On the 19th of October, the Brazilian media published the draft of the Senate’s report that charges President Jair Bolsonaro with several allegations, including murder over the country’s disastrous Coronavirus toll. The paper determined that the government “deliberately exposed the population to a concrete risk of mass infection” and promoted medicines that went against scientific studies. Initially, the investigation panel also found Bolsonaro guilty of mass homicide and genocide against the Amazon’s indigenous population. The committee blamed him for endorsing anti-indigenous policies that left the minority vulnerable to the virus. Despite the importance of the accusations, experts believe that it is unlikely the president will be prosecuted or impeached. However, the far-reaching echo of the communiqué will undeniably have a political effect, deteriorating even further the already crumbling popularity of the Brazilian leader.
The Senate’s report is the result of a parliamentary inquiry that started back in April 2021 aimed at reviewing Bolsonaro’s response to the pandemic. The six-month-long paper consisting of almost 1.200 pages was presented on Wednesday the 20th by the opposition Senator Renan Calheiros who supervised the probe. After conducting televised hearings and listening to testimonies from over 60 people, the draft affirms that the “committee collected evidence that abundantly demonstrated that the federal government was silent and chose to act in a non-technical and reckless manner”. The president is accused of 11 offences in total, including incitement to crime, charlatanism, crimes against humanity, propagation of pathogenic germs, homicide, and genocide. According to Senator Randolfe Rodrigues, the inquiry’s vice-president, “(T)he report assigns more than 100 years in prison to the president of the republic. That is what the collection of suggested crimes points to”. Alongside Brazil’s president, the panel denounced 66 people. Amongst them, there are three sons of Bolsonaro and two firms. The leader has denied all the accusations, saying that the report was a political instrument and affirming that “(W)e know that we are guilty of absolutely nothing” and “(W)e know that we did the right thing from the first moment”.
The investigation accuses the President of his role in the public health crisis, attributing to him the responsibility of the enormously high death toll of Brazil, second only to the United States. The report reads that “(T)he performance of the president and high-ranking members of the ministry of health, who could and should have acted in a timely manner, contributed to the increase in the risk of spreading the new coronavirus, a risk that has clearly become reality with the sad result of more than 600,000 Brazilians dead and more 20m infected”. Moreover, Brazil’s premier is accused of being guided “by an unfounded belief in the theory of herd immunity by natural infection” and of promoting inadequate medicines such as the antimalaria remedy hydroxychloroquine. Furthermore, according to the committee, “the federal government was silent and chose to act in a non-technical and reckless manner” in particular when it decided not to acquire the shots offered by the vaccine manufactures during the early stage of the health crisis. Indeed, the paper reads that “(I)n spite of all the vaccines that were on offer, the federal government opted not to buy them, a decision that went against all of the scientific studies which demonstrated their safety and effectiveness, and against the advice of all of the epidemiologists who declared on a daily basis that only vaccines would save lives”.
Moreover, in the previous draft of the report, the Brazilian president was also accused of murder and genocide of the indigenous groups living in the Amazon. The committee blamed the government for pursuing an “anti-indigenous policy” that deliberately left the population exposed to the Coronavirus. As reported by the document, “(T)he federal government found in the virus an ally to strike the indigenous” and that “(T)here is a clear causal link between the anti-indigenous posture of [Brazil’s] top leader and the harm suffered by indigenous people, even if he might not have directly killed anyone”. However, in the final version, these responsibilities have been removed because there was no consensus among the panel. The members agreed that the crimes could be perceived as an exaggeration and that they could undermine the credibility of the report.
Despite the weight of the accusations, analysts believe that it is unlikely Bolsonaro will face trial while in office or will be impeached. If the paper is approved by the Senate committee, it will then be submitted to the country’s chief prosecutor, who was appointed by Bolsonaro. Nonetheless, regardless of the chief prosecutor’s decision to move forward or not, the investigation will have significant political repercussions. In particular, it will play a crucial role in the presidential election of 2022. According to Thiago de Aragão, the director of strategy of Arko Advice, “(T)he major impact of the investigation is political, because it generated tons of news that certainly will be used by campaign strategists next year”.
Written by Cinzia Saro
Cinzia Saro is a columnist at DecipherGrey.