Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro speaks
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)

Brazilian Police Allege 'Criminal' Forgery of Bolsonaro Covid Vaccine Card Before US Trip

The far-right former president is a notorious Covid-19 vaccine skeptic who once warned that getting inoculated against the coronavirus could turn people into alligators.

Agents from Brazil's Federal Police on Wednesday raided the home of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro as part of an investigation into whether the far-right leader forged his Covid-19 vaccination certificate so he could travel to the United States.

Brazilian and international media report Federal Police seized cellphones from Bolsonaro and his wife, Michelle Bolsonaro, and arrested some of the former president's top aides as part of the operation.

Federal Police allege a "criminal association" is behind the entry of false vaccination data with the Ministry of Health in November and December 2022—while Bolsonaro was president—to "circumvent health restrictions."

Investigators said "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."

Bolsonaro—who lost last year's presidential runoff election to leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva—traveled to Florida last December, shortly before da Silva was inaugurated on New Year's Day.

The former president denies any wrongdoing, telling reporters Wednesday morning that "I was never asked for a vaccine card" to enter the U.S.

"There is no tampering on my part," Bolsonaro insisted. "I didn't take the vaccine, period. I never denied that."

Bolsonaro is a notorious Covid-19 vaccine skeptic, once suggesting 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.

The Bolsonaro administration also came under fire for intentionally stalling coronavirus vaccine deals with Pfizer, as well as for allegedly conditioning the purchase of other vaccine stockpiles on bribes.

A 2021 Brazilian congressional probe of Bolsonaro's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic accused him of "crimes against humanity" and found that as president, his policies were to blame for more than 300,000 deaths—half the nation's coronavirus toll at the time.

A study examining the scale of Brazil's Covid-19 catastrophe was published in July 2021. It concluded that 400,000 lives could have been saved had the Bolsonaro administration implemented more stringent social distancing rules and begun vaccinating people earlier.

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