Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro speaks

Then-Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro speaks during the formal launch of his reelection campaign on July 24, 2022 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

(Photo: Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

Brazil's Bolsonaro Indicted for Falsifying Covid Vaccine Records

"Fraud has always been the specialty of Bolsonaro, the Father of Lies," said the chair of the left-wing Workers' Party.

Brazil's Federal Police on Tuesday indicted former President Jair Bolsonaro for allegedly falsifying his Covid-19 vaccination data and criminal association, marking the first time the far-right leader has been criminally charged.

Federal Police Detective Fábio Alvarez Shor said in his indictment report that Bolsonaro and aides forged vaccination records "to cheat current health restrictions" ahead of a trip to the United States—which at the time required visitors to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

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

In addition to Bolsonaro, Moro Cid, a top aide, and Gutemberg Reis, a federal lawmaker, were also indicted. Cid previously told investigators that Bolsonaro asked him to falsely record that the president and his 12-year-old daughter had been vaccinated. Fourteen other associates are also implicated in the alleged crimes.

Investigators previously alleged that "the objective of the group was to hold together in relation to their ideological agenda; in this case, to sustain the rhetoric regarding their attacks on the coronavirus vaccine."

Gleisi Hoffmann, a federal lawmaker who chairs the leftist Workers' Party of current Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, responded to the indictment on social media, writing, "Fraud has always been the specialty of Bolsonaro, the Father of Lies."

If fully convicted, Bolsonaro—who denies any wrongdoing—faces 12-16 years behind bars.

Bolsonaro is a notorious Covid-19 vaccine skeptic who once suggested that getting the shot could turn people into alligators. The president's policies and actions sparked massive nationwide protests during the height of the pandemic. His administration also came under fire for intentionally stalling coronavirus vaccine deals with Pfizer and for allegedly conditioning the purchase of other vaccine stockpiles on bribes.

An investigation by Brazilian lawmakers into Bolsonaro's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic accused him of "crimes against humanity" and blamed his policies for more than 300,000 deaths. Paulo Gonet, Brazil's top prosecutor, was slated to meet with federal lawmakers on Tuesday to consider pandemic-related charges against Bolsonaro.

A 2021 study examining the Covid-19 pandemic in Brazil concluded that 400,000 lives could have been saved had the Bolsonaro administration enacted more stringent social distancing rules and started vaccinating people sooner.

Last year, Brazil's Superior Electoral Court banned Bolsonaro from holding office again until 2030 after finding that he abused power by making baseless claims of fraud in the 2022 presidential election, which he lost to Lula, who served as president from 2003-10.

Bolsonaro faces numerous additional investigations, including a probe of his role in the far-right uprising in Brasília, the capital, on January 8, 2023. A congressional inquiry found that Bolsonaro was the "intellectual and moral author of a coup movement" that culminated in the storming of government buildings last year. The lawmakers behind the inquiry recommended indictments for Bolsonaro and associates.

Some former top military officials have recently turned on Bolsonaro, accusing their erstwhile supreme commander—who was an army officer during Brazil's U.S.-backed military dictatorship—of pushing them to stage a coup to keep him in power.

Lula said Monday that Bolsonaro failed to carry out a coup "not only because some people who were in charge of the armed forces didn't want to do it and accept the president's idea, but also because the president is a big coward."

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