Bolsonaro’s closest aide prepares to confess

Lieutenant colonel Mauro Cid, the Brazilian far-right leader’s secretary during his presidency, was released from jail in exchange for cooperation in investigations of his former boss

Teniente coronel Mauro Cid
Lt. Col. Mauro Cid appears before a parliamentary commission in Brasilia last July after his release from prison.Eraldo Peres (AP)

The Brazilian military officer who served as Jair Bolsonaro’s private secretary during his term as president (2019-2022) is preparing to confess after reaching an agreement with the police last Saturday, to cooperate in several investigations that include his former boss, among others. Lieutenant Colonel Mauro Cid, 44, was in prison for four months, accused of having falsified his and Bolsonaro’s vaccination cards in order to travel together to the United States after Bolsonaro’s electoral defeat. In Brazil, there is enormous expectation about what Cid can tell the authorities. At least in public, Bolsonaro has remained silent about his former aide.

On Saturday afternoon, Cid was released on parole from the military prison in Brasília where he had been imprisoned since May and moved to a housing development for the military, also in the capital. The judge who authorized Cid’s release, magistrate Alexandre de Moraes, has imposed several conditions, including the use of an electronic ankle monitor, weekly court appearances and bans on communicating with other defendants and using social media. Cid is also temporarily removed from his duties in the Army but will continue to receive his salary of 27,000 reais per month (almost US$5,500).

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva referred to the issue in New Delhi, following the conclusion of the G20 summit. “Every day more things will appear, and we will be more certain that there was a prospect of a coup d’état, and that the former president was involved to the teeth.”

Last July, when Cid appeared before the parliamentary commission investigating the attempted coup staged by thousands of Bolsonaro’s supporters, he kept silent to avoid incriminating himself, following the advice of his lawyers.

The lieutenant colonel is Bolsonaro’s weakest link in the various legal cases for which the former president is being investigated, because Cid was one of the people closest to him during his four-year administration; the aide held Bolsonaro’s cell phone and made all sorts of arrangements for him. The ultra-right-winger and reserve military chose Cid for this extremely sensitive position because he is the son of Bolsonaro’s friend, a military general.

The former presidential private secretary is considered key to unraveling issues of enormous importance, such as the role of members of the Armed Forces in efforts to carry out a self-coup. Cid is equally important in other high-profile cases, such as the attempts to sell jewelry worth millions of dollars that the Bolsonaro administration received as a gift from the Saudi royal family. The former aide’s father, Mauro César Cid, a general in the reserves who attended the military academy with Bolsonaro, is among those under investigation in the jewelry affair. The police discovered that he was involved because his reflection appeared in the photos used to put the jewels on sale.

Bolsonaro is disqualified from running for election until 2030 because of a crime of abuse of power. He still has a handful of cases pending. The legal net is tightening around the former president, although from time to time he receives a favorable decision. Recently, a judge closed the case in which Bolsonaro was investigated for failing to purchase coronavirus vaccines, which took longer to arrive than in other countries. The pandemic killed over 700,000 Brazilians. But that legal decision has not received much attention amid the rampant speculation about what details the former military aide will reveal and what the consequences of the confession will be for Bolsonaro.

On Monday, the former president will undergo two operations on his digestive system, which was severely damaged when he was stabbed at a rally in 2018. He will also fix his nasal septum during the procedure.

The agreement reached by Cid with the police is what is officially called a delação premiada, a legal instrument that was crucial in the Lava Jato corruption case. Defendants received prison benefits or reduced sentences in exchange for confessing to crimes, providing evidence and incriminating others. Critics of these deals argue that the judges abused pre-trial detention—contrary to Brazil’s tradition of guaranteeing the rule of law—in order to force the detainees to inform on others and move the investigations forward. Much of the Lava Jato case has been overturned because of collusion between the judge and prosecutors. Last week a Supreme Court judge declared that Lula’s imprisonment in the case resulted from “a set-up to conquer the state.”

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