LatinNews Daily - 17 May 2023

BRAZIL: Bolsonaro testifies over fake vaccine records

On 16 May, Brazil’s vaccine-sceptic former president Jair Bolsonaro (2019-2023) testified to federal police (PF) as part of an investigation into a scheme to produce falsified coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccination records.


The former president’s chances at a political comeback could continue to diminish amid his mounting legal troubles. Since his return from the US at the end of March, Bolsonaro has already testified at two PF depositions, the first for a corruption probe involving jewellery gifted from the Saudi Arabian government and another for a probe into his potential instigation of the 8 January riots, when his supporters stormed government buildings in Brasília. This vaccine record probe, however, has already led to arrests, including members of the former president’s inner circle, such as his former personal aide, Lieutenant-colonel Mauro Cid.   

  • According to Bolsonaro’s former communications secretary Fábio Wajngarten, who currently serves as his aide and spokesperson, the deposition lasted over three hours and the former president reiterated that he had never been vaccinated and denied any knowledge of any effort to falsify or tamper with his vaccine records or those of his family.
  • Bolsonaro’s deposition was part of a wider PF investigation, which began on 3 May, into a criminal network which allegedly manipulated or forged vaccine records in the health ministry’s database, possibly to be used for international travel.
  • On 3 May, the PF raided Bolsonaro’s home and seized his mobile phone, as well as arresting Cid for alleged involvement in the vaccine record criminal scheme.
  • The national media, such as the newspaper Folha de São Paulo and the news website Poder360, have reported that PF investigators also questioned Bolsonaro about voice note recordings obtained from Cid’s seized mobile phone, in which Cid made several potentially incriminating comments related to the fake vaccine records scheme.
  • Some voice notes from December 2022 revealed a conversation between Cid and a former army officer, Ailton Barros, in which Barros suggested that the former president should make a pronouncement “for the defence of the Brazilian people”. In yesterday’s deposition, Bolsonaro denied any knowledge of conversations which might have involved talk of potential military coups.

Looking Ahead: Although not subject to a PF investigation, the political reputation of former first lady Michelle Bolsonaro, who leads the women’s wing of her husband’s right-wing party, the Partido Liberal (PL), may also be tarnished by Cid’s voice notes, as some recordings revealed conversations about potentially corrupt activities involving the former first lady’s undeclared expenses paid in cash.

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