Many of these deaths were preventable. I am personally convinced that he [Jair Bolsonaro] is responsible for escalating the slaughter. — Renan Calheiros, centrist Brazilian senator
Many of these deaths were preventable. I am personally convinced that he [Jair Bolsonaro] is responsible for escalating the slaughter. — Renan Calheiros, centrist Brazilian senator
Bolsonaro Should Face Homicide Charges Over Pandemic, Brazil Lawmakers Say
A Brazilian congressional panel is set to recommend mass homicide charges against President Jair Bolsonaro, asserting that he intentionally let the coronavirus rip through the country and kill hundreds of thousands in a failed bid to achieve herd immunity and revive Latin America’s largest economy.

A report from a congressional investigation, excerpts from which were viewed by The New York Times ahead of its scheduled release this week, also recommends criminal charges against 69 other people, including three of Mr. Bolsonaro’s sons and numerous current and former government officials.

The extraordinary accusations appear in a nearly 1,200-page report that effectively blames Mr. Bolsonaro’s policies for the deaths of more than 300,000 Brazilians, half of the nation’s coronavirus death toll, and urges the Brazilian authorities to imprison the president, according to the excerpts from the report and interviews with two of the committee’s senators.

“Many of these deaths were preventable,” Renan Calheiros, the centrist Brazilian senator who was the lead author of the report, said in an interview in his office late Monday. “I am personally convinced that he is responsible for escalating the slaughter.”

It is unclear at best whether the report will lead to criminal charges. But it may prove a major escalation in the political challenges confronting Mr. Bolsonaro, a polarizing leader who took office in 2019, faces re-election next year and is suffering falling popularity.

From the outset of the pandemic, Mr. Bolsonaro has gone out of his way to minimize the threat of the virus. As countries around the world locked down, and his own people began filling hospitals, he encouraged mass gatherings and discouraged masks. An avowed vaccine skeptic, he lashed out at any who dared criticize him as irresponsible. Those actions, the report argued, amounted to mass homicide.

... The report’s findings culminate a six-month investigation by a special Covid-19 Senate committee that held more than 50 hearings. They became must-see television in Brazil, featuring testimony about bribery schemes and disinformation operations. One lawmaker wore a bulletproof vest to testify that some vaccine purchases included kickbacks.

Written by a small group of senators after a wide-ranging investigation, the report also accuses Mr. Bolsonaro of “genocide” against Indigenous groups in the Amazon, where the virus decimated populations for months after hospitals there ran out of oxygen. Those allegations are unlikely to gain traction with Brazilian prosecutors, according to legal experts, and seem certain to further divide an already fractured nation.

The report found that the president had pushed unproven drugs like hydroxychloroquine well after they had been shown to be ineffective for treating Covid-19 and that his administration caused a monthslong delay in the distribution of vaccines in Brazil by ignoring more than 100 emails from Pfizer. Instead, his government opted to overpay for an unapproved vaccine from India, the report said, a deal that was later canceled over suspicions of graft.

Mr. Calheiros defended the committee’s plans to recommend charges of homicide and “Indigenous genocide” against Mr. Bolsonaro, saying they were accurate under a technical reading of Brazilian law. He framed the homicide charge as murder “by omission” — meaning that Mr. Bolsonaro allowed deaths he was responsible for preventing.

... Mr. Bolsonaro called the virus a “little flu.” He joked that vaccines would turn people into alligators, prompting many Brazilians to get their vaccine shots in alligator costumes. And when he attended a United Nations meeting last month, New York’s vaccination rules for restaurants forced him and Brazil’s health minister to eat pizza on the sidewalk because Mr. Bolsonaro remains unvaccinated. The health minister tested positive for Covid-19 days later.

Mr. Bolsonaro took a different tack when it came to hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial medicine once thought to be a possible coronavirus treatment. After he tested positive last year, Mr. Bolsonaro posted a video of himself gulping the antimalarial pills, although scientists had warned against it.

The Senate committee found that Mr. Bolsonaro and his allies had systematically pushed unproven drugs instead of practices that worked, such as social distancing and masks.

... Mr. Bolsonaro’s views on the pandemic were amplified by a coordinated network of conservative pundits, social-media influencers and anonymous online profiles, who railed against lockdowns and masks, pushed unproven drugs, questioned vaccines and claimed that Brazil’s death count was exaggerated, according to the report.

The Senate committee accused Mr. Bolsonaro and his three eldest sons, who all hold elected office, of having constituted the “command nucleus” of the network. The committee’s report also corroborated stories in the Brazilian press that Mr. Bolsonaro’s government operated a so-called Cabinet of Hate out of government offices that directed online campaigns supporting the president’s goals and attacking his enemies.
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