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Brazilian Senate Panel Recommends Criminal Charges Against Bolsonaro Over COVID Response

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A woman wrapped in a Brazilian flag chants slogans during a protest against Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Oct. 2, 2021.

A report by a special Brazilian Senate committee recommended Wednesday that President Jair Bolosonaro face criminal charges for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 600,000 people, the world’s second-highest death toll after the United States.

Senator Renan Calheiros prepared the nearly 1,200-page report, which accuses Bolsonaro of pushing the use of unproven remedies such as hydroxychloroquine even after they were shown to be ineffective, and delaying the purchase of vaccines.

The report calls for Bolsonaro to be indicted on multiple charges, including crimes against humanity, charlatanism and inciting crime.

The committee dropped a recommendation in their draft report to charge him with genocide and homicide. These charges were dropped due to opposition from committee members and concern that accusations perceived as excessive could undermine the report's credibility.

The report can still be changed prior to a committee vote on October 26, and the decision to file most of the charges rests with Brazil's prosecutor-general, a presidential appointee.

The report concludes that Bolsonaro believed that allowing the ailment to spread across Brazil would lead to herd immunity, when enough of the population becomes immune through previous infection. The coronavirus causes the COVID-19 disease.

The report also recommends that charges be brought against dozens of former and current government officials and allies of the president, including three of his sons, one of them a prominent senator.

The report went to the full 11-person panel Wednesday. The move follows a six-month investigation into Bolsonaro’s response to the pandemic, which he has dismissed as a “joke” and politically motivated.

Critics have denounced Bolsonaro for downplaying the severity of the pandemic by discouraging such mitigation efforts as mask-wearing, lockdowns and vaccinations.

The full committee is expected to approve the report next week and forward it to the president’s hand-picked prosecutor-general, making it unlikely Bolsonaro will be formally prosecuted.

Some information for this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters.

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