Brazilian Senate committee drops homicide accusation against Bolsonaro, recommends indicting president for 10 crimes over pandemic

Brazilian senators have presented their “final” report on the alleged crimes of President Jair Bolsonaro over his government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. The list of recommended charges includes “crimes against humanity.”

The Senate’s Parliamentary Inquiry Commission (CPI) presented an almost 1,200-page document late on Tuesday. The report, which follows the committee’s six-month-long investigation, concludes that Bolsonaro’s government had “deliberately exposed the population to the [explicit] risk of mass infection,” including through the “deliberate delay” of vaccine purchases.

The CPI rapporteur, Senator Renan Calheiros, then asked for an indictment of Bolsonaro and 65 others, including his three sons, several ministers, former ministers and businessmen, as well as two companies.

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FILE PHOTO: Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro gestures during an event at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, October 7, 2021.
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The president could face up to 10 charges if all the committee’s accusations are supported by other Brazilian authorities. Their list of allegations against Bolsonaro includes malfeasance, irregular use of public funds, violation of sanitary measures, incitement to crime and forgery of private documents, as well as charlatanism and facilitation of an “epidemic resulting in deaths.”

Initially, the report was also expected to include charges of homicide and genocide against indigenous people, but the committee ultimately decided to drop them. According to some reports, the charges were scrapped in the face of opposition from some committee members, who maintained such claims could undermine the report’s credibility.

The senators, though, still accused Bolsonaro of “crimes against humanity.” It marks the first time in the nation’s history that a parliamentary committee has presented such an extensive list of charges against a president.

The committee’s 11 members are now expected to debate and vote on the report on October 26. The document can still be altered or outright vetoed during the vote. If it does pass the vote, the document will be handed over to Brazil’s prosecutor general to bring charges. Prosecutor General Augusto Aras, who was appointed by Bolsonaro in September 2019, is, however, considered the president’s ally and it is unclear if he would go ahead with an indictment.

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Bolsonaro himself previously dismissed the investigation as a politically motivated “joke.” He also said that he was not concerned about the findings or a potential indictment.

The government’s response to the pandemic was considered woefully inadequate and triggered a parliamentary probe that resulted in this report. More than 600,000 people died from Covid-19 in Brazil, which was first hit by the pandemic around February 2020. Brazil’s outbreak has been considered one of the worst in the world and its Covid-linked death toll is second-highest in the world, trailing only that of the US.

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