Brazil’s Bolsonaro Indicted Over Fake Vaccine Docs for Florida Vacay

Reuters/Adriano Machado
Reuters/Adriano Machado

Jair Bolsonaro, the bombastic, anti-vax former president of Brazil, was indicted Tuesday on allegations he fudged his COVID-19 documents to travel to Florida when foreign nationals were still required to show proof of having received a vaccine.

Brazil’s federal police want the former leader to be prosecuted on charges of fraud and criminal association—the latest legal woes for Bolsonaro, who’s become part of a number of criminal investigations since he lost the 2022 election to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Ultimately, it will be up to Brazil’s prosecutor-general’s office to determine whether to pursue charges.

Brazilian police allege the fraudulent vaccine card was made by a top deputy after Bolsonaro’s election loss in 2022. Police say they have evidence that the card was printed from an IP address inside Brazil’s presidential palace, just days before Bolsonaro jetted to Florida for three months.

Bolsonaro made headlines during his trip stateside, where he was spotted shopping inside an Orlando grocery store and was hospitalized with “abdominal pain” a day after his supporters stormed the Brazilian capital. In a separate case, he’s accused of selling off pricey jewels and watches that were gifted to him by Saudi Arabia.

The former president stands to be sent to prison if convicted on the charges recommended by police.

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Bolsonaro, 68, has already been barred from running for office for at least eight years—a punishment for spreading lies about Brazil’s voting systems on state television. Last month, he was named a target in a federal investigation into whether his government plotted a military takeover of the country.

Still, the allegations he faked his vaccination—after he spent over a year admonishing the effectiveness of vaccines, notoriously joking they’ll turn people into alligators—are likely to cause the ex-president a headache. U.S. officials have not addressed the allegations, though they suggest Bolsonaro may have broken U.S. law to enter the country.

The vaccine allegations aren’t new, but Tuesday marked the first time police sought to have Bolsonaro formally charged for his alleged role in the scheme. Previously, police searched Bolsonaro’s home in May to confiscate his phone and arrest one of his closest aides as part of the vaccine investigation.

An investigatory report obtained by The Washington Post claimed that Bolsonaro was directly tied to the alleged vaccine fraud. The ex-prez’s top lieutenant, Mauro Cid, allegedly told police that Bolsonaro had ordered him to falsify the vaccine records for him and his daughter ahead of their trip.

At the time of Bolsonaro’s flight to Florida, the U.S. had exempted “persons on diplomatic or official foreign government travel” from its vaccination requirement. But Bolsonaro, who was spotted chowing down on KFC and wandering around a Publix supermarket, didn’t appear to be visiting the U.S. on state business despite still being president.

Bolsonaro did not immediately comment on Tuesday’s allegations, but his attorney, Fabio Wajngarten, defended him in a post to X. Wajngarten called the police case “absurd” and claimed it was a case of “political prosecution,” but did not outright deny the allegations.

“While he was president, he was totally exempt from presenting any type of certification on his trips,” Wajngarten said. “This is about political persecution and trying to empty his enormous political capital, which is only growing.”

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