The Brazilian Senate committee that produced a draft report accusing fascist gut flora gravy-boat President Jair Bolsonaro of 11 crimes against humanity including mass homicide, genocide, and charlatanism crimes in his handling of the covid-19 pandemic has voted to recommend charges.
The Senate committee, which is controlled by opposition senators versus Bolsonaro allies on a 7-4 basis, accused the president of mass murder by deliberately letting the virus spread in the hopes Brazil would achieve herd immunity. That’s the point at which so many individuals have built up immunity to a pathogen that it struggles to find new hosts and fizzles out. Just as in the U.S., the concept became a point of fixation in Brazil for many right-wingers, who concluded the best way to end the pandemic wasn’t lockdowns or public health intervention but letting the virus take its course. The report also accuses Bolsonaro of genocide against the indigenous population of the Amazon, where hospitals ran out of ventilator oxygen for months while he denied any responsibility, and crimes such as charlatanism for lying to the public about the situation.
Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic was among the most atrocious of any world leader. His administration responded to the rise of the virus with denialism, conspiracy theories, attacks on scientists, and a string of bullshit miracle cures, all intended to either cover up the scale of the problem or just lie to Brazilians that the situation was under control. Additionally, federal prosecutors are investigating Bolsonaro personally for his possible role in a graft scandal centered around a bribe-riddled deal to secure a vaccine from India (Covaxin). The death toll in Brazil from the virus is believed to be over 606,000 as of Wednesday, which many epidemiologists believe is likely an underestimate.
According to the New York Times, the six-month investigation found that Bolsonaro promoted bunk treatments like the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine and antiparasitic drug ivermectin long after scientific studies had deemed them ineffective. It also found that Bolsonaro’s administration ignored offers to obtain other vaccines in favor of the sketchy Covaxin deal, discouraged the public from wearing masks, and was the “command nucleus” of a disinformation network designed to mislead Brazilians about the virus.
While some of its death toll was unpreventable once the virus gained a foothold in Brazil, the report attributed roughly half of the fatalities to Bolsonaro’s actions. Voting along that 7-4 partisan split, the senators have recommended charges against Bolsonaro and 77 other officials, including his three eldest sons, as well as two companies.
Whether Bolsonaro will actually face charges is another issue entirely. He is up for re-election next year and doubling down on a propaganda machine designed to portray any loss by him as inherently the product of electoral fraud. The president has plummeted in the polls amid his disastrous response to the pandemic, an economic crisis, corruption scandals, and other issues like apocalyptic wildfires and butchery in the Amazon rainforest. Yet he retains enough support in Congress to shield him from legal consequences and enjoys standing among his right-wing base that’s strong enough for opposition leaders to publicly express fears that pro-Bolsonaro protests in September would result in a coup d’etat.
The recommendation that he or anyone else in his administration will face federal charges will have to be voted on by the entire Senate, and then the lower house, which is controlled by Bolsonaro supporters. In the unlikely event that both chambers agree Bolsonaro must be prosecuted, the issue would then fall to the attorney general, a Bolsonaro appointee. Senators backing the report have said if that process fails, they will pursue other options including the Supreme Court of Brazil and the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
“How many presidents of the Republic, without having been in wars, were accused of crimes against humanity?” Senator Randolfe Rodrigues, the vice president of the panel that produced the report, told the Times. “There are reasons, motives, and statements like the ones we witnessed—which left us in absolute shock, all of us Brazilians—that led to this indictment request.”
Lead author and Senator Renan Calheiros previously told the Times that “Many of these deaths were preventable. I am personally convinced that he is responsible for escalating the slaughter.”
Bolsonaro has previously mocked accusations his handling of the pandemic was effectively genocidal and referred to the committee’s work as a “joke,” but according to the Times, he’s remained mum on the passage of the report. His fellow traveler, ex-President Donald Trump, issued a statement saying Brazil was “lucky” to have Bolsonaro as their leader, adding he was a “great president and will never let the people of his great country down!”