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Following Brazil's far-right uprising, Biden will bring Lula to the White House

Mauro Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — In the wake of a violent uprising on Sunday by supporters of Brazil’s far-right former president, President Joe Biden on Monday spoke with the nation’s newly inaugurated leader, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and extended an invitation to visit the White House.

“President Biden conveyed the unwavering support of the United States for Brazil’s democracy and for the free will of the Brazilian people as expressed in Brazil’s recent presidential election, which President Lula won. President Biden condemned the violence and the attack on democratic institutions and on the peaceful transfer of power,” read a joint statement released by both Biden and the Brazilian president, who is commonly known as Lula.

The statement added that da Silva accepted the invitation to “visit Washington in early February for in-depth consultations on a wide-ranging shared agenda.”

Sunday’s attack on three of Brazil’s seats of power — its Supreme Court, Congress and the presidential office, called the Planalto Palace, in Brasilia — was also condemned in a joint statement issued by Biden, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who convened in Mexico City on Monday for the North American leaders’ summit.

“We stand with Brazil as it safeguards its democratic institutions. Our governments support the free will of the people of Brazil,” they declared. “We look forward to working with President Lula on delivering for our countries, the Western Hemisphere, and beyond.”

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The scenes from Brasilia on Sunday, of rioters overtaking government buildings while calling for a newly elected president’s removal, echo the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

In responding to the turmoil in Brazil, Biden also confronts another conundrum created by da Silva’s predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, who is currently staying in the U.S.

Bolsonaro had flown to Florida at the end of December, days before da Silva was inaugurated. Dubbed the “Trump of the Tropics,” the populist ex-president refused to accept the results of Brazil’s election when he was voted out in October and spread unsubstantiated claims of fraud.

While Bolsonaro condemned the “depredations and invasions of public buildings” in a tweet on Sunday after the violent rioting, da Silva and others accused him of implicitly spurring on his supporters with false allegations about a stolen election.

Some Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. were quick to call for Bolsonaro’s removal.

“Nearly 2 years to the day the US Capitol was attacked by fascists, we see fascist movements abroad attempt to do the same in Brazil,” New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “The US must cease granting refuge to Bolsonaro in Florida.”

“He’s a dangerous man. They should send him back to his home country, Brazil,” Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas urged during a televised interview.

The Biden White House’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told reporters on Monday that the Biden administration had not received any request from Brazil’s government to extradite Bolsonaro but that “if we did receive such requests, we treat them the way we always do — we treat them seriously.”

While the U.S. and Brazil have an extradition treaty in place, it stipulates that the individual must be formally accused of an offense that is considered a crime in both countries. Bolsonaro is the subject of several investigations, but Brazilian authorities have not filed any charges against him.

Separately, if the Biden administration wanted to expel Bolsonaro from the country, it could revoke his visa without any legal justification. While that would be an extraordinary move, John Feeley, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Panama when the country’s former president attempted to avoid corruption charges by fleeing to Florida, said it likely wouldn’t be met by significant backlash on the international stage.

“I think one of the possible silver linings out of this whole episode is that there has been universal condemnation from Latin American governments,” Feeley said. “There has been literally no government that has supported Bolsonaro. There have been some that have been quiet, but most have made very strong statements.”

While individual visa cases are confidential, State Department spokesperson Ned Price seemed to suggest that Bolsonaro — who is believed to have entered the U.S. on a diplomatic visa as Brazil’s head of state — would have a grace period of 30 days to either exit the country or request a change to his immigration status before facing consequences.

The former Brazilian president was admitted to an Orlando-area hospital on Monday afternoon for abdominal pain resulting from a stabbing he endured on the campaign trail in 2018, his wife announced via Instagram.

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