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Brazil's Bolsonaro must hand in his passport for coup investigation

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

Authorities in Brazil claim that former right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro headed up a vast conspiracy to hold onto power and mount a coup after losing his reelection bid. Following 2022 loss, Bolsonaro falsely claimed that Brazil's elections were fraudulent. Those allegations against him were unveiled today as federal police raided dozens of properties and arrested former close allies of the ex-leader. We go now to NPR's South America correspondent Carrie Kahn in Rio de Janeiro for more. Hi, Carrie.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Hi.

PFEIFFER: Tell us more about what happened today.

KAHN: Well, Bolsonaro was not arrested. Police did show up at his beach house south of Rio here and ordered him to surrender his passport, which he said he didn't have on him, but later did surrender it. Police also targeted, as you said, close aides who they say conspired with him to plot a coup. And they include his former running mate and the former justice minister. But what was most dramatic today, though, was the release of the federal police's investigation. And it was a - it is a 135-page document with the most detailed account, so far, we've heard of allegations that Bolsonaro was planning a coup to stay in power after he lost his re-election bid.

PFEIFFER: So in those 135 pages, what stood out most to you as you went through it?

KAHN: The document outlined planning by Bolsonaro and these aides to set the stage for military intervention to overturn the election results. And reading from the document, police say that Bolsonaro and more than a dozen others plan to attack opponents, including Supreme Court justices and electoral authorities, in a, quote, "violent coup and abolition of the democratic state of law." And according to police, this planning began even before the 2022 election, without results even being known. The police said Bolsonaro was personally involved in the planning and at one point even edited a document outlining specifics of how the coup was to unfold.

PFEIFFER: What did Brazil's current president say about the allegations unveiled today?

KAHN: President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was on the radio this morning in an interview. He said he couldn't comment on the open investigation, then just launched into this - accusations against Bolsonaro that he defamed Brazil's electoral system and lying about his losses. And then he dropped this line in there.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT LUIZ INACIO LULA DA SILVA: (Speaking Portuguese).

KAHN: He says, "I don't think the coup attempt could have happened without him," without Bolsonaro's participation, he said. Lula was referring to the events of January 8 in 2023. And that's when hundreds of Bolsonaro supporters ransacked federal buildings in the capital. He vowed to find out who was behind the vandalism, who financed it and who orchestrated it.

PFEIFFER: Has Bolsonaro himself had anything to say about all this?

KAHN: Well, he's long denied he supported a coup, and he claims charges of wrongdoing against him are all political persecution. Today he told the Sao Paulo newspaper, I left office more than a year ago, and I'm still suffering implacable prosecution. This all sounds familiar to U.S. audiences. Courts in the U.S. are litigating the former president's actions following his electoral defeat. Bolsonaro and Trump were very close allies when both were in office. And like Trump, Bolsonaro still has multiple cases ahead of him. But a big distinction between the two is that electoral authorities here in Brazil have already barred Bolsonaro from running for any office until 2030, and they say that's because of the legal actions the court says he took while he was president.

PFEIFFER: That is NPR's Carrie Kahn in Rio de Janeiro. Carrie, thank you.

KAHN: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF ADANNA DURU SONG, "POP") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.

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