Brazil senators are ready to call for Bolsonaro criminal prosecutions

Brazilian senators met Tuesday night to discuss a report which will recommend that President Jair Bolsonaro is indicted for criminal charges. He is accused of bungling the response at the COVID-19 pandemic and pushing Brazil's death toll up to second in the world.

Brazil senators are ready to call for Bolsonaro criminal prosecutions

The Associated Press reviewed the latest draft of the Senate committee's report and recommended that the president be indicted for 11 charges. These include charlatanism, inciting crime, homicide, and genocide.

Three senators from Bolsonaro were opposed to the inclusion of genocide and homicide charges in the "G7" group of senators. Five committee members agreed to discuss the details of the sensitive talks, but not their names. Senators stated that the three men were trying to convince their four peers to oppose the charges.

Analysts said that it was not clear whether such recommendations would result in charges against the president, regardless of whether they are retained.

Bolsonaro denied any wrongdoing and accused the investigation of being a political tool aimed at sabotaging his presidency.

Bolsonaro has been criticized by critics for downplaying the severity of the coronavirus, disregarding international guidelines on masks, restrictions on activity, and promoting unproven treatments while delaying the acquisition of vaccines.

The Senate committee was formed in April to investigate allegations that Bolsonaro's handling of the pandemic led to many of Brazil's 600,000 deaths due COVID-19.

Sen. Renan Calheiros wrote the draft report, which was nearly 1,200 pages long. He was due to present his highly-anticipated final version Wednesday before the eleven-member committee.

Before the document can be sent to the office the prosecutor-general (a Bolsonaro appointed person) must approve it. The prosecutor-general will decide whether or not to continue the investigation or pursue charges. Brazil's congressional committees have the ability to investigate but not to indict.

The allegations in the report are likely to be critical of Far-Right leader Donald Trump, regardless of whether or not the prosecutor-general goes ahead with the final version.

Thiago De Aragao, director strategy at political consultancy Arko Advice, stated that "the major impact of this investigation is political because it generated tons news that will certainly be used by campaign strategists next Year."

The draft report, as it stands now, concludes that the government "deliberately exposed population to a concrete threat of mass infection." It was influenced by unofficial advisors who advocated for herd immunity despite the fact that many experts have said otherwise.

Bolsonaro stood firm against social distancing, even during the worst of the pandemic. He claimed that the poor would be more affected if the economy collapsed. Bolsonaro continues to claim that hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug for COVID-19, is effective, even though scientists have dismissed this argument as ineffective.

Over 60 witnesses have been called to testify and thousands of documents were obtained by senators during six months of investigation.

The draft report states that "this committee collected evidence that abundantly showed that the federal government was silent" and that it chose to act in an untechnical, reckless way.

The senators speaking with AP said that Sen. Calheiros insistence on including a recommendation for the International Criminal Court to investigate Bolsonaro's possible genocide against Indigenous peoples is a particularly difficult issue. They said that this has upset committee members, as well as critics of government, who claim that genocide is an exaggeration which could compromise the credibility of the entire report.

Although there is less resistance from senators to indicting for homicide, they still have concerns, the senators stated.

Carlos Melo, a political analyst at Insper University in Sao Paulo, said that the prosecutor-general's will examine the report with a magnifying lens to find errors, failures, and inconsistencies. "If there are 10 strong accusations and one with inconsistencies, the government will grab that to discredit the entire report."

The draft report also recommends that Bolsonaro be charged with dozens of other allies as well as current and former members his administration. Senators who opposed Bolsonaro's homicide or genocide charges also rejected indicting Bolsonaro’s lawmaker son, Senator Flavio Bolsonaro.

The senators on the committee were also cautious about calling for charges against military personnel.