Brasilia, Aug 17 (EFE).-A Brazilian Senate committee reconfirmed on Tuesday the suspicion that President Jair Bolsonaro used false data to claim that the number of Covid-19 deaths had been “inflated” by governors and mayors.
The legislative group took testimony from Alexandre Marques, an official with the Union Accounts Court (TCU) who admitted that he was the author of a “working paper” that Bolsonaro cited, as if it were an official document from that fiscal entity, to claim that the country had suffered “some 50 percent fewer deaths” from Covid-19.
The president made that statement last June, when 475,000 Brazilians had already died from Covid – and today the death toll stands at about 570,000 – and he accused mayors and governors of “inflating” those earlier figures with an eye toward receiving more financial resources from the state to deal with the health crisis.
The information was denied at the time by the TCU but even so Bolsonaro insisted that “documents” from that entity admitted the possibility that the number of Covid deaths were being fraudulently “exaggerated.”
The TCU official told the committee that the “working paper” was just part of a “preliminary” discussion that was left out when it was verified that there had been no fraud in the death toll figures, which on the contrary were probably “under-reported” due to the lack of testing for Covid in many parts of the country.
“It was a very preliminary discussion,” Marques said, admitting that he sent the working paper to his father, Col. Ricardo Silva Marques, who then forwarded it to Bolsonaro.
“My father is a friend of the president and he sent it to him. I got angry about that because I never imagined that he would share it with anyone,” he said.
Marques also clarified that the “document” that the president circulated among message groups had had the TCU logo “added” to it and that it was not included in the “working paper” that he had sent to his father and later had reached Bolsonaro.
“The president’s discourse” on the basis of that “working paper” was “completely irresponsible,” Marques added, calling its use by the president “unwarranted.”
According to Sen. Randolfe Rodrigues, the vice president of the committee, the insertion of the TCU logo “to provide an official character” for that document could be something more serious than simply spreading false information.
“We could be facing a crime against the public faith and a case of falsification of documents,” Rodrigues said, a contention that was seconded by other opposition senators.
The legislative committee, which is investigating potential omissions by the government in dealing with the pandemic, has already revealed irregular negotiations for vaccines as well as other suspicious matters such as the distribution of medications that are ineffective against the coronavirus on the public health network.