplanade, the municipal administration said Friday, adding that those who want to protest will be able to do so at designated spots far from the city center. EFE ed/dr

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