Brazilian Senate report recommends Bolsonaro face criminal charges for COVID-19 response

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Brazilians will turn their attention to the Senate on Wednesday, where President Jair Bolsonaro indicted President Jair Bolsonaro on criminal charges for allegedly messing up the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and pushing the country’s death toll to second place, creating a six-month report. Will go highest in the world.

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A draft of the report resulting from the Senate committee’s investigation, a copy of which was reviewed by the Associated Press on Tuesday, recommended that the president be indicted on 11 charges, ranging from charlatanism and the crime all the way up to murder and genocide. be encouraged to

Of the committee’s so-called “G7” group of senators who are not from Bolsonaro’s base, three opposed the inclusion of charges of murder and genocide, said five members of the committee, which set out to discuss the details of the sensitive talks. Agreed, if not quoted by name.

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Analysts said it was unclear whether such recommendations would lead to charges against the president. This would be a decision for the Prosecutor-General of Brazil, who was appointed by the President.

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Bolsonaro has denied any wrongdoing, and has repeatedly accused the investigation of a political instrument intended to sabotage him.

Critics have condemned Bolsonaro for downplaying the severity of the coronavirus, ignoring international health guidelines on masks and banning activity designed to stop the spread of the virus, touting unproven treatments and delaying the acquisition of vaccines .

Anger over the president’s stance prompted the creation in April of a Senate committee that has investigated allegations that Bolsonaro’s management of the pandemic caused more than 600,000 deaths from COVID-19 in Brazil.

The nearly 1,200-page draft report was authored by Sen. Renan Calheros, who was due to submit its final version to the 11-person committee on Wednesday.

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The document has to be approved by the committee before it can be sent to the prosecutor-general’s office, which will decide whether to proceed with the investigation and perhaps pursue charges. In Brazil, members of the Congressional Committee can investigate, but they do not have the power to impeach.

Regardless of the exact content of the final version of the report or whether the prosecutor-general proceeds, its allegations are expected to draw criticism from the far-right leader, whose approval ratings have plummeted ahead of his 2022 election campaign.

“The major impact of the investigation is political, as it has generated a lot of news that will certainly be used by campaign strategists next year,” said Thiago de Aragao, director of strategy at political advisor Arco Advice.

In its current form, the draft report concludes that the government “deliberately exposed the population to a tangible risk of infection at large,” influenced by a group of informal advisers who, after several experts said it was still herd immunity Advocated to pursue, this one was not viable. the option.

Even in the worst of the pandemic, Bolsonaro has staunchly opposed social distancing measures, claiming that the poor will suffer more if the economy comes to a halt. They argue that the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine is effective in treating COVID-19, although scientists have dismissed it as ineffective.

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During the six-month investigation, senators obtained thousands of documents and heard the testimony of more than 60 people.

“This committee collected evidence that abundantly demonstrated that the federal government was silent and chose to act in a non-technical and reckless manner,” the draft report said.

Senators who spoke with the AP said a particularly thorny issue was the inclusion of a recommendation by Sen. Calheiros to insist that the International Criminal Court investigate Bolsonaro for a possible genocide of indigenous peoples. He said angry committee members, including critics of the government, who called the massacre an exaggeration, could jeopardize the credibility of the entire report.

There was less opposition among senators to recommend an indictment for murder, but they had similar concerns about doing so, the senators said.

“The prosecutor-general’s office will look with a magnifying glass for errors, failures and inconsistencies,” said Carlos Melo, a political analyst who teaches at Inspar University in So Paulo. “If you have 10 allegations that are very strong, and one that contains discrepancies, the government will try to discredit the entire report.”

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In addition to Bolsonaro, the draft report recommended charges against dozens of aides and current and former members of his administration.

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