The family of a limousine driver who died of COVID-19 claims that he contracted the virus after driving around Brazilian diplomats in the US, Mercury News reports, citing a compensation claim.
The driver, Calixto Villanueva, died from coronavirus complications on 27 March. He was allegedly hospitalised within days of picking up the diplomats at San Francisco International Airport on 8 March.
According to the filing, the Brazilians had just arrived from Palm Beach, Florida, where Donald Trump met with Jair Bolsonaro at Mar-a-Lago the day before.
Brazil’s former health minister later described Bolsonaro’s visit to Mar-a-Lago as a “corona trip”, noting that several members of the Brazilian president’s delegation had tested positive for COVID-19 after the trip.
Those included Bolsonaro’s press secretary Fabio Wajngarten, Brazil’s charge d’affaires Nestor Forster, and foreign trade secretary Marcos Troyjo. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who was also present at the meeting, tested positive too.
Bolsonaro himself took three separate coronavirus tests upon returning from Florida, which he said were negative but refused to provide the results citing his right to privacy. Brazil’s Supreme Court eventually forced him to disclose them on 13 May; the tests proved to have been negative.
Per Mercury News, Villanueva’s widow, who reportedly fell sick before his death as well, has filed a worker’s compensation claim with the limo company’s insurance, Liberty Mutual.
Calixto Villanueva, 68, was the stepdad of actor Nico Santos, who stars in the NBC series Superstore and the 2018 film Crazy Rich Asians.
Santos, 41, has been vocal about the death of Villanueva, whom he called “Sonny”.
“My Tito Sonny passed away yesterday after losing his battle with COVID-19. He was a kind, caring man. Friendly to a fault,” Santos wrote in an emotional tribute on Instagram.
“He always greeted strangers walking past him with a chipper ‘Good Morning!’ and a big smile. He had a great laugh that filled the room with joy.”