Bolsonaro Accused of Crimes Against Humanity Over COVID Response

Jair Bolsonaro holds a hydroxychloroquine box in September 2020. Photo: Sergio Lima/AFP via Getty Images

A Brazilian Senate committee investigating Jair Bolsonaro’s response to COVID-19 has recommended in a report that the president face charges of crimes against humanity for his failure to stop the spread of the pandemic, which has killed over 600,000 Brazilians.

For the past six months, a committee of lawmakers has investigated the Brazilian government’s coronavirus measures, finding that the Bolsonaro administration “chose to act in a nontechnical and reckless manner” in an effort to achieve herd immunity. The report blames Bolsonaro’s encouragement of mass gatherings, his vaccine and mask skepticism, and his failure to secure vaccine doses as the cause for roughly half of the nation’s death toll — the largest of any country behind the U.S. Lawmakers also found that the administration failed to deliver on vaccine distributions for months because it was ignoring emails from Pfizer, choosing instead to overpay for an unapproved vaccine from India in a deal that was eventually canceled due to concerns about kickbacks. An advocate for hydroxychloroquine long after it was proven ineffective, Bolsonaro posted a video last year in which he took the anti-malarial after testing positive for COVID; he has since tested positive for the virus two more times and remains unvaccinated.

“I am personally convinced that he is responsible for escalating the slaughter,” Senator Renan Calheiros, the head of the committee, told the New York Times. The report also encourages charges against 69 other government officials and figures, including Bolsonaro’s eldest sons, who are all elected officials. Bolsonaro’s oldest son, Flávio, was on the 11-member investigatory committee, which voted on October 26 to formally recommend that the Brazilian prosecutor general Augusto Aras file the charges. Aras is an ally and appointee of the president, so it’s quite unlikely that Bolsonaro actually face charges for mismanaging the pandemic.

On the day that the Senate recommended Bolsonaro face crimes against humanity, he received another recognition for his first-term performance: an endorsement in the 2022 race from fellow COVID-downplayer Donald Trump.

This post has been updated.

Bolsonaro Accused of Crimes Against Humanity Over COVID