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Brazil's Bolsonaro indicted over fake COVID certificate

March 19, 2024

Former far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has been accused of tampering with a public health database to make it seem as if he was vaccinated. Bolsonaro has frequently downplayed the severity of COVID-19.

Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro speaks before the UN in September, 2021
Bolsonaro espoused beliefs against the LGBTQ movement and abortion during his presidency, and had attempted to position Brazil closer to the US on foreign affairsImage: Eduardo Munoz/Pool Photo/AP/picture alliance

Brazil's Federal Police on Tuesday indicted former far-right President Jair Bolsonaro for falsifying his COVID-19 vaccination records. 

Police: Bolsonaro wanted to 'cheat current health restrictions'

The indictment said Bolsonaro tampered with a public health database to make it look as if he and several others in his circle were vaccinated.  

Police detective Fabio Alvarez Shor signed off on the indictment, saying Bolsonaro and several others wanted to use fake COVID-19vaccination records to "cheat current health restrictions." 

"The investigation found several false insertions between November 2021 and December 2022, and also many actions of using fraudulent documents," Shor explained.  

Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro at an event introducing a mayoral candidate
Despite his departure from office, Bolsonaro still has a fervent following from Brazilian conservatives and the country's burgeoning evangelical Christian movementImage: picture alliance/dpa/AP

Bolsonaro had expressed opposition to the COVID-19 vaccine while also downplaying the health impacts of the virus and the severity of the pandemic. 

It's now up to Brazil's prosecutor-general to decide whether to file charges against Bolsonaro at the Brazilian Supreme Court.

Bolsonaro's attorney, Fabio Wajngarten, decried the police allegations as "absurd."

"While he served as president, [Bolsonaro] was completely exempt from presenting any type of certificate on his trips," Wajngarten said, while condemning "political persecution" towards the former Brazilian leader.  

Lula returns to a divided Brazil

More legal troubles could be looming for Bolsonaro

It was the first indictment against the former Brazilian leader as more charges could potentially be brought on other issues as well.  

The former president is currently being investigated over a possible military coup plot to stay in power after he was defeated by leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in the 2022 election.

On January 8, 2023, a  mob of Bolsonaro supporters stormed buildings representing the three branches of government in the capital of Brasilia, several days after Lula's inauguration. Although their attempt to reinstall Bolsonaro's government failed, the event left a mark on Brazil's democracy and revealed the risks of polarization in South America's most populous country. 

Bolsonaro also faces a probe over money he received from selling luxury watches he was gifted from Saudi Arabia during his time in office. 

wd/sms (Reuters, AP, AFP)