'Somebody needs to be blamed': Bolsonaro probe gives Covid families solace

RIO DE JANEIRO – The morning after a Brazilian Senate committee recommended criminal charges against President Jair Bolsonaro for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, Bruna Chaves, who had lost her mother to the disease, left her pain in an emotional grief- Support group.

“My mother wasn’t time to leave yet,” she told the others on Wednesday in an ecumenical chapel in Rio de Janeiro. “Somebody has to be blamed”

A government agency blaming the president on a nearly 1,300-page report is already helping to bring comfort and reassurance to the grieving nation with the world’s second highest death toll from the virus and the eighth highest per capita.

Chaves, a 25-year-old chemistry student, has been following the nationwide televised sessions of the committee’s six-month investigation that began Tuesday with the Recommendation that President Jair Bolsonaro be charged along with dozens of other officials and allies.

Bruna Chaves, a 25-year-old chemistry student who lost her mother to COVID-19, poses for a photo at Penitence Cemetery in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on October 27, 2021.Bruna Prado / AP

The social worker who coordinates Chaves’ session, Márcia Torres, said public presentation of the facts during the Senate investigation can help people move forward in their grieving process. Seeing officials confront the consequences of their actions would bring further comfort.

“Condemnation would be justice,” said Torres. “It would be of great value to the people to see the government arrested – literally arrested. It would be a relief for them. “

However, many, including Chaves, fear the chances of specific punishment are slim to officials charged with responsibility for many of the 607,000 COVID-19 deaths in Brazil. It is Far from certain that the prosecutor-general appointed by Bolsonaro will bring charges or that an impeachment process be pushed forward in Congress.

The president has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, calling the Senate committee’s investigation a politically motivated fraud designed to undermine his government.

But dr. Helian Nunes, a psychiatrist at Minas Gerais Federal University who coordinates a mental health support program for frontline workers, said the investigation was important to his patients. Of the nearly 100 people he has personally advised, almost all of whom have lost relatives or acquaintances, most have followed news from the Senate investigation closely and brought it up in meetings, he told the AP.

“It is not possible to make up for the losses, but if you give these people a voice and hold the people involved accountable, it is possible to reduce the damage,” said Nunes.

“Society needs to give importance to what happened so that it doesn’t happen again,” he added.

Bolsonaro often has diverted blame for the toll of the pandemic, despise governors and mayors for imposing restrictions on activities to contain the spread of the virus and attack the Supreme Court for upholding the jurisdiction of local leaders and calling themselves righteous Rejection of politically correct recommendations by keeping the economy going, ostensibly to protect the poor.

A constant in his pandemic approach has been dismissive and disparaging rhetoric – COVID-19 was just “a little flu,” Bolsonaro said, and he also joked that Brazilians should be studied because they can swim in sewage without getting sick.

That has annoyed people like Márcio Antônio Silva for a long time, the lost his 25-year-old son to the coronavirus and recently told the Senate committee it pains him that his grief is being downplayed by a president who offers sarcasm for assistance rather than mere stomach ache.

“That’s why this investigation was so important to me, because someone showed up who didn’t say: ‘So what?'”, Said Silva to the testimony in a trembling voice. “Someone came and said, ‘I’m going to do something for you.'”

During the pandemic, Bolsonaro gathered unmasked crowds to demonstrate that individuals have the right to come and go as they please, but not once did he pay any respect at a COVID-19 memorial or funeral. He followed tepid statements from Regret over COVID-19 deaths with fatalism by saying that death is a part of life.

An outspoken vaccine skeptic, he insisted on the anti-malarial pill hydroxychloroquine long after broad testing showed it wasn’t effective against COVID-19. The Senate Committee report said hydroxychloroquine was “practically the only government policy to combat the pandemic,” and consequently Bolsonaro was “the primary culprit for the mistakes made by the federal government”.

Amid the drum roll of allegations emerging from the investigation, the president’s approval ratings have steadily dropped to their lowest level since taking office in 2019. Early polls for next year’s election show he is lagging behind his main rival.

The Senate committee has proposed erecting a memorial to COVID-19 victims, but for now, relatives of the dead must seek solace in temporary memorials such as the white flags that were set up in the capital, Brasilia, ahead of Congress earlier this month.

Fernanda Natasha Bravo Cruz was there that day and mourned the loss of her father, whom she remembered as a lawyer who often provided legal assistance to those in need free of charge. After initially following the home stay recommendations, he eased his vigilance, became infected, and died before having a chance to hold his newborn granddaughter. Before this eagerly awaited meeting, he sent her a copy of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s “The Little Prince”.

Whenever Cruz’s daughter sees the book, she shows excitedly, as if she knew that someone wanted her to grow up reading.

On Wednesday, Cruz said the Senate committee’s decision brought a measure of justice.

“It is important that there are institutions on the side of the people who are suffering and who have become very fragile through the process,” said Cruz. “It’s not just personal grief. It’s collective grief. “

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