COVID-19 has killed over 600,000 people in Brazil as of this writing. That is an incredible number of people, so if it helps, think of it as nearly one Memphis, TN. Now, a legislative probe into the Brazilian government’s handling of the pandemic has concluded after a six-month investigation, laying the blame for the disaster directly at the feet of some of the highest echelons of government, including President Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right populist. According to the investigation’s findings, the anti-vax president should punish with crimes against humanity for his management of the pandemic, which was marred by corruption and misinformation, according to the panel.
The investigation also suggests criminal charges against scores of others, including Bolsonaro, three of his sons, and a number of current and former government officials, according to extracts seen by the New York Times before of its scheduled release this week. The President is facing nine allegations, including forgery of documents and incitement to commit a crime, in addition to the charge of crimes against humanity. “Many of these deaths could have been avoided,” said Renan Calheiros, a moderate senator and primary author of the research, to the New York Times. “I am confident that [Bolsonaro] is to blame for the escalation of the slaughter.”
Bolsonaro’s “unfounded trust in the idea of herd immunity through spontaneous infection” was criticized in the report, prompting some critics to speculate that the leader was deliberately aiming for 1.4 million fatalities in Brazil. A previous draft of the report advocated charging the Brazilian President with mass homicide and genocide against indigenous populations in the Amazon – a location where local health personnel described the COVID-19 issue as “a complete bloodbath.” However, after numerous senators objected, the accusations dropped.
“Despite all of the vaccines on offer, the federal government chose not to purchase them, a decision that went against all of the scientific studies that demonstrated their safety and effectiveness, and against the advice of all of the epidemiologists who declared on a daily basis that only vaccines would save lives,” the report states. “The decision not to purchase vaccines between July 2020 and at least January 2021, which had no technical or scientific basis and went against international health authorities’ recommendations, resulted in the deaths of thousands of Brazilians who would have undoubtedly benefitted from such vaccines.”
It was not a foregone conclusion that Brazil would affect so hard the pandemic: the country has previously received international accolades for its responses to public health emergencies. Brazil, on the other hand, has drew the world’s attention with COVID-19 as a stern warning, with accusations of corruption and prevarication abounding against the country’s traditionally anti-science leadership. As COVID-19 raged across Brazilian hospitals and favelas, Bolsonaro frequently downplayed the disease’s seriousness, calling it “a petty cold.” In the meantime, Bolsonaro stated that safe and efficient vaccines were “nonsensical” and “experimental” treatments that risked turning Brazil into a nation of animorphs, and that sick Brazilians should instead rely on unproven medications like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin. Those worried about the virus’s fatal toll urged to cease “fussing and moaning,” and those who questioned him about it scolded him for being dull.
“These have been periods of starvation, bereavement, death, and joblessness for millions of people.” “This is the worst catastrophe of my generation, and the president has shown no empathy,” said Antônio Carlos Costa, a social activist and church leader who testified before the COVID inquiry on Monday. “I sincerely hope that our country will never again be ruled in the manner in which Bolsonaro has controlled it,” he remarked.
However, it is far from inevitable that the President will face these allegations. The report’s committee is set to vote on the recommendations next week, and while seven of the 11-member panel said to agree with the recommendations, Bolsonaro has some key allies who can stymie the charges – one of the panel members is not only Bolsonaro’s son but also faces criminal charges in the report.
The recommendations, however, will be terrible news for a president whose support is already waning. Over the last six months, the congressional investigation has become must-see television, with its dramatic and scandalous disclosures, and the country has seen countrywide rallies against Bolsonaro and his anti-science position. Costa told The Guardian, “One thing is certain.” “His reputation has been irreversibly harmed.”