BRASILIA, Brazil — Brazil’s top court on Friday opened an investigation into alleged accusations by far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro that vaccination programs had boosted the spread of an aggressive strain of the disease.
Judge Teresa Marins told journalists the decision came after defense lawyers submitted a petition last week asking that Bolsonaro be investigated over accusations he made on June 8.
The former Army captain was set to speak to the court Friday.
“We will see what happens,” said Bolsonaro’s defense attorney, Laura Cavalcante. “We will wait to see what is the outcome of the court. This issue continues and will keep going until the fall when Bolsonaro will be elected president.”
Bolsonaro told reporters recently that he’d had a comment published in some newspapers that “vaccinations — this vaccine now exists — helped push back the Ebola virus in some African countries.”
Bolsonaro has steadfastly maintained he is confident in his right to a private life and stated several times that he is not worried by the investigation.
The military court, which forms part of the Supreme Federal Tribunal, did not release its reasons for opening the investigation.
In an interview with Folha de S. Paulo published Friday, Bolsonaro said, “What I want the court to do is a constitutional investigation, not an investigation because I made a false statement.”
Marins said she considered Bolsonaro’s comments from earlier this month as in line with Article 6 of the constitution, which prohibits false statements.
He told Folha that the public health measures started in the early 1970s in Cuba to combat the measles, rabies and influenza were put into place to stop herd effects.
During those days, Bolsonaro said, people were infected and kept from making the animals sick. The harmful effect on livestock herds was exacerbated in Cuba due to the lack of antibiotics, he said.
Bolsonaro maintains that in Brazil, vaccinating farm workers did no harm and that farmers shouldn’t have been forced to put their animals at risk in the past.
The LPP political party filed the complaint against Bolsonaro.