Brazilian congressional panel set to recommend mass homicide charges against Jair Bolsonaro over COVID-19 response: report

Jair Bolsonaro
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in Brasilia, Brazil, on February 24, 2021. EVARISTO SA/AFP via Getty Images
  • A Brazilian congressional panel is set to accuse Bolsonaro of homicide over his COVID-19 response.
  • The NYT obtained excerpts of a report on the panel’s six month investigation in Brazil’s outbreak.
  • The report also accuses Bolsonaro of genocide against indigenous peoples in the Amazon.

A Brazilian congressional panel is poised to recommend mass homicide charges against President Jair Bolsonaro over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, alleging that he deliberately allowed people to die in a futile attempt to foster herd immunity, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

The Times obtained excerpts of a 1,200-page report compiled by the 11-member committee of Brazilian senators who conducted a six month investigation into Brazil’s COVID-19 outbreak. The report blames more than half of Brazil’s COVID-19 death toll (over 603,000 in total) on Bolsonaro’s policies. It also accuses the Brazilian president of “genocide” against the indigenous peoples in the Amazon, who have been hit especially hard by the pandemic, the Times reported.

“Many of these deaths were preventable,” Renan Calheiros, a Brazilian senator and the lead author of the report, told the Times on Monday. “I am personally convinced that he is responsible for escalating the slaughter.”

The Brazilian president, much like other strongman leaders around the world, has repeatedly scoffed at public health recommendations and pandemic restrictions while sowing doubts about the life-saving vaccine. Bolsonaro says he is not vaccinated for the deadly virus.

Bolsonaro, who has been criticized across the world for his authoritarian tendencies, in March told people to “stop whining” about the devastating impact of the COVID-19 outbreak in his country.

Last July, Bolsonaro contracted COVID-19 after repeatedly downplaying the threat of the virus.

“With my history as an athlete, if I were infected with the virus, I would have no reason to worry. I would feel nothing, or it would be at most just a little flu,” Bolsonaro said in March 2020.

After contracting COVID-19, however, Bolsonaro said he felt weak and had “mold” in his lungs.

But getting the virus did not change Bolsonaro’s tone on the pandemic, and he continued to refuse to take it seriously.

As the death toll from the virus mounted, Bolsonaro back in April denied being “genocidal.”

“They called me homophobic, racist, fascist, a torturer and now… what is it now? Now I am … someone who kills a lot of people? Genocidal. Now, I’m genocidal,” Bolsonaro told supporters outside the Presidential Palace in Brasilia, per CNN. “What am I not blamed for here in Brazil?”

Brazil’s death toll from COVID-19 is the second highest in the world, surpassed only by the US.

According to the Times, the report from the Brazilian congressional panel also recommends charges against 69 other people, including three of Bolsonaro’s sons.

It’s unclear whether the report will result in any criminal charges, the Times said, but it’s indicative of the growing schism plaguing Brazilian politics and comes as Bolsonaro vies for re-election next year. Bolsonaro’s approval rating has rapidly plummeted amid the pandemic.

If Bolsonaro is formally charged, he would be removed from office for 180 days as the country’s Supreme Court decided the case, a Brazilian law professor told the Times.

The Brazilian government did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.