while all eyes were focused on the expenses of Lula’s wedding and the president’s new offensive against the STF, a scandal of major proportions was almost overlooked by the news. A report by O Globo revealed that SUS funds are being used to favor Bolsonaro’s allies.
Last year, the National Health Fund, FNS, distributed a good part of the R$ 7.4 billion in amendments to the electoral strongholds of Centrão chiefs. Part of these resources come from the secret budget — the scheme created by the government to distribute public funds in a secret way to obtain political support from the Centrão. During the biggest health crisis of the century, Bolsonaro abandoned all technical criteria in the distribution of health funds to adopt political criteria, favoring his allies in an election year.
The mainstream press, which customarily baptizes big scandals with pompous names, this time didn’t invent any. The baptism was on account of social networks, which enshrined the scandal as Bolsolão do SUS. The report by O Globo had little impact, and the The subject did not even appear on the cover of the major newspapers the next day.
As the country counted hundreds of thousands of deaths from covid-19, the president worried about his re-election. To retain the allied base, Bolsonaro handed over control of the Health budget to Bolsonarist politicians. Thus, the prefectures and governments commanded by their allies were able to show service to the population on the eve of the 2022 election.
Without following any technical criteria, this money — used to build hospitals, buy ambulances and pay for medical care — was distributed unevenly, favoring strongholds of the allies to the detriment of the strongholds of political opponents of the president.
The amendments destined for Itaboraí, in Rio, for example, led by the Bolsonarista mayor Marcelo Delaroli, from the PL, are much larger than those destined for Niterói, also in Rio, governed by pedestrian Axel Grael. Itaboraí received R$ 39 million, almost half of which via a secret budget. Niterói, whose mayor opposes the president and which has more than twice the population of Itaboraí, received only R$ 10 million.
The Bolsolão do SUS was a mechanism used to transform the National Health Fund into an Electoral Fund. All this in the midst of a pandemic crisis.
All this was distributed under the command of the mayor, Arthur Lira, from Progressistas, who was the one who defined the quota that each bench would be entitled to send to their cities through the fund. According to parliamentarians heard by O Globo, the leader of each bench “distributed the amount among the deputies or senators of the group, who vote in Congress according to the interests of the Planalto”. After that, the release of funds is authorized by the head of the Civil House — and head of the Centrão — Ciro Nogueira, also from the PP. He is the one who has the final word.
Arthur Lira indicated R$ 149 million in amendments by the rapporteur through the fund. Ciro Nogueira’s mother, Senator Eliane Nogueira, from the PP, was responsible for indicating R$ 174 million from the secret budget. Of this amount, R$ 80 million were destined for cities in Piauí commanded by allies of Ciro and Bolsonaro. In other words, control over the allocation of Health funds is in the hands of the PP, which today is the main party of Centrão. In practice, the Bolsolão do SUS was a mechanism used to transform the National Health Fund into an Electoral Fund. All this in the midst of a pandemic crisis.
The rule for distributing funds is clear: the more aligned with the president, the more funds the politician will receive. One of the biggest beneficiaries, Marcelo Delaroli, the mayor of Itaboraí mentioned above, was once a member of the Bolsonaro government. He worked alongside Onyx Lorenzoni at the Casa Civil, where he took care of the government’s political articulation. He had the function of making the interlocution between the federal government and states and cities.
Photo: Zeca Ribeiro/Chamber of Deputies
Deputy Hugo Leal, from the PSD, rapporteur for this year’s budget, calmly admitted that the scheme had become a political “negotiation instrument”. Brazenly and shamelessly, he stated that “the president of Brazil is Bolsonaro, but the PP is in charge”. Leal was convicted in an action of improbity (which is still subject to appeal) when he presided over the Detran-RJ.
São Gonçalo, in Rio, is at the top of the ranking of cities that received the most funds from the fund. The region is the stronghold of Altineu Côrtes, from the PL, leader of the president’s party in the Chamber. The city received R$133 million in private amendments, almost all via a secret budget. The city of Rio de Janeiro, which has a population almost six times larger, received only R$ 14 million.
Côrtes is part of the Bolsonarista shock troops in the Chamber and his family has a history of corruption with public funds aimed at Health. When he was secretary of Children and Youth of the state of Rio de Janeiro under Rosinha Garotinho, Côrtes had to ask for his exoneration after his father and brother were arrested in Operação Roupa Suja, triggered by the PF and MP. They were convicted of leading a gang that rigged bids in the state of Rio for the purchase of supplies for AIDS drugs and contracting laundry services for hospital uniforms. The relatives of the then secretary Altineu Côrtes were the main commanders of a cartel of companies that took turns winning government contracts.
Photo: Zeca Ribeiro/Chamber of Deputies
As a good Centrão politician, Côrtes has a history of flattering those in power. In 2016, he was part of Temer’s shock troops and was appointed by the Attorney General’s Office as a member of a “criminal organization” that acted to shield the then president and his former adviser Rodrigo Rocha Loures in the complaint of passive corruption. Now, in his office in Brasília, Côrtes often employs his relatives and relatives of political allies in his electoral corral, such as the father of the mayor of Itaboraí, Marcelo Delaroli, and the mother of Filippe Poubel, deputy from São Gonçalo.
The main beneficiary of the funds indicated by Cortês was Captain Nelson, mayor of São Gonçalo, who thanked the deputy on social media, guaranteeing the political-electoral dividends of his companion. Captain Nelson is also good people. He was mentioned in the final report of the CPI das Milícias, commanded by Marcelo Freixo in 2008. According to the report, the Captain, a former PM from São Gonçalo, would be suspected of leading a paramilitary group composed of civil and military police that collected security fees. of city residents and offered clandestine cable TV services, among other militia-specific activities.
The disdain for public health, especially that of the poorest, is one of the hallmarks of the Bolsonaro government.
When Capitão was elected mayor, former PM Fábio Soares Montibelo, indicted for the murder of Marcelo Freixo’s brother, celebrated his friend’s victory by posting a photo of the two on social media and captioned: “I made a point of giving my friend a hug and now Mayor of São Gonçalo, Captain Nelson! Congratulations for the victory! São Gonçalo trusts you!”. During the campaign, President Jair Bolsonaro recorded a video asking for a vote for Nelson. Elected, the first actions of the mayor were to appoint his own son as municipal secretary and extinguish the secretary of Culture. Captain Nelson is Bolsonarism in its raw state.
It is not the first spree made with health funds during the pandemic. According to the TCU, last year the Ministry of Defense diverted more than half a million reais intended for Health to buy luxury items such as filet mignon and picanha. At a time when there were people lining up at a butcher shop to receive a bone donation, the Bolsonaro government used money from an emergency fund to fight the pandemic to make a first-class barbecue for the Armed Forces.
It was not to be expected anything different coming from the government whose main leader mockedly imitated people short of breath because of the covid. Now, on the eve of the election, it is discovered that the Health budget is being “privatized” by the electoral interests of Bolsonarism and serving to benefit politicians of the worst kind.
Meanwhile, cities that need funds are running out of money because their administrators don’t eat from Bolsonaro’s hand. The disdain for public health, especially that of the poorest, is one of the hallmarks of the Bolsonaro government. The SUS Bolsolão is just the tip of the iceberg.