The far-right leader said goodbye to supporters on Friday before leaving for the US, where his plans are unclear.
Outgoing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has left the country for the United States to avoid the inauguration of the new president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silvawho defeated him in the country’s October elections.
Bolsonaro left Brazil on Friday and reportedly flew to the US state of Florida after delivering a final speech to his followers, some of whom have called for a military coup in the wake of his election loss.
In a tearful speech, Bolsonaro said he had “lost the battle, but not the war” and distanced himself from recent acts of political violence by his supporters, saying he was “not encouraging anyone to confront”.
The far-right leader has largely remained out of sight after his defeat, and his plans for the future remain unclear. The website FlightAware, which monitors air traffic, showed that the presidential plane left the capital Brasilia after 2 p.m. local time (5 p.m. GMT) and is heading for Orlando, Florida.
Vice President Hamilton Mourao has temporarily become the country’s acting president and confirmed that Bolsonaro had left the country. Bolsonaro had repeatedly stated that he did not want to pass the presidential sash to Lula during the inauguration.
Ahead of Lula’s swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 1, officials put in place additional security measures, including a temporary one prohibition of firearms in the capital, as the transition of power takes place amid high tensions and concerns about possible violence.
For years, Bolsonaro spread anti-democratic rhetoric and sowed doubt about the integrity of Brazil’s electoral system, hinting that he would refuse to step down if he lost his leftist rival’s election.
After his defeat on October 31, Bolsonaro did not explicitly admit, but stated that he would follow the constitution of the country. He served a single term as president.
Some of his supporters have refused to accept the results and camped in front of military barracks in an attempt to provoke military intervention to overturn the results of the election.
On December 12, members of one encampment attacked the Federal Police headquarters in Brasilia after the official certification of the election results earlier in the day. And last Saturday a man was arrested for allegedly trying to do so set off a bomb to protest Lula’s victory. He said Bolsonaro inspired him to build an arsenal of weapons.
Bolsonaro condemned that attempt as a “terrorist act” and said the suspect had “ideas that are not shared by any citizen”.
The far-right leader may also face a number of legal challenges once his term officially ends and his presidential immunity expires. The country’s Supreme Court is investigating him for allegedly disclosing confidential information and improperly interfering with a police investigation.
Some have noted that, despite the loss of Bolsonaro, the country’s conservative movement performed well in October’s elections and will continue to be a powerful force in Brazilian politics.
“I’m flying,” Bolsonaro told broadcaster CNN Brasil on Friday. “Back soon.”