Bolsonaro home raided, phone seized in Brazil vaccine records probe

by Jacob Fuller

 

Brazilian police on Wednesday raided former President Jair Bolsonaro’s home and seized his cell phone as part of an investigation into his COVID-19 vaccination records.

The investigation may answer questions about how Bolsonaro, a strident coronavirus skeptic who vowed never to get a COVID vaccine, was registered as vaccinated in health records made public in February.

Bolsonaro confirmed the raid on his home in Brasilia to journalists and reiterated that he had never taken a COVID vaccine. He denied any role in allegedly forging documents.

“For my part, there was nothing falsified. I didn’t take the vaccine. Period,” he said, adding that his phone was seized.

The vaccine probe is one of many putting the former far-right leader under pressure, including investigations into alleged voter suppression, attacks on the legitimacy of Brazilian elections, and embezzlement of foreign gifts.

Bolsonaro has denied any wrongdoing in those cases.

Federal police in a statement said they were serving 16 search warrants and six preventive arrest warrants in Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro as part of the operation but did not disclose the names of those targeted.

Two people familiar with the probe said police had arrested Mauro Cid and Max Guilherme, personal assistants to Bolsonaro as president who stayed on as his aides when he stepped down in January.

Police said they were investigating “false data” allegedly added to a national COVID-19 database between November 2021 and December 2022, when Bolsonaro was president.

“As a result, they were able to issue vaccine certificates and use them to circumvent restrictions imposed by public authorities in Brazil and the United States,” police said,

The investigation points to “ideological” reasons for circumventing vaccination rules, police said, “in order to keep up a discourse of attacking vaccination against COVID-19.”

“We trust that all legal doubts will be cleared up and it will be proven that Bolsonaro did not commit illegal acts,” Valdemar Costa Neto, the head of Bolsonaro’s political party, wrote on social media.

Copyright 2023 Thomson/Reuters

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