Far-right former president Bolsonaro returns to Brazil after self-imposed exile

Brazil's far-right former president Jair Bolsonaro has returned to the country after a self-imposed exile in the face of growing protests and unrest.

Bolsonaro, who served from 2019 to early 2021, fled the country in May as anger over his government's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic policies sparked mass demonstrations.

The former president had been living in the United States since then, but returned to Brazil on Thursday. He was greeted at Rio de Janeiro's international airport by cheering supporters.

“I have returned to Brazil to restore democracy,” Bolsonaro said. “I am here to defend the Brazilian people, who have been oppressed by the government.”

Bolsonaro's return comes as Brazil is in the midst of a political crisis, with his successor, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, facing impeachment over allegations of corruption and mismanagement.

Brazil has been rocked by riots and protests in recent months, with demonstrators demanding the ouster of Lula and the resignation of Bolsonaro.

Lula, who served as president from 2003 to 2011, has denied any wrongdoing and has vowed to fight the charges against him.

For his part, Bolsonaro has accused Lula of being a “dictator” and has vowed to take back power in Brazil.

“I have returned to Brazil to restore democracy and to defend the people from the oppressive policies of the current government,” Bolsonaro said.

With tensions rising, it remains to be seen how the return of Bolsonaro to Brazil will play out in the coming days and weeks. For now, it appears that the former president's return has only added fuel to the fire of an already volatile political situation.