Brazil: Police Raid Jair Bolsonaro’s Home, Arrest Top Aide

Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro speaks to the press outside his home before gett
Eraldo Peres/AP

Brazilian federal police officers raided the home of former president Jair Bolsonaro in Brasília on Wednesday morning as part of “Operation Venire,” a broad probe into allegations that Bolsonaro falsified vaccination documents to travel to the United States.

Lieutenant Colonel Mauro Cid, one of Bolsonaro’s closest aides, was arrested during the raid at Bolsonaro’s house, in addition to former Army Major Ailton Gonçalves Moraes Barros and several others in Bolsonaro’s orbit. Cid was present at the home during the arrest; authorities specified that several other arrest warrant operations occurred in Rio de Janeiro and the nation’s capital, presumably to detain the others arrested on Wednesday. Brazilian courts issued 17 search and seizure warrants and six preventive arrest warrants in relation to the operation.

Police authorities seized Bolsonaro’s personal cell phone, but the former president was not the subject of an arrest warrant. Initial reports claimed Bolsonaro’s wife, former first lady Michelle Bolsonaro, had her phone seized as well, but she later confirmed that she kept her phone following the incidents.

The raids are in response to allegations that Bolsonaro, his wife Michelle, and their 12-year-old daughter Laura obtained false documentation claiming to have received doses of the original monovalent Pfizer Wuhan coronavirus vaccine product, which is no longer authorized for use in the United States. Cid and Cid’s family also stand accused of doctoring the Brazilian Health Ministry’s registry to appear vaccinated.

The allegedly false coronavirus vaccine information intended to guarantee that Bolsonaro — who was openly against mandatory coronavirus vaccination requirements and had stated that he would never receive a coronavirus vaccine product dose — was able to comply with the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) coronavirus vaccine requirements for travelers entering into the United States during Bolsonaro’s three-month visit to the U.S. in late December.

Investigators claim that false vaccination information for the individuals involved appeared on the Brazilian Health Ministry’s servers on December 21, shortly before Bolsonaro traveled, and was subsequently removed from the servers six days later on December 27. Bolsonaro traveled to the United States on December 28; all those arrested traveled with him.

According to Brazil’s Federal police, the investigation could lead to charges of conspiracy, violation of public health laws, introduction of false information into government systems, and corruption of minors.

“Operation Venire” was reportedly authorized by Brazilian Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF) Minister, or top judge, Alexandre de Moraes as part of a currently active inquiry to investigate alleged “anti-democratic digital militias” that spread “fake news.” (The STF is Brazil’s Supreme Court.) The inquiry, initially opened in July 2021, has been renewed six times, the latest renewal taking place in February. Authorities have not clarified what relationship personal medical information has to the alleged propagation of “fake news.”

Shortly after the police raid concluded, Bolsonaro told local media outside his residence that he was “surprised” at the operation. The former president denied the allegations and reiterated that neither he nor his daughter Laura will ingest any coronavirus vaccination product.

“I have never been asked for a vaccination card anywhere, there is no tampering on my part,” Bolsonaro said. “There isn’t. I didn’t take the vaccine and that’s it. I never denied that. There were people who pressured me to take the vaccine. Yes, natural. I decided not to take it because I read the Pfizer ‘leaflet.'”

“I did not take the vaccine,” Bolsonaro repeated. “A personal decision of mine — after reading the Pfizer package insert, I decided not to take it. My wife’s vaccine card was also photographed, she took the vaccine in the United States, from Janssen [Johnson & Johnson]. And the other, my daughter, Laura, 12 years old, didn’t take the vaccine either. She has a medical report regarding that.”

Bolsonaro concluded by saying that he had “nothing more to say.” The former president was subpoenaed to testify at the Brazilian Federal Police’s headquarters but reportedly refused to appear. His lawyer Paulo Cunha Bueno said that Bolsonaro “will exercise, for the time being, the right to remain silent.”

After the police raid, Bolsonaro’s wife Michelle Bolsonaro issued a statement on social media clarifying that police did not explain to her the reason for the raid and she learned it through the media. The first lady said she was the only one in her family to have received doses of a Wuhan coronavirus vaccination product.

“Today the [Federal Police] did a search and seizure in our house, we don’t know the reason and our lawyer didn’t have access to the records,” she wrote. “Only my husband’s cell phone was seized. We learned from the press that the reason was ‘falsification of vaccine cards’ for my husband and our daughter Laura. In my house, only I was vaccinated.”

Brazilian lawmaker Valdemar Costa Neto, the leader of Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party, defended the former president through a post made on his Twitter account.

“Bolsonaro is a correct person, with integrity, who improved the country and always tried to follow the law,” he wrote. “We trust that all the judge’s questions will be cleared up and that it will be proven that Bolsonaro committed no illegalities.”

Brazilian radical leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has not publicly commented on the matter at press time, having only written a chipper message on Twitter reading, “Good morning and happy Wednesday!” as the police raid was underway.

Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.