Senate report recommends Bolsonaro face murder charge over handling of Covid-19

Report is unlikely to lead to any actual charges as it is only a draft and needs the Senate’s approval

Maroosha Muzaffar
Wednesday 20 October 2021 12:20
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Brazil’s Bolsonaro should face Covid charges: Senate inquiry

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A draft report by lawmakers in Brazil has recommended that president Jair Bolsonaro be indicted on criminal charges for his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic that led to thousand of deaths.

More than 600,000 people have died due to the coronavirus or related complications in Brazil since the beginning of the pandemic. The country has had the second-highest death toll in the world, second only to the US.

The 1,200-page Senate draft report said that Mr Bolsonaro was “principally responsible for the government’s errors committed during the Covid-19 pandemic” and accused him of acting against the advice of the health ministry.

It recommended 13 criminal charges against the president, including homicide and “genocide against Brazil’s indigenous population for actions that left their communities vulnerable to the virus”. It also recommended criminal charges against his three sons.

However, Mr Bolsonaro dismissed the report and claimed that it was “politically motivated” as it was prepared by opposition leader and senator Renan Calheiros. The president also called the investigation that resulted in the report a “joke.”

Though the report reflects the anger in the country against Mr Bolsonaro and his government, it is unlikely to lead to any actual charges. The report will be finalised only after the Senate commission votes on it, which is expected next week. The report could either be vetoed or even changed. The president is also unlikely to face trial on criminal charges, according to Reuters.

The draft report accused the president of turning down early opportunities for the government to acquire vaccines, thereby delaying Brazil’s inoculation campaign and costing an estimated 95,000 lives.

The president was guided “by an unfounded belief in the theory of herd immunity by natural infection and the existence of a treatment”, the report said. “Without the vaccine, deaths would be stratospheric, as they turned out to be.”

The report also pointed out that the president “spread misinformation that incentivised non-compliance with sanitary measures to contain the pandemic”.

Several health experts have criticised Mr Bolsonaro’s role in downplaying the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, ignoring international health guidelines on masks and restrictions on activity designed to prevent the virus’ spread, touting unproven treatments and delaying the acquisition of vaccines.

Mr Bolsonaro repeatedly said he does not intend to take the Covid-19 vaccine, claiming that the coronavirus infection he contracted last year has given him antibodies. Scientists, however, refute claims that antibodies have any long-term role in preventing Covid.

“I’m not going to take the vaccine, period,” he said in a television interview in December last year. “You think my life is at risk? That’s my problem, period.” He also said last year that he will be the “last Brazilian” to get vaccinated and will not force anyone to get inoculated.

He has not yet been vaccinated.

The Senate committee was created in April this year after criticism was levelled at the president for his mismanagement of the pandemic.

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