Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has been nicknamed “The Trump of the Tropics,” got a rock star reception when he made his political rentrée Saturday evening at a US Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in which most Republican contenders for next year's elections were testing the waters, particularly former President Donald Trump.
My mission is not over, Bolsonaro stressed during the event, dubbed a Trumpfest by many.
The major absentees at the CPAC were Florida Governor Ron DeSantis -who is yet to announce his candidacy- and former Vice President Mike Pence. Many well-known Republicans other than Trump, such as Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley took the stage before Trump himself.
The event is arguably the largest and most influential gathering of conservatives in the world, according to the organization itself. After two years of meetings in Florida and Texas, CPAC returned this year to a hotel in National Harbor, Maryland, very close to Washington, the traditional site for the gathering.
Bolsonaro spoke in Portuguese while his words were translated into English by an interpreter standing by. The former Brazilian Army captain was not the first foreign guest at such an event. Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban was in Dallas just under a year ago.
Good afternoon everyone. Excuse me, but in this land, I feel I belong to Brazil, the land of freedom, progress, and order. It is what many politicians always talk about, but do not deliver, Bolsonaro started. At this moment, I thank God for the second life he gave me. And I thank him also for the mission of having been president of Brazil for one term. But I deeply feel that this mission is not over, he went on.
Bolsonaro went through his political career. Nobody believed I could succeed, he said. For sure, I am the most beloved ex-president of Brazil, he added. Screens on either side of the stage interspersed Bolsonaro's message with images showing him campaigning, based on which he questioned the outcome of the elections he lost to Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva, a result his supporters never accepted, many of them even calling for a military uprising in riots that resembled the Jan 6. 2021, assault on Capitol Hill.
If you see the images on the screens, you will see that I had much more support in 2022 than in 2018. I don't know why the numbers showed the opposite, Bolsonaro said before underlining that his relationship with Trump was simply exceptional.
We can see here in America a migration of people going from Democrat states to Republican states. They're looking for a better life, Bolsonaro also told one of the largest crowds at the four-day gathering in suburban Washington Saturday.
Bolsonaro also said he would not have allowed two Iranian warships to dock in Rio de Janeiro this week, which Lula's government approved last month despite pressure from the US, and also insisted on his stance in favor of the right to bear arms. An armed country will never be subjugated. He also expressed his opposition to abortion while attacking Covid vaccine mandates saying he had always defended freedom [and] did not force anyone to be vaccinated in Brazil, before closing his speech: Like you, I want to have the pleasure in a few moments of seeing Donald Trump on stage, he said.
I was the last president in the world to recognize the results of the U.S. election two years ago. I remain loyal to our principles, and I continue to have faith in our mottos, God, country, family, and freedom, he added.
Since leaving Brazil even before the end of his term, Bolsonaro kept a low profile during his first weeks in Florida but has made several public appearances lately, after applying for a six-month visa to stay in the United States, although he has pledged to return in the coming weeks, where he is under investigation for several irregularities, including the Jan. 8 events.