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Brazil's Bolsonaro should face homicide charge for COVID-19 errors: Senate report

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro (photo by AP)

A Brazilian congressional panel probing the country’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has concluded that President Jair Bolsonaro should be charged with homicide for decisions that led to the spread of the coronavirus and the deaths of thousands in a failed attempt to achieve herd immunity.

The draft report from the investigation prepared by opposition Senator Renan Calheiros initially accused Bolsonaro of mass homicide and genocide against Brazil's indigenous population, asserting that he intentionally let the coronavirus rip through the country and kill at least 300,000 people, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

The Brazilian president is "principally responsible for the government's errors committed during the COVID-19 pandemic," the report said, adding that he acted against the advice of the country's Health Ministry in supporting the use of unproven remedies, such as such as antimalarial hydroxychloroquine.

The nearly 1,200-page document also blamed Bolsonaro for deliberately turning down early offers to purchase vaccines, delaying Brazil's inoculation campaign, encouraging mass gatherings, and spreading skepticism toward wearing masks, emphasizing that such policies led to the escalation of the situation.

Bolsonaro was guided "by an unfounded belief in the theory of herd immunity by natural infection and the existence of a treatment," the report said, adding, "Without the vaccine, deaths would be stratospheric, as they turned out to be."

It further recommended that 13 criminal charges be brought against the Brazilian president and 69 other people, including three of Bolsonaro's sons as well as current and former government officials.

The other crimes the report alleges include malfeasance, irregular use of public funds, violation of sanitary measures, incitement to crime and forgery of private documents.

Bolsonaro has been widely criticized by public health experts for his failure to respond to the pandemic in a timely fashion and reluctance to introduce restrictive measures in fear of damaging the economy.

However, it remains highly unlikely that Bolsonaro will face a trial on any criminal charges following the report from the 11-member panel that has been investigating for six months.

The draft report still needs to be voted on by the Senate and could be vetoed and altered. The vote is scheduled to take place next week.

Earlier in the day, Bolsonaro dismissed the probe as a "joke" and "politically motivated," saying he is not concerned about it.

The report comes at a time when Bolsonaro's ratings are plummeting, threatening his chances of re-election next year.

Brazil has the second-highest death count from COVID-19, behind only the United States.

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