The Brazilian senate want the country’s president Jair Bolsonaro to be charged with ‘crimes against humanity’ over his handling of the country’s Covid crisis.
A six-month inquiry heard devastating witness testimony from those whose relatives were among the 600,000 Brazilians to have died and from experts who say ineffective medicines were used on ‘human guinea pigs.’
The 1,200-page report accuses Bolsonaro of ‘quackery’ for dismissing the virus as a ‘little flu’ and for delays in ordering vaccines – a vaccine which he has refused to take himself because he says he has natural immunity after catching Covid last year.
Renan Calheiros, the centrist senator who is the lead author, announced a last-minute withdrawal of ‘homicide’ and ‘genocide’ charges, after some infighting within the panel.
The report is expected be sent to the public prosecutor, the federal court of accounts, and could even be sent to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where other complaints against Bolsonaro have already been lodged.
The report could also ask that several ministers be charged, as well as three of Bolsonaro’s sons, including Flavio – who sits on the committee.
‘This report will seem like a sentence, but the government is calm. You can criticise the president’s attitude, but not incriminate him,’ Fernando Bezerra, head of the government’s parliamentary bloc in the senate, told the Uol website.
The report was originally due to be presented on Tuesday but had to be put back 24 hours, eliciting criticism from Brazilian media, which have already started leaking details.
Following testimony from several ministers, top government officials, and business and hospital managers, it was the turn of the families of Covid victims to present their statements to the committee on Monday.
‘We deserve an apology from the highest authority in the state. It’s not a question of politics, we’re talking about lives,’ Marcio Antonio Silva, a taxi driver who lost his 25-year-old son to Covid, told the panel, holding back tears.
‘What we’ve seen is the antithesis of what we expected from the president of the republic,’ said Antonio Carlos Costa, president of the Rio de Paz NGO. ‘We’ve never seen him shed tears of compassion, nor express his condolences for the Brazilian people in mourning.’
On Monday, the committee also heard the harrowing testimony of a nurse in Manaus who saw dozens of patients dying and had to take care of her sister’s four children after she also succumbed to the virus.
The committee investigated the government over the crippling lack of oxygen in the northern city of Manaus during the worst moments of the pandemic, and also the delays in buying vaccines, Bolsonaro’s anti-lockdown speeches, and his original belittling of what he called a ‘little flu.’
Another branch of the investigation focused on the relationship between Brasilia and private health insurers accused of promoting ‘early treatment’ with medications such as hydroxychloroquine, which has been scientifically proven to be ineffective.
One of those insurers, Prevent Senior, is accused of having carried out such treatment on patients without their prior knowledge, and to have put pressure on doctors to prescribe it for ‘human guinea pigs.’
‘The committee report clearly aims to result in the sanctioning of those responsible, and there are a lot. We cannot allow ourselves to not punish them,’ Omar Aziz, the committee’s president, said on Tuesday.