The president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, received a severe setback this Tuesday: an investigative commission of the Senate of his country recommended that he be imputed for his management of the coronavirus pandemic.
The final report of the senatorial commission that investigated the covid-19 crisis in Brazil, approved this Tuesday by seven votes to four, accuses Bolsonaro of nine crimes various, including crimes “against humanity”.
This occurs in a delicate context in Brazil, with more than 600,000 deaths from the pandemic (the second worst balance by country in the world, after the United States) and growing economic difficulties.
Although the commission recommended the indictment of another 77 people, from advisers to government ministers and three sons of the president, Bolsonaro is singled out as the “main responsible for the mistakes made by the federal government during the pandemic “
The president has denied having any “blame” for the spread of the coronavirus in Brazil and criticized the work of the panel of senators.
“They call me a genocidal, forger of documents, exterminator of Indians: what these guys did is absurd,” Bolsonaro told local radio on Monday.
However, experts warn that the 1,289-page report may have different consequences for the far-right president.
“Many imagined that Brazilian democracy was at risk, (but) the report of this commission indicates that democracy is effervescent and is capable of imposing political and perhaps judicial losses on the Executive”, says Carlos Pereira, political scientist and professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, an elite Brazilian university, to BBC Mundo.
The crimes attributed
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Bolsonaro denied its seriousness, showing himself against isolation measures and social distancing, and promoting mass events or drugs without proven efficacy against covid-19 instead of the use of masks or vaccination.
Following a six-month investigation that attracted public attention, the Senate commission attributed a total of nine crimes to the president.
The list includes an epidemic crime resulting in death, violation of preventive health measures, charlatanism, incitement to crime, falsification of private documents, irregular use of public resources and prevarication, as well as crimes of responsibility and against humanity.
The first seven are considered “common” crimes: are typified by the Brazilian penal code and they can be punished by justice up to jail.
As the report also accuses Bolsonaro of crimes of responsibility, could enable impeachment in Congress to remove him.
Furthermore, the attribution of crimes “against humanity” contemplated in the Rome Statute could eventually motivate a process against Bolsonaro in the International Criminal Court (CPI).
Members of the Senate commission anticipated that they will send their accusations to the Brazilian Attorney General’s Office, the Chamber of Deputies and the ICC for them to analyze what steps they follow.
Bolsonaro’s allies denied that there are legal elements that support the criminalization of the president and argued that, as Brazil has a federal system, health management is also the responsibility of the states.
Another leader who sought to relativize the threat of covid-19, the former US president. Donald Trump expressed in a statement this Tuesday his support for Bolsonaro, of whom he said they are “great friends.”
The report of the Senate commission marks a special moment in a Brazil where it is difficult for the rulers to be accused so directly by congressional investigations.
Nevertheless, there is no guarantee that the approved report will lead to formal charges against Bolsonaro.
The Senate committee lacks the power to directly denounce the Brazilian president or the other defendants in their report.
For Bolsonaro to be formally accused in court, the endorsement of the Brazilian attorney general, Augusto Aras, would be required. an ally of the president who has already filed other investigation requests against him.
On the other hand, the opening of a political trial or impeachment of Bolsonaro like those carried out against his predecessors Dilma Rousseff and Fernando Collor de Mello should go through the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Arthur Lira, another ally of the president.
Nor is it certain that Bolsonaro will be tried by the ICC in The Hague, although the Rome Statute is incorporated into Brazilian law.
For this to happen, the ICC should decide that the Senate complaint is within its competence before starting a long research process.
“I believe that the greatest impact will be political rather than judicial: a greater fragility of the government in the eyes of society and the loss of electoral competitiveness of the government ”, assesses Pereira.
He adds that, instead of pushing Bolsonaro’s downfall, the opposition Workers Party (PT) of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva seems more interested in antagonizing a weakened president.
Polls suggest that in an eventual second round of elections, Lula would defeat Bolsonaro by several points, whose approval rating fell to 22%, according to surveys by the firm Datafolha.
Faced with various economic problems such as rising inflation and high unemployment (14%), Bolsonaro seeks to revive financial aid programs for the neediest sectors.
It was with those same programs that the president improved his popularity last year.
But some economists anticipate that now that spending could increase the mismatch of public accounts and bring new difficulties for the government.
When Bolsonaro began to relativize the threat of covid-19, calling it “fluzinha” and criticizing the closure of activities, some suspected that his bet was to distance himself from the political cost of the pandemic.
If that was the case, the Senate committee report suggests that shot could backfire on the Brazilian president and weigh him at the polls as much as his “friend” Trump.
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