Brazil senators readying call for Bolsonaro criminal charges

Oct 19, 2021, 6:00 PM | Updated: 9:10 pm
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro talks on cell phone after meeting with Colombia's President Ivan...

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro talks on cell phone after meeting with Colombia's President Ivan Duque at Planalto presidential palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. Duque is on a two-day visit to Brazil. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

(AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — Brazilian senators met into Tuesday night discussing a report that will recommend President Jair Bolsonaro be indicted on criminal charges for allegedly bungling the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and pushing the country’s death toll to second-highest in the world.

The latest draft of the report arising from a Senate committee’s investigation, a copy of which was reviewed by The Associated Press, recommends the president be indicted on 11 charges, from charlatanism and inciting crime all the way up to homicide and genocide.

In the committee’s so-called “G7” group of senators who aren’t from Bolsonaro’s base, three opposed inclusion of homicide and genocide charges, said five committee members who agreed to discuss details of the sensitive talks only if not quoted by name. The three were trying to persuade their four peers to join in opposing the two charges, the senators said.

Whether they remain or not, analysts said it was unclear such recommendations would lead to charges against the president.

Bolsonaro has denied any wrongdoing, and repeatedly accused the investigation of being a political instrument aimed at sabotaging him.

Critics have denounced Bolsonaro for insistently downplaying the coronavirus’ severity, ignoring international health guidelines on masks and restrictions on activity designed to prevent the virus’ spread, touting unproven treatments and delaying acquisition of vaccines.

Anger over the president’s stance prompted creation of the Senate committee in April, which has investigated allegations that Bolsonaro’s management of the pandemic caused many of Brazil’s more than 600,000 deaths from COVID-19.

The draft report of nearly 1,200 pages was written by Sen. Renan Calheiros, who was scheduled to present his much-anticipated final version Wednesday to the 11-person committee.

The document has to be approved by the committee before being sent to the office of the prosecutor-general, a Bolsonaro appointee who would decide whether to carry forward the investigation and perhaps pursue charges. In Brazil, members of congressional committees can investigate, but don’t have the power to indict.

Regardless of the exact content of the report’s final version or whether the prosecutor-general moves forward, its allegations are expected to fuel criticism of the far-right leader, whose approval ratings have slumped ahead of his 2022 reelection campaign.

“The major impact of the investigation is political, because it generated tons of news that certainly will be used by campaign strategists next year,” said Thiago de Aragão, director of strategy at political consultancy Arko Advice.

In its current shape, the draft report concludes that the government “deliberately exposed the population to a concrete risk of mass infection,” influenced by a group of unofficial advisers who advocated for pursuing herd immunity even after many experts said that wasn’t a viable option.

Even during the worst throes of the pandemic, Bolsonaro steadfastly opposed social distancing measures, claiming the poor would suffer worse hardship if the economy ground to a halt. He continues to argue that the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine is effective in treating COVID-19, though scientists have dismissed it as ineffective.

Throughout six months of investigation, senators have obtained thousands of documents and taken testimony from over 60 people.

“This committee collected evidence that abundantly demonstrated that the federal government was silent and chose to act in a non-technical and reckless manner,” the draft report reads.

A particularly thorny issue has been Sen. Calheiros’ insistence on including a recommendation that the International Criminal Court investigate Bolsonaro for possible genocide of Indigenous peoples, said the senators who spoke with AP. This has angered committee members, including critics of the government, who say genocide is an exaggeration that could threaten the entire report’s credibility, they said.

While there is less opposition among senators to recommending indictment for homicide, they have similar concerns about doing so, the senators said.

“The prosecutor-general’s office will look with a magnifying glass for errors, failures and inconsistencies in order to wash their hands of it,” said political analyst Carlos Melo, who teaches at Insper University in Sao Paulo. “If you have 10 accusations that are very strong, and one that has inconsistencies, that’s what the government will latch on to, to try and discredit the whole report.”

