In the 2018 elections, Bolsonaro posed as the candidate from “outside of the system”, the candidate that promised to end corruption in the country’s capital Brasilia and to form a government that was different from “all of them there”. Of course, Bolsonaro did not get there on his own. He had help from the 2016 coup, the farce of Operation Lava-Jato (Car Wash), and Lula da Silva’s disqualification as a candidate when the former president was leading the polls.
Nevertheless, it did not take long for the former captain’s hollow anti-corruption rhetoric to completely disappear. After over two years at the helm of the government, there is new evidence every day of the sordid relationship that Bolsonaro and his family have established and have always had with official authority.
Below is a summary of the main corruption scandals that either directly or indirectly involve President Bolsonaro and his family.
a) The Covaxin Case
On March 26, Federal Deputy Luís Claudio Miranda (Democrats, DEM) testified to the COVID Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI) that he had previously informed President Jair Bolsonaro of an alleged illegal scheme linked to the Ministry of Health’s billion-dollar procurement of the Indian vaccine Covaxin.
According to Miranda, Bolsonaro said he knew about the scheme that was run by a parliamentarian from the government’s ranks, and that he would report this to the Deputy General of the Federal Police. This never happened. Under Brazilian law, such inaction constitutes the crime of ‘prevaricação’ (malfeasance or maladministration). Miranda admitted to the CPI that the deputy referred to by Bolsonaro is Ricardo Barros (Progressives, PP), the government’s leader in the Chamber of Deputies.
b) The AstraZeneca and Janssen case
On 15 July, Cristiano Carvalho, the Brazilian representative of Davati Medical Supply, told the COVID CPI that the company offered the Ministry of Health two COVID-19 vaccines from different manufacturers.
According to Carvalho, the company tried to sell 400 million doses of AstraZeneca to the ministry via former Director of Logistics at the Ministry of Health Roberto Dias, who now stands accused of asking for a bribe. Another 200 million units of the Janssen vaccine (produced by Johnson & Johnson) were also offered to former Ministry of Health advisor Colonel Marcelo Blanco, who is also a target of CPI investigations.
Colonel Blanco was at the 25 February dinner at which Roberto Dias was introduced to police officer and Davati Medical Supply representative Luiz Dominguetti.
According to Dominguetti’s statement to the CPI, Dias asked for a bribe of US$1 per dose of COVID vaccine.
With these declarations, the head of the COVID CPI can now point to an alleged corruption scheme involving military personnel at the Ministry of Health, one that also puts Colonel Elcio Franco, the former executive secretary of the Ministry of Health, under the spotlight.
c) ‘Rachadinha’ – the ‘salary split’ scandal
Andrea Siqueira Valle, the sister of Bolsonaro’s second wife, has revealed in a recent report by UOL journalist Juliana Dal Piva that her brother was fired after refusing to hand over part of his salary to then federal deputy Jair Bolsonaro. Andrea was the first of eighteen relatives of the president’s second wife to be appointed to work in one of the three offices of the Bolsonaro family (Jair and his sons Carlos and Flávio) between 1998 and 2018.
For well over a year, the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Rio de Janeiro has also been investigating embezzlement and financial irregularities in the office of Flávio Bolsonaro while he served as a state deputy.
As a consequence of the ‘rachadinha’ investigations into the now Senator Flávio, the Public Prosecutor’s Office has discovered that the ten relatives of Jair Bolsonaro’s second wife Ana Cristina Valle who were employed as advisors to Flávio only received an average of 83% of their actual salaries. The figure during that time amounts to R$4 million (US$770,000). Ana Cristina has always denied that there were any irregularities.
The scheme’s operator Fabrício Queiroz was arrested in June last year after he was found hiding in the Atibaia property of Frederick Wassef, lawyer to both President Bolsonaro and his son Flávio. In March of this year, the Superior Court of Justice (STJ) decided to free Fabrício Queiroz and his wife Marcia.
2. Relationship with militias and suspected involvement in the assassination of Marielle Franco
Former military police officer Adriano Magalhães da Nóbrega, accused of being one of the main leaders of the ‘Escritório do Crime’ (The Crime Bureau) paramilitary militia gang, was suspiciously killed earlier this year by police in Bahia while on the run. Adriano da Nóbrega was also a personal friend of Fabrício Queiroz.
