A leaked report by a Brazilian congressional panel is set to accuse Jair Bolsonaro of “crimes against humanity” for knowingly letting Covid-19 kill hundreds of thousands of citizens. The president chose to prioritize the country’s economy, opposing lockdowns and sticking with herd immunity as Brazil’s main strategy against the virus, which led to numerous deaths.
Currently, Brazil has the second-highest number of Covid-related deaths in the world behind the United States. The special Covid-19 committee’s report blames Bolsonaro’s policies for the deaths, calling on authorities to send him to charge him with negligence. The Senate committee found all its evidence on deaths, corruption and disinformation campaigns during a televised six-month inquiry into the Brazilian government’s Covid-19 response.
Originally, the report also accused the president of homicide and genocide, referring to the undersupplied inhabitants of the Amazon. However, the committee edited these harsher accusations out of the report.
The special committee is made up of 11 members, 7 of which are reportedly in favor of the report, suggesting that it will pass. The other 4, including Bolsonaro’s son, are not. The report also recommends charges against 69 others, including the president’s son and two of his brothers, along with former government officials.
If the report does pass in the Congress and Bolsonaro is formally charged, he will be suspended from government for a period of 180 days while the Supreme Court makes a final decision. If the attorney general chooses not to pursue charges against Bolsonaro, the committee will look for other solutions such as the International Criminal Court, according to the report’s lead author Renan Calheiros.
The centrist Brazilian senator stated that “many deaths were preventable” in an interview on Monday. Bolsonaro later called him “dirty”.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Brazil’s president has been an outspoken skeptic of Covid-19’s lethality. In the past, he has called the virus “just a little flu”, told his people to “stop whining” about the virus, rejected a million-dose deal with Pfizer and publicly encouraged the use of unproven drugs to stop Covid. Last year, he posted a video of himself swallowing anti-malarial pills, despite scientists warning against it.
The president himself remains unvaccinated.
With an average of 351 reported deaths per day, the highest in Latin America, many Brazilans are unhappy. This does not bode well for Bolsonaro in the upcoming presidential election next year. At the moment, more than half of the country disapproves of the job he is doing as a president and his polls are on the decline. Thousands are protesting against the president in São Paolo this month. The effect this incoming report will have on Bolsonaro’s re-election prospects remains to be seen.