A lingering scandal involving Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro’s son has soured his inauguration next week and tarnished the reputation of a far-right maverick who surged to victory on a vow to end years of political horsetrading.
Bolsonaro, who spent nearly 30 years in Congress, takes office on Jan. 1 after a strong electoral win that gave him a mandate to hobble violent drug gangs, cut through red tape to kick-start Brazil’s economy and go after the country’s corrupt political class.
But a festering scandal involving the former driver of his son, Rio de Janeiro state lawmaker and Senator-elect Flavio Bolsonaro, has clouded his big day. Jair Bolsonaro, Flavio Bolsonaro and the former driver, Fabricio Queiroz, have denied any wrongdoing.
But some critics have begun questioning the president-elect’s graft-busting credentials, and asking whether the Bolsonaro political clan really represents a new type of politics in a country weary from years of corruption probes.
“Ever since this case came to light, there has been a spectacle of evasions and unconvincing explanations on the part of the Bolsonaros … (about) an episode with relevant implications for national politics,” Brazil’s biggest newspaper Folha de S.Paulo said in an editorial on Thursday, the day after Queiroz sought to explain himself in an interview with a Bolsonaro-friendly TV network.
The scandal arose after Brazil’s Council for Financial Activities Control (COAF) identified 1.2 million reais (R4,442,240) that in 2016-17 flowed through the bank account of Queiroz, who for years was on Flavio Bolsonaro’s payroll as a driver and adviser. Some payments were made to the president-elect’s wife, Michelle Bolsonaro.
After citing a health crisis as his reason for failing to attend two previous appointments with prosecutors to explain the provenance of the money, Queiroz said in the SBT network interview on Wednesday that money in his account was due to a side-business of buying and selling cars.
“I’m a businessman,” he said. “I make money.”