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Brazil cmte. backs criminal charges against Bolsonaro for handling of epidemic

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)
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is seen during a press conference in Brasilia, Brazil, on October 22, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

A Brazilian senate investigation committee has voted to approve a report that recommends a series of criminal charges be filed against President Jair Bolsonaro over his government's handling of the coronavirus epidemic.

Seven of the panel's 11 senators voted to endorse the text, which calls for prosecutors to try Bolsonaro on charges ranging from charlatanism and inciting crime to the misuse of public funds and crimes against humanity.

The report also called for Bolsonaro to be indicted for genocide and murder, but senators later dropped those particular charges, citing technical reasons.

The 1,200-page report, presented last week, calls for the indictment of 77 other people as well, including three of Bolsonaro's children.

"The chaos of Jair Bolsonaro's government will enter history as the lowest level of human destitution," said Senator Renan Calheiros, the rapporteur of the report.

After six months of investigation, the committee found that the far-right president "deliberately exposed" Brazilians to "mass infection" in a disastrous attempt to reach herd immunity from the coronavirus.

Brazil has so far recorded more than 600,000 coronavirus-related deaths, the world's second-highest.

The report also urges Brazil's Supreme Court to suspend the far-right leader's access to his accounts on social media platforms YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for falsely alleging that COVID-19 vaccines were linked to the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

The report called on the high court to order Bolsonaro to make a retraction in a nationally televised address, "refuting any correlation between vaccination against the coronavirus and developing AIDS," or face a fine of 50,000 reais ($9,000) for every day he fails to comply.

The committee does not have the power to bring charges itself, and it is unlikely Bolsonaro will face any formal charges, as they would have to be brought by the attorney general or the lower house speaker, both of whom are Bolsonaro's allies.

The allegation of crimes against humanity would also need to be pursued by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Senator Omar Aziz, the chairman of the inquiry, however said he would deliver the recommendation to the prosecutor general on Wednesday morning.

Prosecutor General Augusto Aras, a Bolsonaro appointee, said it would be carefully reviewed as soon as it is received.

Bolsonaro has previously dismissed the senate investigation as a "joke."

Since the start of the pandemic, the president has sabotaged local leaders' restrictions on activity aimed at stopping the virus' spread. He has assembled crowds without wearing masks and sowed doubt about COVID-19 vaccines. He has said he does not plan to be vaccinated and joked in the past that the vaccine could "turn you into an alligator."

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