Recent reports suggest that former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro may have tried to deceive US authorities about his coronavirus vaccination status in order to gain entry into the United States. Bolsonaro, a longtime vaccine skeptic, has maintained for years that he never received a coronavirus vaccine. However, records indicate that his vaccine status was falsified in December 2022 to suggest that he had indeed been vaccinated. Bolsonaro left Brazil for Florida shortly after losing the presidential election to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in December 2022.
Federal police conducted a search-and-seizure operation at Bolsonaro’s house in Brasília on Wednesday and arrested several of his close associates, including a top aide responsible for carrying out Bolsonaro’s administrative demands. The police action has opened a new line of inquiry into Bolsonaro’s alleged misconduct, as he is already the subject of several investigations that could potentially end his political career and even lead to a prison sentence.
According to court documents unsealed on Wednesday, Bolsonaro was aware that his vaccination status had been falsified. His advisers allegedly entered inaccurate information into a Ministry of Health system between November 2021 and December 2022 to obtain false vaccination certificates for Bolsonaro, his 12-year-old daughter, Laura, and several aides, as well as their family members.
Police suspect that ideology played a role in the decision to commit fraud rather than get vaccinated. “The investigation indicates that the objective of the group was to hold together in relation to their ideological agenda,” police said in a statement. “In this case, to sustain the rhetoric regarding their attacks on the coronavirus vaccine.”
Bolsonaro’s anti-vaccine stance is well-documented. He has promoted skepticism around virtually everything about the disease, including its lethality, measures to curb its spread, and the vaccine that health officials said was essential to overcoming it. Bolsonaro repeatedly declined to publicize his vaccination status, calling it a private health issue. In late 2021, he even said that he wouldn’t get vaccinated, stating, “Let me die. The problem is mine.”
The police inquiry is one of several criminal investigations into Bolsonaro’s activities, including allegations that he inspired a mob to seize the most important federal buildings in Brasília shortly after Lula’s inauguration. Bolsonaro returned to Brazil last month and has since reentered political life. He addressed thousands of supporters at an agricultural festival in São Paulo last weekend and is reportedly planning a trip to the northeast. Bolsonaro is even said to be considering running for the Brazilian Senate in 2026. The former president has denied involvement in any fraud, and the investigation is ongoing.