Brazilian senators have recommended President Jair Bolsonaro be charged with 10 crimes, including crimes against humanity, alleging his “reckless” mismanagement of the Covid-19 crisis that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.
Lawmakers investigating the President officially presented their report on Wednesday, condemning the populist leader’s handling of the crisis and pushing for him to face a swathe of charges.
They accused Bolsonaro of an epidemic resulting in death, charlatanism, incitement to crime, falsification of documents, irregular use of public funds, prevarication, crimes against humanity, social rights violations, incompatibility with dignity, honor and decorum of the position, and preventive sanitary measure violations.
This is the first time in Brazil’s history that a parliamentary commission of inquiry (CPI) has drawn up such an extensive list of alleged crimes accusing a President of the Republic.
CPI rapporteur Renan Calheiros also called for the submission of the investigation to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to analyze the accusations on Bolsonaro of crimes against humanity.
The congressional committee had originally planned to recommend mass homicide charges, according to a leaked draft report seen by CNN on Tuesday. But senators decided later to withdraw those allegations, CNN affiliate CNN Brasil reported.
Speaking publicly for the first time after the release of the CPI’s final report, Bolsonaro said on Wednesday afternoon that the commission’s work isn’t “productive” to Brazil and that he is not guilty of any crimes.
“They produced nothing but hatred and resentment among some of us. But we know we’re absolutely not to blame, we know we did the right thing from the first moment,” Bolsonaro said to a crowd of supporters at an inauguration ceremony for an infrastructure project.
“Besides being sure that I’m doing the right thing, I give you all a message different from dread,” he added, before the public started chanting a derogatory phrase about the CPI rapporteur.
The Brazilian president once again doubled down on his support for drugs without proven efficacy against Covid-19, such as hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, touting his “courage” to defend such treatments as possible solutions for the virus.
“If you don’t have a specific remedy, the medical doctor, according to the Federal Council of Medicine, has the freedom, the duty, to seek an alternative,” he said.
In the final report, 65 others are also recommended to be charged with a variety of alleged crimes, from incitement to crime to criminal organization formation.
Bolsonaro´s three sons Flavio, Eduardo and Carlos Bolsonaro are on the list as well as government ministries and top rank officials, both former and current Health ministers Eduardo Pazuello and Marcelo Queiroga and defense minister Walter Braga Netto. Congressmen, bloggers, medical advisers, and businessmen also appear on the list.
The commission’s senators are expected to vote on the final report next week, and if approved, the document will go to Attorney-General Augusto Aras, considered an ally of Bolsonaro, who would then have 30 days to announce any measures.
One of the main conclusions of the 1,180-page document is that the Brazilian government, “omitted and opted to act in a non-technical and reckless manner in the fight against the pandemic” … “deliberately exposing the population to a concrete risk of mass infection.”
The report also criticizes the government’s discouragement of sanitary measures, including going against scientific advice including the use of social distancing and the use of masks. The report denounced what it said was the Brazilian government’s deliberate delay in the purchase of vaccines and its push towards ineffective so-called treatments against Covid-19 such as hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin.
In the report, senators proposed a series of laws for Congress to pass, including criminalization of fake news, pensions for orphans, early retirement caused by Covid-19, and a 60-day time limit for the Congress to review requests to impeach Bolsonaro.
Late on Tuesday at the end of a meeting, CPI president Sen. Omar Aziz said the allegations of genocide against Brazilian Indigenous communities would also be dropped from the text, due to a lack of consensus.
“What we agreed upon is the issue of genocide, which was withdrawn. I think it’s for the better. (Report author) Sen. Renan Calheiros heard arguments from everybody, it was very clear,” Aziz told reporters.
Since the beginning of the CPI, when Brazil was facing its worst moment on the pandemic, Bolsonaro’s approval rate has consistently been going down.
The latest poll on Bolsonaro’s popularity, released in mid-September by Brazil’s largest opinion polling group Datafolha Institute, shows that 53% of Brazilians consider Jair Bolsonaro’s presidency to be “bad or awful.” It is the highest disapproval rate for this poll since he took office in 2019.
CNN has asked President Bolsonaro’s office for comment but did not receive a response. The President and his supporters have previously criticized the Senate’s investigation into his handling of the pandemic as politically motivated.
“They want to accuse me of genocide. Now, tell me in what country people have not died? This CPI has no credibility,” Bolsonaro said.
He also said then that he was “sorry about the dead, but people who were healthy had little chance of dying.”
CNN has also reached out to former Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello, current Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga and Defense minister Walter Braga Netto for comment.
Bolsonaro has long downplayed the severity of the virus, and argued for the need to prioritize Brazil’s economic health. He tested positive for Covid-19 in 2020.
Reporting contributed by CNN’s Rodrigo Pedroso and Shasta Darlington in Sao Paulo, and Samantha Beech in Atlanta. CNN’s Rob Picheta also contributed to this story.