Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Friday there was no justification for what he called an attempted “terrorist act” after police foiled a man’s plan to set off an explosive device in Brasilia last week in protest against his election defeat.
In his final address before leaving office, Bolsonaro condemned the bomb plot and tried to distance himself from it, but he praised protesters who have been camping outside army barracks urging the military to stage a coup.
“I did not encourage anyone to enter confrontation,” the far-right leader said, while adding that his supporters had been seeking “freedom” after the election of his leftist rival whose victory he has never recognized.
“This mass of people who went to the army barracks are calling for help, freedom, respect for the constitution,” he said.
Tensions have been high in the South American country after the most fraught election in a generation, in which Bolsonaro was narrowly defeated by leftist President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Bolsonaro said on Friday that the latest protests have been “spontaneous,” with no leadership or coordination.
He sought to distance himself from George Washington de Oliveira Sousa, the man arrested for the bomb plot, who told police that Bolsonaro’s call to arms inspired him to gather an arsenal of guns and explosives.
“The man had ideas that are not shared by any citizen, but now they classify him as a ‘Bolsonarista’,” the president complained in a social media broadcast.
Pro-Bolsonaro supporters calling for a coup at the entrance of the Alvorada Palace, where he lives, called him a “coward” during his speech, according to a Reuters witness.
Bolsonaro has regularly suggested – without evidence – that Brazil’s electronic voting system was liable to fraud, and many of his hardcore supporters believe the election was stolen.
The president, who remained silent for most of the time since his Oct. 30 defeat, is widely expect to travel to the United States in the coming hours, before Lula’s inauguration on Jan. 1.
Members of Bolsonaro’s security staff were cleared to fly to Florida to help him there, although his office has yet to confirm the trip.
In his final address, with a breaking voice and tears in his eyes, the president tried to defend his legacy and said he would be opposition to the incoming Lula administration.
“We will not throw in the towel,” Bolsonaro said. “We may have lost the battle but not the war”.