In February 2021, the Superior Court of Justice (STJ) annulled the decision that had previously authorized the disclosure of Senator Flávio Bolsonaro’s records. Both federal and Rio de Janeiro public prosecutor’s offices have appealed the decision. New facts may lead to a new outcome in the case. Adriano da Nóbrega, known as Captain Adriano, was once honored by Flávio in the Legislative Assembly of Rio de Janeiro (ALERJ) when he already stood accused of homicide. Adriano da Nóbrega’s mother and wife also worked in Flávio’s office for years. Furthermore, WhatsApp conversations between Queiroz and Adriano’s wife prove the link between the scheme emanating from Flávio’s office and the dead militia leader.
According to a 16 July report in Veja magazine, Julia Mello Lotufo, the widow of militiaman Adriano da Nóbrega, is negotiating a plea bargain with the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Rio de Janeiro. She has told prosecutors that she knows who masterminded the execution of Party of Socialism and Freedom (PSOL) councilor Marielle Franco and her driver Anderson Silva.
Now under house arrest, Julia has offered to cooperate with prosecutors in an attempt to obtain a plea bargain with the Public Prosecutor’s Office, which has not decided on whether or not to accept the tip-off. According to Veja, Julia has detailed Adriano da Nóbrega’s participation in ten or more gang-sanctioned murders and has named the public officials who received bribes to cover up these crimes.
The widow claims that Adriano da Nóbrega did not participate in the murder of Marielle Franco. She has however revealed that militia members of the ‘Gardênia Azul’ (Blue Gardenia) gang were behind the crime. According to Julia, they even approached Adriano da Nóbrega to organize the crime, but he considered the idea too risky and refused to take part. The widow says that the motive was the parliamentary activity of Marielle Franco, which put militia operations in the Gardênia Azul and Rio das Pedras ‘favelas’ (slums) at risk. She also says that former Rio councilor Cristiano Girão, who was convicted in 2009 of leading the Gardênia Azul militia and imprisoned for eight years, is also linked to this crime.
3. Genocide: deliberate omissions and errors in fighting the Pandemic
These crimes concern both the repeated errors and omissions in the conduct of the Bolsonaro government during the pandemic, and Bolsonaro’s irresponsible statements against vaccinating the population and his defense of Chloroquine, Ivermectin, and other drugs that have been proven ineffective against COVID-19. Bolsonaro’s stance was pivotal to the tragedy that has struck Brazil during the pandemic, a tragedy that has so far killed over 525,000 people across the country. His actions during the pandemic have systematically sabotaged the protective measures that could have saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
As if all this wasn’t enough, President Jair Bolsonaro has vetoed the law that provides protection measures for indigenous communities during the Coronavirus pandemic. The executive authority has blocked sixteen different standards from the regulations, which include stipulations to provide the villages with access to drinking water, hygiene products, hospital beds, and mechanical respirators, and has not presented any kind of protection plan for indigenous people during the pandemic.
4. A threat to democracy and its institutions
The President of the Republic has himself defended various anti-democratic outrages, such as calls for the closing of the National Congress and the Supreme Court, as well as calls for a new Institutional Act No. 5 (AI-5)*, a highly symbolic instrument of the military dictatorship that took power in 1964. His participation in anti-democratic demonstrations that sought to rebel against the health measures taken by governors and mayors is further proof of the Bolsonaro government’s contempt for democracy.
Last week, Bolsonaro mobilized the government for yet another affront to democracy with his declarations regarding printed ballots. This is a banner of ‘Bolsonarismo’, one that is used to cast doubt on the political regime as a whole, and to prepare for possible offensive actions in the event of an electoral defeat (just as Donald Trump did in the United States with his encouragement of the invasion of Capitol Hill) and even a potential coup. With the start of the CPI, this discourse has returned with a vengeance, with renewed threats to the electoral process and the Superior Electoral Court (TSE).
“Then come the polling institutes, which are also rigged, to put the ‘nove dedos’ (‘nine fingers’, Lula da Silva)** on top. For what? So that the rigged vote of the TSE can be confirmed,” he said, then later adding: “It’s already clear who will be the president next year. Are we going to let them hand this over?”
Bolsonaro then referred to Luís Barroso, a Justice of the Federal Supreme Court (STF): “It’s the response of an imbecile. I regret saying that about a Federal Supreme Court authority. But only an idiot would say that.”
