Senators hint at possible arrest of former Bolsonaro press secretary

Senators hint at possible arrest of former Bolsonaro press secretary
Rapporteur Renan Calheiros. Photo: Jefferson Rudy/SF/ACS/CC BY 4.0

In his attempt to deflect questions from the Covid hearings committee, Fabio Wajngarten — President Jair Bolsonaro’s former press secretary — irritated senators to the point of being called a “liar” and even being threatened with arrest.

“[Mr. Wajngarten] is going on tangents with the questions, which could lead us to take a more radical measure,” said chairman Omar Aziz — hinting at a possible arrest order for failing to tell the truth while under oath. “Please, do not undermine the intelligence of anyone here. No one here is an imbecile.”

Tempers ran wild when Mr. Wajngarten was asked to confirm his statements in an April interview to weekly magazine Veja, in which the former press secretary accused the team of former Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello of “incompetence” in securing a vaccine deal with Pfizer. Speaking to the committee, Mr. Wajngarten changed his version of events, saying that “incompetence is to be taken hostage by bureaucracy.”

Rapporteur Renan Calheiros struck back, saying that either Mr. Wajngarten lied to the magazine or to Congress — and explicitly mentioned the possibility of requesting his arrest. Pro-government senators called his remarks an “abuse of authority” and an effort to “humiliate” and “intimidate” Mr. Wajngarten.

Senators on both sides of the aisle have called the former secretary’s testimony  “complicated,” and saying he is “tying himself in knots.”