Jair Bolsonaro should face murder charges over Covid response, says Brazil's Senate inquiry

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Jair Bolsonaro has declined the vaccine and refused to wear a mask in public - EPA
Jair Bolsonaro has declined the vaccine and refused to wear a mask in public - EPA

Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, should be charged with murder for his role in his country's "stratospheric" Covid death toll, a draft Senate report has concluded.

The report, led by opposition senator Renan Calheiros, claims that Mr Bolsonaro undertook a "deliberate and conscious" decision to delay buying vaccines which caused the deaths of 95,000 Brazilians.

The nearly 1,200-page document criticises Mr Bolsonaro's anti-vaccine and anti-science rhetoric and is a damning indictment of the president's response to the pandemic which has killed more than 600,000 of his citizens, the second-highest death toll in the world.

Mr Bolsonaro has dismissed the probe as politically motivated.

It is highly unlikely that he will face a trial on any such charges, which would have to be brought by Brazil's prosecutor-general - a presidential nominee whom Mr Bolsonaro appointed.

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.

Coffins being buried in a cemetery in Manaus in April 2020, at the height of the pandemic - GETTY IMAGES
Coffins being buried in a cemetery in Manaus in April 2020, at the height of the pandemic - GETTY IMAGES

The report claims Mr Bolsonaro was guided "by an unfounded belief in the theory of herd immunity by natural infection and the existence of a treatment".

"The mathematics of the situation was clear: the more infections, the more death," the report adds. "Without vaccines mortality would have been stratospheric, as it turned out to be.

"We will never forget."

In total, the report recommends 13 criminal charges be brought against Mr Bolsonaro, including genocide against Brazil's indigenous population for a series of actions that left their communities vulnerable to the virus.

The president's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Bolsonaro told supporters the investigation was a "joke" and said he was not concerned about it.

Mr Bolsonaro has been widely criticised by public health experts for railing against lockdowns – including joining an anti-lockdown protest in April 2020, below – frequently refusing to wear a mask in public, and declaring he has not yet been vaccinated.

He has also pushed unproven remedies for the illness, such as antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine.

The report says Mr Bolsonaro is "principally responsible for the government's errors committed during the Covid-19 pandemic" and that he acted against the advice of his health department in supporting the use of unproven treatments.

Brazil's health department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

While Mr Bolsonaro may be unlikely to face charges following the report, it comes as part of a six-month Congressional inquiry into Brazil's Covid response that has greatly weakened his political reputation.

Mr Bolsonaro plans to seek re-election next year but his ratings have plummeted and polls suggest he faces a heavy defeat from former Left-wing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

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