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Brazil’s Bolsonaro Faces First Indictment for Allegedly Faking His Own COVID Data

Brazil’s Bolsonaro Is Indicted For First Time Over Alleged Falsification Of Own COVID Data

Brazil’s Federal Police have leveled serious accusations against former President Jair Bolsonaro, alleging criminal association and the falsification of his COVID-19 vaccination records. This marks a significant legal challenge for the embattled far-right leader, with potentially more legal troubles looming on the horizon.

The Supreme Court unveiled the police’s indictment on Tuesday, claiming that Bolsonaro and 16 others manipulated the public health database to falsely indicate that the then-president, his 12-year-old daughter, and several associates had received the COVID-19 vaccine.

Throughout the pandemic, Bolsonaro stood out among world leaders for his outspoken skepticism of vaccines, openly defying health measures and encouraging others to follow suit. His administration even disregarded multiple offers from Pfizer to sell tens of millions of vaccine doses to Brazil in 2020.

Bolsonaro criticized the procurement of vaccines from Chinese company Sinovac by Sao Paulo state’s then-Governor João Doria when alternative vaccine sources were scarce.

Brazil's Bolsonaro Faces First Indictment for Allegedly Faking His Own COVID Data

Brazil’s Bolsonaro Faces First Indictment for Allegedly Faking His Own COVID Data (Credits: The Seattle Times)

The decision on whether to pursue charges against Bolsonaro lies with Brazil’s prosecutor-general’s office, which will consider the police indictment at the Supreme Court. This indictment is part of a broader investigation into Bolsonaro’s actions during his presidency from 2019 to 2022.

Bolsonaro’s legal representative did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The former president previously denied any wrongdoing during questioning in May 2023.

The police allege that Bolsonaro and his associates tampered with the health ministry’s database just before his trip to the U.S. in December 2022, shortly after he lost his bid for re-election to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Bolsonaro needed proof of vaccination to enter the U.S., where he spent the final days of his term and the initial months of Lula’s tenure.

If found guilty of falsifying health data, the 68-year-old politician could face up to 12 years in prison, though legal experts suggest a minimum sentence of two years. The maximum penalty for criminal association is four years, according to analyst Zilan Costa.

Despite these legal challenges, Bolsonaro maintains strong support among his base. Demonstrations last month in Sao Paulo drew an estimated 185,000 people, rallying behind Bolsonaro and decrying what they perceive as political persecution.

Bolsonaro has already been barred from running for office until 2030 by Brazil’s top electoral court, which found him guilty of abusing his power during the 2022 campaign and spreading baseless doubts about the country’s electronic voting system.

Other ongoing investigations involve allegations that Bolsonaro attempted to smuggle expensive diamond jewelry into Brazil to prevent it from being added to the presidential collection.

Another inquiry focuses on his alleged involvement in a January 8, 2023, uprising in Brasilia, following Lula’s assumption of power, which bore a resemblance to the Capitol riot in Washington two years prior. Bolsonaro has denied any wrongdoing in both cases.

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