Senators in Brazil preparing to press charges against President Bolsonaro over his handling of pandemic

Photo: EVARISTO SA AFP/File Photo

Senators in Brazil gathered Tuesday night to review a study that would propose that President Jair Bolsonaro be charged on criminal charges for allegedly botching the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, bringing the country's death toll to the world's second-highest.

The newest draft of a Senate committee's investigative report, which The Associated Press obtained, proposes that the president be prosecuted on 11 counts ranging from charlatanism and encouraging crime to homicide and genocide.

Three senators from the committee's so-called "G7" group of senators who aren't from Bolsonaro's base rejected homicide and genocide accusations, according to five committee members who agreed to share specifics of the delicate conversations only provided they weren't named. 

According to the senators, the three were attempting to persuade their four colleagues to join them in rejecting the two accusations.

Analysts said it was unclear if such suggestions would lead to charges against the president, whether they remained or not.

Bolsonaro has denied any wrongdoing and has accused the probe of being a political ploy to destabilize him.

Bolsonaro has been chastised by critics for downplaying the seriousness of the coronavirus, disregarding international health standards on masks and activity limits aimed at preventing the virus' spread, promoting untested therapies, and delaying vaccine uptake.

Anger over the president's attitude led to the formation of a Senate committee in April, which is looking into accusations that Bolsonaro's handling of the epidemic contributed to many of Brazil's 600,000 COVID-19 fatalities.

Sen. Renan Calheiros, who was set to deliver his much-anticipated final version to the 11-member committee on Wednesday, wrote the roughly 1,200-page draft report.

The paper must be authorized by the committee before being forwarded to the prosecutor-office, general's which is headed by a Bolsonaro appointment who will determine whether to continue the investigation and perhaps file charges. Members of congressional committees in Brazil have the ability to investigate but not to indict.

Regardless of the exact content of the report’s final version or whether the prosecutor-general moves forward, its allegations are expected to fuel criticism of the far-right leader, whose approval ratings have slumped ahead of his 2022 reelection campaign.

Sen. Calheiros' insistence on incorporating a proposal that the International Criminal Court investigate Bolsonaro for probable genocide of Indigenous peoples has been a particularly difficult topic, according to senators who talked with AP.

This has enraged committee members, especially government opponents, who claim that genocide is an exaggeration that may jeopardize the report's legitimacy.

While senators are less opposed to recommending indictment for homicide, they have comparable reservations, according to the senators.

The draft report proposes charges against dozens of Bolsonaro's friends, as well as current and former officials of his government, in addition to Bolsonaro himself.

Senators claimed that the three senators who oppose Bolsonaro's homicide and genocide accusations also oppose indicting his legislator son, Sen. Flávio Bolsonaro.

Senators on the panel have also been hesitant to press accusations against military personnel.

Publish : 2021-10-20 10:22:00

Give Your Comments