Many of the secrecy decrees enacted by Jair Bolsonaro (Liberal Party) to last 100 years cover thorny topics for him, his family, and supporters. The subject was mentioned by former president Lula during Sunday’s presidential debate, but he did not detail the content of the measures. However, internet users became curious about it and increased the Google searches for the term “100-year secrecy” on Sunday night. Bolsonaro has already approved four decrees to prevent bothersome lawsuits of becoming public.
He uses a regulated loophole in the Access to Information Law (12.527/2011), article 31, first paragraph, item I. According to the law, personal information regarding intimacy, private life, honor, and image will have restricted access. “Independently of the secrecy classification and for a maximum of 100 years beginning from the date of production, to legally authorized public officials and the individual they refer to”.
In January 2021, the Planalto Palace decreed secrecy of up to 100 years for the president's vaccination card and information on vaccine doses he has received. It is unknown whether these decrees were enacted because Bolsonaro has not taken the covid-19 vaccine or he took it in secrecy, contradicting his own anti-vax statements.
100 years of protection to Bolsonaro’s sons and former minister Eduardo Pazuello
In May 2021, to benefit the country’s former health minister Eduard Pazuello, Bolsonaro enacted a 100-year secrecy decree on an internal inquiry. The Army is investigating the general’s participation in a political act with Bolsonaro in May of that year. A commission formed by high-ranking government officials from seven ministries took the decision. The justification was that the document disclosure would represent a risk to the principles of hierarchy and discipline in the Brazilian Army. The newspaper Folha de São Paulo requested access to the documents and questioned Pazuello's lack of punishment. The Joint Information Reassessment Commission (CMRI, in Portuguese) stated that the lack of “punishment cannot be seen as lack of risk to the pillars of hierarchy and discipline, expressed in article 142 of the Federal Constitution”.
At the end of July, Bolsonaro signed a 100-year secrecy decree for data regarding his sons Carlos and Eduardo's visits to the Planalto Palace. It was made public by Crusoé magazine, which requested access via the Access to Information Law.
The cards used to enter the federal government headquarters building had been confirmed by the Presidency of the Republic itself in a document handed to the covid-19 inquiry commission.
According to it, between April 2020 and June 2021, Carlos, also known as “son 02”, visited the Planalto Palace at least 32 times. His brother, Eduardo – or “03” – has officially visited his father's office at least three times, which were registered in April 2020.
In the name of the honor of the President's family
Both Carlos and Eduardo participated in the so-called “parallel cabinet”, which guided Bolsonaro in the handling of the pandemic, and were also part of the so-called “hate cabinet”, a group of assessors who worked in the Planalto Palace focusing on social media, including the management of pages supportive of the Bolsonaro family, who spread disinformation and attack the president’s political opponents.
However, the General Secretariat of the Presidency justified it by saying that the pieces of information requested “concern the privacy, private life, honor, and image of the President of the Republic's relatives, which are protected with restricted access, pursuant to article 31, law 12,527, 2011”.
At the time, Bolsonaro even said in an interview with Rádio 96 FM from Natal, the Rio Grande do Norte’s capital city, that there was “nothing strange” nor “unusual” in the government decreeing 100-year secrecy in the data of his sons’ visit cards and on his vaccination card. “Listen to what the law says: my private life [sic] can have up to 100-year secrecy [decree]. What did they ask me? My vaccination card; it’s private. So we, here, have the right [to deny access to information]. Will I give them my vaccination card? If I don’t say ‘no’ to them, I will soon have to give them personal things. So, there is nothing strange, nothing unusual in what was made. My vaccination card is private, period”.
Scandal involving evangelical pastors in the Ministry of Education
On April 13, amid the corruption scandal in the Ministry of Education, which later would cause the then minister and pastor Milton Ribeiro’s resignation, an online user questioned Bolsonaro on Twitter about the secrecy decrees. “President, could you, sir, explain to me why did you decree 100-year secrecy over all the thorny topics of your government? Is there something to hide?”.
Presidente, o senhor pode me responder porque todos os assuntos espinhosos/polêmicos do seu mandato, você põe sigilo de 100 anos? Existe algo para esconder?— Lucas Elias Bernardino (@b_lucaselias) April 13, 2022
- Em 100 anos saberá. 👍— Jair M. Bolsonaro (@jairbolsonaro) April 13, 2022
In July, the Planalto Palace decreed secrecy over Bolsonaro’s meetings with lobbyist and evangelical pastors Gilmar Santos and Arilton Moura, from the Ministry of Education. Both are being investigated for operating a scheme of diversion of education resources to municipalities in exchange for bribes. It was made public after the newspaper O Globo requested, via the Access to Information Law, the list of all the meetings the two pastors attended at the Planalto Palace, including those with the president.
The Institutional Security Office (GSI, in Portuguese), headed by minister Augusto Heleno, informed that the request “could not be granted” because the publication of the information could put at risk the president’s life and the lives of his relatives.
Secrecy in the “rachadinhas” case involving Flávio Bolsonaro
In that same month, the country’s Internal Revenue Service (Receita Federal, in Portuguese) imposed 100-year secrecy in an action that accuses it of assisting the defense of Senator Flávio Bolsonaro (Liberal Party, Rio de Janeiro) in the case of the “rachadinhas”, an embezzlement scheme. Documents obtained in February by Brazilian Folha de São Paulo show that Receita Federal mobilized, for four months, five servants to inquire about accusations made by the senator, Bolsonaro's eldest son, on the supposed illegal access and transfer of Flávio’s fiscal data by the Financial Activities Control Board (Coaf, in Portuguese).
Previously, the Receita Federal had released the documents since it considered the investigation closed. However, there was no reason to restrict its disclosure. According to the agency, the documents contain personal information, thereby restricting access to public agents and those involved in the lawsuit.
Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Workers’ Party) has already said that, if elected, he will revoke the decrees. The presidential arguments that the information was personal, regarding intimacy, private life, honor, and image – one of the protections guaranteed by the Access to Information Law – are being misused in the same way that freedom of expression is being used to justify the spreading of hate and everything that does not interest either society or democracy.
Translated by: Ana Paula Rocha