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Bolsonaro did not seek Italian citizenship, Rome says after Brazil violence

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Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro looks on, as he meets supporters at the Alvorada Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, December 12, 2022. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has not requested Italian citizenship and probably would not get it even if he applied, Italy said on Tuesday, after hundreds of his backers were arrested for storming Brazil’s state institutions.

Brazil’s new President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a leftist who took office on Jan. 1 after defeating far-right rival Bolsonaro in an October election, has vowed to bring those responsible for the weekend violence in Brasilia to justice.

Bolsonaro flew to the United States at the end of last year, 48 hours before his term ended. He is under investigation in at least four criminal probes back home and Brazilian media have reported that he was seeking Italian citizenship.

But Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani denied this.

“He hasn’t asked for it and I don’t believe he can have it, as far as I’m concerned,” Tajani told Italian radio.

Under Italian law, people can claim nationality if they can prove they had Italian ancestors, without any generational limits. But criminal records are taken into consideration when applications are filed.

Bolsonaro’s great-grandfather was born in Anguillara in north-east Italy, making the ex-Brazilian president and his children eligible for citizenship.

Italy’s Foreign Ministry has confirmed that two of Bolsonaro’s four sons, Edoardo and Flavio, had requested citizenship in 2020. Their request is still being processed.

Italian consulates in countries where applications are presented deal with the request and are expected to process the paperwork within 24 months.

However, a diplomatic source said Italy’s consulates in Brazil had been inundated with applications, meaning it would likely take years before hopefuls received an Italian passport.

A left-wing Italian parliamentarian, Angelo Bonelli, has urged the government not to grant citizenship to any of the Bolsonaro family. He said it took on average 10-15 years for people to receive citizenship via ancestral ties and warned that Bolsonaro’s sons should not receive preferential treatment.

Bonelli has accused the Bolsonaros of actively backing an attack on Brazil’s key institutions over the weekend by thousands of the ex-president’s followers.

“The Italian government must be clear. No citizenship for Bolsonaro’s children and the former president. No citizenship for supporters of coup plotters,” said Bonelli.

Angry mobs rampaged through Brazil’s Congress, the Supreme Court and presidential offices on Sunday, smashing windows, furniture and artwork in the worst attack on state institutions since Brazil’s return to democracy in the 1980s.

Bolsonaro told CNN Brasil that he had planned to stay in the United States until the end of January but now planned to go back to Brazil sooner to see his doctors.

Italy’s right-wing League party, which is in the ruling coalition, has close ties with Bolsonaro and League leader Matteo Salvini has referred to him in the past as a friend.

Bolsonaro visited the home of his great-grandfather in 2021 and was given ‘honorary citizenship’ of Anguillara by the mayor, who is a League politician. The move is being challenged in Italy’s highest court.

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