By CARLA BRIDI and DIANE JEANTET
SAO PAULO (AP) — The office of Brazil’s vice president says he has become acting president, an indication that President Jair Bolsonaro has left the country and will break tradition by skipping the inauguration Sunday of his political nemesis, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
The press office of Bolsonaro’s vice president, Gen. Hamilton Mourão, confirmed to journalists he was acting as president. The handoff of power to the vice president occurs whenever Brazil’s president travels abroad.
The Friday edition of the official gazette said that Bolsonaro is headed to Florida, and that several officials were given permission to accompany “the future ex-president” to Miami between Jan. 1 and Jan. 30, to offer “advice, security and personal support.”
According to flight tracking websites, the Brazilian military’s official airplane left the capital, Brasilia, around 2 p.m. for Orlando.
In Bolsonaro’s absence, it is not clear who will hand over the presidential sash to Lula on Sunday. Mourão’s press office said that is not part of the vice president’s duties.
Bolsonaro has remained mostly silent since losing the election Oct. 30. But a few hours before reports of his departure, he addressed the country as president on his social media.
At times on the verge of tears, the far-right politician said he wasn’t able to find a legal alternative or enough support to change the course of history and prevent his departure from office.
“How difficult it has been to stay quiet for two months, working to find alternatives,” he said. “If you’re upset, put yourself in my place. I gave my life to this country.”
Bolsonaro also condemned a recent bomb threat in Brasilia, saying it was not the time to attack people, but rather to try to build an opposition against the future government.
“We lost a battle, but we will not lose the war,” he said. “The world does not end on Jan. 1.”
A crowd of supporters stood outside the presidential residence in a pouring rain listening for a sign from their leader, and many were left disappointed. Some shouted the words “traitor” and “coward.” One woman cried.
Since his electoral loss, some of Bolsonaro’s most die-hard supporters have been camping outside military buildings in Brasilia and elsewhere in the country, asking for the armed forces to intervene. Many believed election results were fraudulent or unreliable, and hoped Bolsonaro would somehow remain in power.
Others have blocked roads and highways, or set buses and trucks on fire. Police are also investigating the attempted invasion of the federal police’s headquarters in Brasilia earlier this month, and said most of the 32 individuals they are looking for have had contacts with the Brasilia pro-Bolsonaro encampment.
Jeantet reported from Rio de Janeiro. Associated Press photojournalist Eraldo Peres in Brasilia contributed to this report.