Bolsonaro does not hide his plans: he refuses to submit to the democratic process, and accuses institutions such as polling institutes, the Superior Electoral Court (TSE), and the Federal Supreme Court (STF) above all of conspiring against him, even though there is no evidence whatsoever of this “conspiracy”. This discourse aims to intimidate opponents and inflame his electoral base, while at the same time the President holds ‘motociatas’ (motorcycle rallies) across the country to try to demonstrate his strength and swim against the tide of his eroding support.
Super petition for impeachment
The last day of June saw the biggest petition for Jair Bolsonaro’s impeachment submitted to the Chamber of Deputies, a petition which brings together over 120 separate petitions that have been submitted during the Bolsonaro administration. The authors of these petitions are from parties, movements, and parliamentarians from right across the political spectrum that are united in the one common goal: ‘impeachment já!’ (impeachment now!)
A list of the crimes presented in the super petition can be found below. It is worth emphasizing that this is not a full list of the accusations that have already built up against the President, especially after the recent CPI investigations outlined above.
1. Crime against the political existence of the Union [of the Territories of Brazil]. Action: Fomenting conflict with other nations;
2. Hostility against a foreign nation. Action: Xenophobic statements against Cuban doctors;
3. Crime against the free exercise of the branches of government. Action: Threats to Congress and the Federal Supreme Court (STF), and interference in the Federal Police;
4. Attempt to dissolve or impede the functioning of Congress. Action: Statements by the President and participation in anti-democratic demonstrations;
5. Threat against any representative of the nation to coerce them. Action: Said he would have to ‘sair na porrada’ (a vulgar expression akin to ‘punch the crap out of’) Senator Randolfe Rodrigues (Sustainability Network, REDE), a member of the COVID Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI);
6. Oppose the free exercise of the Judiciary. Action: Interference in the Federal Police;
7. Threat to constrain a judge. Action: Attacks on the Supreme Court;
8. Crime against the free exercise of political, individual, and social rights. Action: Omissions and errors in the fight against the pandemic;
9. Use authorities immediately subordinate to him to practice the abuse of power. Action: Changes to the Armed Forces leadership and interference in the Federal Police;
10. Subverting or attempting to subvert the political and social order. Action: Threats to political institutions;
11. Inciting military personnel to disobey the law or to infractions of discipline. Action: Going to a demonstration in favor of military intervention;
12. Provoking animosity within the Armed Forces. Action: Allies incited a riot in the case of the police officer killed by other police officers in Salvador;
13. Violate social rights guaranteed in the Constitution. Action: Omissions and errors in the fight against the pandemic;
14. Crime against the internal security of the country. Action: Omissions and errors in the fight against the pandemic;
15. Decree a state of emergency when there is no serious internal turmoil. Action: Compared the measures of governors to a state of emergency;
16. Allowing the infraction of federal law on public order. Action: Promote revolt against social distancing during the pandemic;
17. Crime against probity in administration. Action: Management of the pandemic and attacks on the electoral process;
18. Issuing orders contrary to the Constitution. Action: Changes to the Armed Forces leadership;
19. Proceeding in a manner incompatible with the decorum of office. Action: Lies to obtain political advantage;
20. Neglecting the conservation of the national patrimony. Action: Financial management of the pandemic and delays in meeting the demands of states and municipalities in the health crisis;
21. Crime against compliance with judicial decisions. Action: Not creating a protection plan for indigenous people during the pandemic.
* Institutional Act No. 5 (AI-5): Enacted in 1968, AI-5 was the most infamous of all decrees issued by the military dictatorship. It gave the President the power to order the National Congress into ‘forced recess’, saw the suspension of habeas corpus for political ‘crimes’, allowed for widespread censorship, and ushered in an era of torture, illegal arrests, and political persecution.
** ‘Nove dedos’ (‘nine fingers’): A derogatory reference to former Workers’ Party (PT) president Lula da Silva, who lost a finger in an industrial accident while working as a metalworker in the 1970s.
This article is an English translation of “Quais são os principais crimes de Bolsonaro?”, [https://esquerdaonline.com.br/2021/07/17/quais-sao-os-principais-crimes-de-bolsonaro/], Esquerda Online (EOL), 17/07/2021.
Translation: Bobby Sparks