Joe Biden Faces New Test With Trump Ally Jair Bolsonaro

Former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is seeking to remain in the United States, leaving President Joe Biden with a major diplomatic test as the new Brazilian government weighs Bolsonaro's extradition back to the country following his supporters' violent attempt to overturn the result of the country's elections earlier this year.

On Friday, the right-wing politician—who recently concluded a stay at a Miami hospital after arriving in the country on December 30—reportedly submitted an application for a six-month visitor visa to remain in the U.S. in what some believe is an attempt to avoid scrutiny for his possible role in the insurrection as well as alleged wrongdoing he'd committed as president.

"I think Florida will be his temporary home away from home," Felipe Alexandre, Bolsonaro's attorney and founder of AG Immigration, told the Financial Times on Monday. "Right now, with his situation, I think he needs a little stability."

Under former President Donald Trump—a close ally of Bolsonaro's who regularly praised his management of the country—that might have been a sure prospect. But times have changed.

Bidenaro
Jair Bolsonaro, left, and Joe Biden. The Brazilian has reportedly applied for a six-month tourist visa to remain in the U.S. Newsweek Photo Illustration/Getty Images

A Democrat now sits in the White House, and while the pair have maintained a cordial relationship in the first half of Biden's first term, the sitting president has faced pressure to return Bolsonaro to face his countrymen and the new, leftist-controlled government for accountability.

Earlier this month, 41 Democratic members of Congress signed a letter calling on the Biden administration to revoke Bolsonaro's visa, writing: "We must not allow Mr. Bolsonaro or any other former Brazilian officials to take refuge in the United States to escape justice for any crimes they may have committed when in office."

Since denying having received any extradition requests from the Brazilian government earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has issued no statements on Bolsonaro's diplomatic status, while President Biden has given no indication whether he intends to approve or deny Bolsonaro's request to remain in the country. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters earlier this month that any request from Brazil's government related to Bolsonaro would be evaluated under existing legal precedent.

As of now, little has changed.

"We are not aware of an official request for information or extradition from the Brazilian Government," a State Department spokesperson told Newsweek in an emailed statement. "However, if we were to receive one, we would give it due consideration under applicable treaties, as we do with all requests."

"Visa records of the U.S. Department of State are confidential under U.S. law; therefore, we cannot discuss the details of individual visa cases," they added.

Time is ticking. Anyone entering the U.S. on an A-1 visa reserved for sitting heads of state—which Bolsonaro applied for upon entering the country—would have 30 days to either leave the country or adjust their status with the Department of Homeland Security. And while Bolsonaro has not been charged with anything, the wolves are closing in.

Last week, Brazil police raided the home of Bolsonaro's nephew, Leonardo Rodrigues de Jesus, in a probe examining his connection to the January 8 storming of the Brazilian capital.

Without charges against Bolsonaro, however, it is unclear whether Biden has the grounds to deny Bolsonaro's visa—something the former President's son, Flávio, noted in recent comments to the Brazilian press late last week.

"The far left in the U.S. plays the role of the far left here. They push for a political issue," the younger Bolsonaro said. "I believe that the U.S. is a serious country that won't do anything illegal."

Newsweek reached out to the White House and representatives for Bolsonaro for comment.

Update 01/31/23, 9:09 a.m. ET: This article was updated with comment from the U.S. Department of State.