Brazilian senators have agreed on Wednesday to recommend a charge of “crimes against humanity” for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for his mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a lesser charge from the originally proposed accusation of homicide and genocide in an early draft of a report prepared by Senator Renan Calheiros.
The early draft was made public on Tuesday before it was submitted to a congressional probe. In it, it was suggested that President Bolsonaro face genocide charges on behalf of indigenous communities in the country, and homicide. In all, it was recommended Bolsonaro face 13 total charges.
President Bolsonaro has been harshly criticized for how he handled his country’s response to the global pandemic. Under his leadership, more than 600,000 people died in Brazil making it the country with the second-highest death toll behind the United States. While Brazil was in the throes of the pandemic Bolsonaro repeatedly contradicted health experts with regard to social distancing. He even encouraged the use of hydroxychloroquine despite health officials stating publicly that its use for Covid-19 was unfounded. Even when Bolsonaro tested positive for the coronavirus he downplayed the gravity of the virus.
Late on Tuesday senators who participated in the congressional probe debated the report filed by Calherios. Ultimately they determined that a charge of genocide, as defined by the International Criminal Court lacked evidence. As to the homicide charge, it was removed as the contention was it would be difficult to prove as it requires an individual, single victim.
It is important to note that the draft can still be altered by the Senate Commission. In fact, they can choose to vote on it, or veto it altogether.
While President Bolsonaro’s popularity has suffered recently because of rising inflation, a weak economy, and his coronavirus handling, it is unlikely this report will have any significant impact. This is largely due in part to the fact that any charges would ultimately be decided on by Brazil’s prosecutor general who was appointed by Bolsonaro himself.