A Brazilian Senate committee has recommended President Jair Bolsonaro face a series of criminal indictments for actions and omissions related to the world’s second highest Covid-19 death toll.
he seven-to-four vote was the culmination of a six-month committee investigation of the government’s handling of the pandemic.
It formally approved a report calling for prosecutors to try Mr Bolsonaro on charges ranging from charlatanism and inciting crime to misuse of public funds and crimes against humanity, and in doing so hold him responsible for many of Brazil’s more than 600,000 Covid-19 deaths.
Mr Bolsonaro has denied wrongdoing, and the decision on whether to file most of the charges will be up to Prosecutor-General Augusto Aras, a presidential appointee who is widely viewed as protecting him.
The allegation of crimes against humanity would need to be pursued by the International Criminal Court.
Senator Omar Aziz, the chairman of the inquiry, said he would deliver the recommendation to the prosecutor-general. Mr Aras’s office said the report would be carefully reviewed as soon as it is received. Regardless of whether charges are filed, the report is expected to fuel criticism of the divisive president, whose approval ratings have slumped ahead of his 2022 re-election campaign – in large part because of Brazil’s outsized Covid-19 death toll.
Since the start of the pandemic, Mr Bolsonaro has sabotaged local leaders’ restrictions on activity aimed at stopping the virus’s spread, saying the economy needed to keep humming so the poor did not suffer worse hardship.
He also has insistently touted hydroxychloroquine long after broad testing showed it is not effective against Covid-19, assembled crowds without wearing masks and fuelled doubts about vaccines.
Mr Bolsonaro has defended himself by saying he was among the few world leaders courageous enough to defy political correctness and global health recommendations, and that he has not erred in the slightest.
Committee members in the so-called G7 group of senators who are not from Mr Bolsonaro’s base agreed on most of the points in the report.
The final report recommends charges against two companies and 78 people, including Mr Bolsonaro, officials, dozens of allies and the president’s three sons, who are politicians.
Senator Flavio Bolsonaro, a son of the president, called the report legally weak and politically motivated.
Minutes after the inquiry was finished, former US President Donald Trump said in a statement that he endorses the Brazilian leader.