July 26, 2021

In Brazil, President Bolsonaro splashed by an overpriced vaccine scandal

Three Brazilian senators asked, Monday, June 28, the Supreme Court to open an investigation against President Jair Bolsonaro, accused of having overlooked suspicions of irregularities in the purchase of anti-Covid vaccines. This procedure could lead to the impeachment of the head of state, even if this scenario is considered unlikely by analysts.

“I filed a request to open an investigation to the Supreme Court because of the serious denunciation according to which the President of the Republic took no action after being warned of a gigantic network of corruption within the Ministry of Health “, said in a video Randolfe Rodrigues, the vice-president of a Senate commission of inquiry (ICC) on the « omissions » of the Bolsonaro government during the pandemic. “The prevarication is an offense envisaged by the penal code. “

The opposition also called for demonstrations on Wednesday and Saturday to demand the impeachment of the head of state.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also “It is more dangerous than the virus”: in Brazil, new demonstrations against President Jair Bolsonaro

Several irregularities

This request is based on the testimony, Friday, of an official of the Ministry of Health and his brother deputy who had the effect of a bomb during a hearing before this commission. This official, Luis Ricardo Miranda, responsible for medical imports at the ministry, on March 18 saw a suspicious invoice of $ 45 million landed on his desk for three million doses of the Covaxin vaccine from the Indian laboratory Bharat Biotech.

Intriguing signals then alert Mr. Miranda who refuses to authorize the payment. No vaccine had been delivered and Covaxin had not received approval from health authorities.

In addition, the contract, worth a total of $ 300 million, nowhere mentioned Madison Biotech, the Singaporean firm that sent the invoice and appeared to be a shell company. A transaction all the more surprising given that the president had in the past rejected offers for cheaper and more effective vaccines.

According to the newspaper The state of S. Paulo, Bharat Biotech initially offered the vaccine at $ 1.34 per dose. But Brazil agreed to pay $ 15, more than for any other vaccine it has ever bought.

A case never transmitted to the federal police

Mr. Miranda then said he received calls from his superiors exerting on him what he described as pressure. “Atypical and excessive” to approve the transaction.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Covid-19: in Brazil, the lies of the former Minister of Health to protect Jair Bolsonaro

As other irregularities in the agreement between Brazil and Covaxin surfaced, the government ended up canceling the contract. Mr Miranda immediately raised his concerns with his brother, MP Luis Miranda, a supporter of Jair Bolsonaro. They would then have met the president on March 20 in Brasilia.

According to the brothers’ statements to the ICC, the president assured them that he would refer the case to the federal police. Which he apparently never did and prompted senators to ask for an investigation on Monday.

According to MP Luis Miranda, during this meeting, Mr. Bolsonaro expressed his concern about the political impact of the case and expressed his suspicions about a potential responsible, Ricardo Barros, former Minister of Health.

The promise to eradicate corruption

Mr Barros has denied any wrongdoing, as has President Bolsonaro, arguing that the contract was ultimately canceled and accusing the Miranda brothers of waging a smear campaign against him.

“It’s the first big bomb” revealed after two months of investigation by the ICC, estimated with Agence France-Presse (AFP) Geraldo Monteiro, political scientist at the University of Rio.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Falling in the polls, Jair Bolsonaro multiplies the gatherings more than a year before the presidential election

The most immediate problem for the president, whose popularity is sharply declining, is the Barros case. If he protects him, Mr. Bolsonaro will ruin his anti-corruption program that allowed him to win the presidency in 2018. If he abandons him, he risks breaking his alliance with the “Centrao”, a heterogeneous group of conservative parties which notably enabled him to prevent the parliamentary progress of more than 100 impeachment petitions against him.

The World with AFP