In addition to Bolsonaro, the draft report recommends charges for dozens of allies and current and former members of his administration. The three senators opposed to recommending homicide and genocide charges for Bolsonaro also reject indicting Bolsonaro’s lawmaker son, Sen. Flávio Bolsonaro, senators said.

Senators on the committee have also been wary of calling for charges against members of the military.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

This combination of 2021 photos shows Philadelphia Eagles' Jason Kelce,, left, and Billie Eilish in...
Associated Press

‘Cheugy,’ ‘omicron’ among 2021’s most mispronounced words

“Cheugy” is apparently a lot to chew on. Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Billie Eilish and Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce have something in common — broadcasters butcher their names. And virtually everyone is having trouble with “omicron.” All four made it onto this year’s list of most mispronounced words as compiled by the U.S. Captioning Company, […]
24 hours ago
FILE - Voters sign in at Frank McCourt High School for New York's party primaries, June 22, 2021, i...
Associated Press

New York City poised to give voting rights to noncitizens

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City, long a beacon for immigrants, is on the cusp of becoming the largest places in the country to give noncitizens the right to vote in local elections. Legally documented, voting-age noncitizens comprise nearly one in nine of the city’s 7 million voting-age inhabitants. Under a bill nearing approval, […]
24 hours ago
Two Afghan men pray at a bus station in Herat, Afghanistan, on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021, before they ...
Associated Press

Desperation drives thousands of Afghans a day across borders

HERAT, Afghanistan (AP) — Over the course of an hour on a recent night, the bus waiting in the Herat station filled with passengers. Mostly young men, they had no luggage, just the clothes on their backs, maybe a bag with some bread and water for the long road ahead of them. That road is […]
24 hours ago
Pearl Harbor survivor Herb Elfring speaks at a news conference in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Sunday, D...
Associated Press

Survivors gather to remember those lost at Pearl Harbor

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) — A few dozen survivors of Pearl Harbor are expected to gather Tuesday at the site of the Japanese bombing 80 years ago to remember those killed in the attack that launched the U.S. into World War II. Herb Elfring, 99, said he’s glad to return to Pearl Harbor considering he […]
24 hours ago
A man wearing a face mask walks past a bank's electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index in...
Associated Press

Asian stocks follow Wall Street higher as virus fears ease

BEIJING (AP) — Asia stock markets followed Wall Street higher Tuesday as anxiety about the coronavirus’s latest variant eased. Shanghai, Tokyo and Hong Kong advanced. Oil prices gained for a second day. Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index gained 1.2% after the chief White House medical adviser said the omicron variant might be less dangerous. […]
24 hours ago
People hold umbrellas as it begins to rain on an otherwise empty beach in Honolulu on Monday, Dec. ...
Associated Press

Dangerous storm threatens havoc across Hawaiian archipelago

HONOLULU (AP) — From the empty shores of Oahu’s Waikiki Beach to the snowy summit of the Big Island’s highest peak, an unusually strong winter storm is clobbering the Hawaiian Islands and raising the threat of dangerous flash floods, landslides and crashing tree limbs. The strong storm over the nation’s only island state left eloping […]
24 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Canvas Annuity

Annuity basics: how to retire with a guaranteed paycheck for life

Does the thought of retirement fill you with stress or with happiness? Everyone wants to spend their retirement in a way that brings them the most joy, whether that’s traveling the world or spending extra time at home with grandkids.
...
DISC DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

What you need to know about spine health

With 540 million people suffering from lower back pain, it remains the leading cause of long-term disability. That’s why World Spine Day on Oct. 16 will raise awareness about spinal health with its theme, BACK2BACK. “BACK2BACK will focus on highlighting ways in which people can help their spines by staying mobile, avoiding physical inactivity, not overloading […]
...
Schwartz Laser Eye Center

How to sharpen your vision with elective procedures

Imagine opening your eyes in the morning and being able to see clearly. You wouldn’t have to wait to put on glasses or contacts, and there would be no more blurry showers nor forgetting where your glasses are.
Brazil senators readying call for Bolsonaro criminal charges