President Marcelo
Image: Carlos M. Almeida/ Lusa

Marcelo “did not influence Brazilian twins’ multi-million euro medical treatment”

Favoritism controversy moves into new ground

The favoritism ‘controversy’ that appears to have seen two Brazilian twins given multi-million euro preferential treatment in Portugal on the basis of strings being pulled by President Marcelo, saw the country’s head of State give an impromptu press conference last night.

Journalists were informed an hour previously that he meant to speak to them – but about what exactly was unclear.

Thus this controversy has moved on, but some might say ‘rather strangely’ – and there is still a long way for it to go.

As popular tabloid Correio da Manhã’s editorial deputy director general Eduardo Dâmaso stresses: “it is essential that an investigation gets to the bottom of what happened here. No-one will be satisfied by his (the president’s) explanations. What is at issue is much more than this: it is the equality of the Portuguese people before the State”.

This suggests the president’s own assertion that he has all the conditions to remain in office could be viewed as precipitous. But knowing the way society in Portugal works, it almost certainly is the way this matter will play out.

As Lusa explains, last night saw president Marcelo confirm that his son – Nuno Rebelo de Sousa, a friend of the twins’ family who also lives in Brazil – had contacted him about the children’s spinal muscular atrophy, with a ‘request’. “He wanted to show solidarity, he wanted to submit and send the case”.

But that is where the favoritism stopped. The “treatment given to the case” from then on was “as neutral and equal to so many others”, writes the State news agency.

This means that the request sent in 2019 by Nuno Rebelo de Sousa to his father was immediately passed to members of the president’s team at Belém’s Casa Civil to assess it.

Maria João Ruela, the president’s then advisor on ‘social matters’, looked into the situation, advising Nuno Rebelo de Sousa on two occasions that whether or not the twins would be treated “depended entirely on the medical decisions” of the hospital (Santa Maria, in Lisbon) and INFARMED (Portugal’s medicines authority).

Following this, Nuno Rebelo de Sousa went to the head of the Civil House, Frutuoso de Melo, who “confirmed” Maria João Ruela’s information, and informed Nuno Rebelo de Sousa in writing that “priority is given to cases being treated in Portuguese hospitals, which is why they (the family) have not been contacted, nor is it expected that they will be quickly”, the president went on, emphasising that “the Portuguese national health service primarily covers the situation of people who reside or are in Portugal” and that “Portuguese people living abroad have the right to be treated by the health systems of the countries where they reside, under the terms of social security conventions or, in the case of the European Union, European legislation”.

After this exchange of correspondence, the case was sent to the chief of staff of prime minister António Costa “like all situations that arrive in Belém and are analysed there.

This is where the intervention of the presidency stopped”, explained Marcelo last night.

Looking at the facts, there is not one that involves the minimum of favoritism”, he told reporters, admitting that he “does not know if his son contacted the health ministry” but “I hope that he did not” as this would be “totally unacceptable”.

“I have always looked at him (Nuno Rebelo de Sousa) as any other citizen”, the president added.

“Frankly, I don’t know what happened next, I have no idea,” he continued – and that is why this case is now in the hands of the Attorney General, to whom the president sent yesterday all the relevant correspondence from his son.

As Marcelo stressed, he hopes the investigation “will be thorough, so that we can understand what happened from the moment it (his son’s request) left Belém”.

Lusa’s report describes the ten minute long speech as giving a chronological account of the correspondence found on the Presidency of the Republic’s server about the case of the twins living in Brazil who received treatment with one of the most expensive medicines in the world at the Santa Maria Hospital in Lisbon, after being awarded Portuguese nationality at lightening speed.

The case was initially highlighted early last month by TVI’s journalistic team – and saw Marcelo say that he had no recollection of his son even mentioning it to him.

This has now been updated following the president’s consultation of the information that he has subsequently sent to the Attorney General’s Office (PGR).

“I realised that once I had found the information, the first entity I should communicate it to was obviously the PGR. That’s what I’ve done today. And so I’m in a position to tell you what I’ve been able to ascertain exhaustively about events that took place four years ago,” he said, adding that “everything happened, as far as the intervention of the Presidency of the Republic is concerned, in 10 days, between 21 October 2019 and 31 October 2019.

“The intervention of the Presidency of the Republic ends here. It starts on the 21st and ends on the 31st. From then on there is no record, no intervention on the continuation of the process,” Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa concluded.

Lusa adds that this case is “also being analysed by the General Inspection of Health Activities (IGAS) and is the subject of an internal audit at the North Lisbon Hospital Centre, of which the Santa Maria Hospital is a part”. ND

Source material: LUSA