Report recommends Brazil’s President over 100 years in jail

Brazil President
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro. Source: Palácio do Planalto (via. Wikimedia Commons)
A report - the result of a six-month inquiry - recommends that the President of Brazil faces criminal charges over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

By Tom Kingsbury | Head of Politics

After a six-month inquiry, a final draft report has been made examining the Brazilian Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The report recommends that Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro be accused of multiple crimes, which (if he were found guilty) would put him in prison for more than 100 years.

Included in the charges reccommended by the report is that of crimes against humanity. Until very recently, previous drafts had also included homicide and genocide.

The charge of genocide had been included in response to the disporportionate number of indigenous Brazilian citizens that died as a result of the pandemic, and due to Bolsonaro’s history of discriminatory comments against indigenous Brazilians – he once said: “It’s a shame that the Brazilian cavalry wasn’t as efficient as the Americans, who exterminated their Indians”.

The report is clear in its view of the Bolsonaro administration’s attitude towards indigenous people during the pandemic, stating: “The federal government found in the virus an ally to strike the indigenous”, and that there was “a clear causal link between the anti-indigenous posture of [Brazil’s] top leader and the harm suffered by indigenous people”.

It added: “Even before the pandemic, President Jair Bolsonaro commanded an anti-indigenous policy that deliberately exposed native peoples to a lack of assistance, harrassment, land invasions and violence, with these acts of hostility intensifying […] after the arrival of the virus.”

The report also criticised Bolsonaro more generally for his handling of the pandemic, which killed over 600,000 Brazilians – the world’s second highest COVID-19 related death toll, behind the US.

Bolsonaro has consistently spoken out against transmission-reducing measures, criticising mask wearing, lockdowns and vaccines throughout  the pandemic.

The inquiry found that “transmission rates could have been reduced by about 40%, which means 120,000 lives could have been saved by the end of March 2021.”

In a broader statement it also said: “[We must] never forget what happened in this country or the innocent people who lost their lives as a result of the government’s reckless handling of the pandemic”.

A professor from the University of Sao Paulo, Deisy Ventura, said the revelation of the government’s deliberate policy of herd immunity needed to have consequences – “If this isn’t recognised as a crime, as something that needs punishing, then the risk is that this could become natural. The biggest fear those of us who study pandemics have is that the use of the herd immunity through infection strategy might be legitimised as a respose to other epidemics.”

Bolsonaro has dismissed the inquiry as being politically motivated, stating: “we know that we are guilty of absolutely nothing. We know that we did the right thing from the first moment.” He added that the report “produced nothing but hatred and resentment”.

The president of the inquiry, Senator Omar Aziz, said: “The president committed many crimes and he will pay for them”.

The investigation concluded on October 26, and will be voted on by the Senate Commission, meaning it could still be vetoed or amended. Even if it is published in its current form, Bolsonaro is not guaranteed to face criminal charges.

However, the report will doubtless harm his reputation, which has already been damaged by the coronavirus pandemic’s devastating impact in Brazil, ahead of the country’s 2022 election.

Tom Kingsbury Politics

Follow @gairrhyddpol for all of the latest updates from the world of politics.

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