BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — Brazilians will turn their focus on Wednesday to the Senate, where a report six months in the making will recommend President Jair Bolsonaro be indicted on criminal charges for allegedly careless in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and pushing up the country’s death toll. it became the second highest in the world.
A draft report emerging from a Senate committee investigation, a copy of which was reviewed by The Associated Press on Tuesday, recommends the president be indicted on 11 counts, from fraud and inciting crime to murder and genocide.
In the so-called “G7” committee of senators who are not from Bolsonaro’s base, three opposed the inclusion of murder and genocide charges, said the five-member committee who agreed to discuss details of the sensitive talks only if not named.
Analysts said it was not clear such a recommendation would lead to charges against the president. That will be the decision of Brazil’s attorney general, who is appointed by the president.
Bolsonaro has denied wrongdoing, and has repeatedly accused the investigation of being a political instrument aimed at sabotaging him.
Critics have lashed out at Bolsonaro for downplaying the severity of the coronavirus, ignoring international health guidelines on masks and activity restrictions designed to prevent the virus from spreading, touting unproven treatments and delaying getting a vaccine.
Outrage over the president’s stance prompted the formation of a Senate committee in April, which has investigated allegations that Bolsonaro’s management of the pandemic caused more than 600,000 deaths in Brazil from COVID-19.
The nearly 1,200-page draft report was written by Senator Renan Calheiros, who is scheduled to present his final version Wednesday to an 11-member committee.
The document must be approved by a committee before being sent to the attorney general’s office, which will decide whether to continue the investigation and possibly file charges. In Brazil, congressional committee members can investigate, but do not have the power to prosecute.
Regardless of the exact content of the final version of the report or whether the attorney general moves forward, his allegations are expected to spark criticism of the far-right leader, whose approval rating has slumped ahead of his 2022 re-election campaign.
“The main impact of the investigation is political, as it generates a lot of news that campaign strategists will definitely use next year,” said Thiago de Aragão, director of strategy at political consultancy Arko Advice.
In its current form, the draft report concludes that the government “deliberately exposes the population to a concrete risk of mass infection,” influenced by a group of unofficial advisers advocating pursuing herd immunity even after many experts said it was not feasible. choice.
Even during the worst of the throes of the pandemic, Bolsonaro staunchly opposed social distancing measures, claiming the poor would suffer worse hardships if the economy stalled. He continues to argue that the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine is effective in treating COVID-19, although scientists have dismissed it as ineffective.
During the six months of investigation, senators obtained thousands of documents and heard testimony from more than 60 people.
“This committee gathered overwhelming evidence to suggest that the federal government was silent and chose to act in a non-technical and reckless manner,” the draft report said.
A particularly thorny issue is Senator Calheiros’ insistence on including a recommendation that the International Criminal Court investigate Bolsonaro for possible genocide against indigenous peoples, said senators who spoke to the AP. They said committee members were outraged, including government critics, who called genocide an exaggeration that could threaten the credibility of the entire report.
While opposition among senators to recommend a murder charge is waning, they share common concerns about it, the senators said.
“The prosecutor’s office will look with a magnifying glass for mistakes, failures and inconsistencies to wash their hands of it,” said political analyst Carlos Melo, who teaches at Insper University in Sao Paulo. “If you have 10 very strong charges, and one that has inconsistencies, that’s what the government will hold, to try and discredit the whole report.”
In addition to Bolsonaro, the draft report recommends charges against dozens of allies and members of his current and former government.
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