Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro delivers a speech during the appointment ceremony for the new heads of public banks, at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia on January 7, 2019.
Evaristo SA | AFP | Getty Images
A Brazilian Senate commission on Tuesday recommended that President Jair Bolsonaro be the subject of a series of criminal indictments for actions and omissions linked to the second highest death toll from Covid-19 in the world.
The 7-to-4 vote was the culmination of a six-month committee inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic. He officially endorsed a report calling on prosecutors to try Bolsonaro on charges ranging from quackery and incitement to crime to abuse of public funds and crimes against humanity, and in so doing holds him accountable. many of the more than 600,000 deaths from Covid-19 in Brazil.
The president has denied wrongdoing, and the decision whether or not to lay most of the charges will rest with Attorney General Augusto Aras, a person appointed by Bolsonaro who is widely seen as protecting him. The allegation of crimes against humanity should be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court.
Senator Omar Aziz, chairman of the inquiry, said he would deliver the recommendation to the attorney general on Wednesday morning. Aras’s office said the report will be carefully reviewed upon receipt.
Whether or not charges are laid, the report is expected to fuel criticism from the divisive president, whose approval ratings plummeted ahead of his 2022 re-election campaign – largely due to the disproportionate death toll from Covid-19 in the United States. Brazil. The investigation itself has for months provided a drum of damaging allegations.
Since the start of the pandemic, Bolsonaro has sabotaged restrictions on the activity of local leaders aimed at stopping the spread of the virus, saying the economy must continue to buzz so the poor do not face worse hardships. He also emphatically touted an antimalarial drug long after extensive testing showed it was ineffective against Covid-19, gathered crowds without wearing masks and sowed doubt about vaccines.
Bolsonaro defended himself by saying he was one of the few world leaders brave enough to challenge political correctness and global health recommendations, and that he had made no mistakes.
The report’s author, Senator Renan Calheiros, first presented the nearly 1,200-page document last week. He says that by insisting on treatment with the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine as “practically the only government policy to fight the pandemic, Jair Bolsonaro has collaborated strongly for the spread of COVID-19 in Brazilian territory” and is therefore “the person primarily responsible for errors made by the federal government during the pandemic. ”
Committee members of the so-called non-Bolsonaro base G7 senators group agreed on most of the points in Calheiros’ report. They met on Monday to work out the final adjustments to the text.
The changes include recommending fees for an additional 13 people, many of whom are current or former employees of the health ministry, as well as the governor of the hard-hit state of Amazonas. The final report recommends charges against two companies and 78 people in total, including Bolsonaro, administration officials, dozens of allies and the president’s three sons, who are politicians.
He also adds an additional violation for allegedly spreading fake news following Bolsonaro’s live broadcast on social media last week, falsely claiming that people in the UK who received two doses of the vaccine are developing the AIDS faster than expected.
The report also contains recommendations for two counts of “crimes of responsibility”, which are grounds for impeachment. But Lower House Speaker Arthur Lira, a staunch ally of Bolsonaro, is expected to vote on whether or not to initiate impeachment proceedings – which is considered highly unlikely given that Lira currently sits on more than 120 others. requests for impeachment, according to information from the legislative body. .
Senator Flávio Bolsonaro, one of the president’s sons, called the report legally weak and politically motivated.
“The intention of some senators on the commission of inquiry is to cause maximum wear and tear on the president,” he told reporters.
Minutes after the investigation ended, former US President Donald Trump said in a statement that he supported the Brazilian leader.
“President Jair Bolsonaro and I have become great friends over the past few years. He fights hard for the Brazilian people and loves them, just like I do for the American people,” Trump said. “Brazil is lucky to have a man like Jair Bolsonaro working for them. He is a great president and will never let the people of his great country down!”
An earlier draft had recommended that the president also be charged with homicide and genocide, but that was dropped even before its presentation last week. Some committee members opposed such accusations, while others expressed concern that bombastic claims could undermine the credibility of the report.
The last hearing of the Senate committee on the investigation ended Tuesday with a minute of silence for victims of the virus in Brazil.