Brazil senators recommend Bolsonaro face charges over handling of Covid-19

A Brazilian Senate committee has recommended President Jair Bolsonaro face a series of criminal charges for acts and omissions related to the world’s second highest Covid-19 death toll.

The seven-to-four vote was the culmination of a six-month investigation by the committee into the government’s handling of the pandemic.

It officially approved a report calling on prosecutors to bring Mr Bolsonaro to justice on charges ranging from charlatanism and incitement to crime to misuse of public funds and crimes against humanity, making it for many of the people Responsible for more than 600,000 Covid-19 deaths in Brazil.

Mr Bolsonaro has denied wrongdoing, and the decision on whether to bring most of the charges rests with Attorney General Augusto Aras, a president-appointed president who is widely seen as a safeguard for him.

The charge of crimes against humanity should be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court.

Senator Omar Aziz, the chairman of the investigation, said he would forward the recommendation to the attorney general.

Mr. Aras’s office said the report would be carefully considered upon receipt.

Regardless of whether charges are brought, the report is expected to fuel criticism of the divisive president, whose approval ratings fell ahead of his re-election campaign in 2022, largely due to the oversized Covid-19 death toll in Brazil.

The investigation itself has been causing a barrage of harmful allegations for months.

Since the pandemic began, Mr Bolsonaro has sabotaged local leaders’ activity restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of the virus, saying the economy must keep buzzing so the poor don’t suffer worse hardship.

He has also strongly touted an anti-malarial drug long after extensive tests showed it was ineffective against Covid-19, gathered crowds without wearing masks, and cast doubt on vaccines.

Mr Bolsonaro has defended himself by saying that he was one of the few world leaders brave enough to defy political correctness and global health recommendations and that he was not mistaken in the slightest.

The report states that by insisting on treatment with the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as “practically the only government policy to combat the pandemic,” Jair Bolsonaro was heavily involved in the spread of Covid-19 in Brazilian territory and therefore ” the main culprit “is for the mistakes that the federal government made during the pandemic”.

The committee members of the so-called G7 Senatorial Group, who did not come from Mr Bolsonaro’s base, agreed on most points in the report.

They met on Monday to make final adjustments to the text.

Changes include recommending fees for 13 additional people, many of whom are current or former health department employees, as well as the governor of the hard-hit Amazon state.

The final report recommends indictments against two companies and a total of 78 people, including Mr Bolsonaro, administrative officials, dozens of allies and the President’s three sons who are politicians.

It also adds an additional breach of alleged false news spreading after Mr Bolsonaro falsely claimed on social media last week that people in the UK who have received two doses of vaccine will get AIDS faster than expected.

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