By Ricardo Brito and Lisandra Paraguassu
BRASILIA (Reuters) – The final report of Covid’s CPI, presented on Wednesday by Senator Renan Calheiros (MDB-AL), points to President Jair Bolsonaro as the main responsible for errors in the conduct of the coronavirus pandemic in the country, suggesting the indictment of him for ten crimes, including crimes against humanity and an epidemic resulting in death, with combined sentences of 78 years in prison.
The 1,180-page document also intends to hold another 66 people accountable, among them the three parliamentary sons of Bolsonaro, four government ministers such as Health, Marcelo Queiroga, and Defense, Walter Braga Neto, former ministers Eduardo Pazuello (Health ) and Ernesto Araújo (Itamaraty), the government leader in the Chamber, Ricardo Barros (PP-PR), in addition to two companies.
The vote on the opinion is scheduled to take place next Tuesday, the 26th. If approved, the text should be delivered the following day to the Attorney General of the Republic, Augusto Aras, responsible for assessing whether he agrees with the committee’s conclusions and decides sue Bolsonaro and other authorities with privileged jurisdiction before the Supreme Court (STF).
In this Wednesday’s session, the rapporteur stated that the result of the six months of work by the CPI demonstrates the government’s omission and the clear intention of exposing the population to the coronavirus in order to achieve herd immunity.
“This Parliamentary Commission for Inquiry into the Pandemic collected evidence that clearly demonstrated that the Federal Government was silent and chose to act in a non-technical and reckless manner in confronting the pandemic of the new coronavirus, deliberately exposing the population to a concrete risk of mass infection ”, said Renan.
The senator also listed the existence of a parallel cabinet formed by doctors, politicians and businessmen, to advise the president, encouraging people to deny measures such as wearing a mask and adopting “early treatment” with ineffective drugs, and resistance the purchase of vaccines as evidence that the government, and specifically Bolsonaro, was betting on natural herd immunity.
According to the rapporteur, Bolsonaro used the public machine to encourage the population to follow their normal routine, even with information about the risks. “The government’s emphasis was on protecting and preserving the economy, as well as on encouraging the maintenance of commercial activities, including official propaganda proclaiming that Brazil could not stop”, he recalled.
At the same time that Renan was reading his opinion, at a public event in the interior of Ceará in the early afternoon, Bolsonaro exempted himself from responsibility by saying that he knew “we are not to blame for anything” and that he did the “right thing from the first moment,” again defending the use of ineffective drugs against Covid. He even downplayed the investigations.
“How good it would be if that CPI had been doing something productive for our country. It took time from our minister of Health, servants, humble people and businessmen”, he said. “They produced nothing but hatred and rancor,” he amended.
Renan made last-minute changes to his report after a dinner Tuesday night at which independent and opposition senators met to iron out the rough edges. The atmosphere on Wednesday was one of public union after the president of the CPI, Omar Aziz (PSD-AM), publicly complained about the rapporteur on the eve of the indictment suggestions. The previous version of the opinion provided for the responsibility of 71 people and two companies.
On Wednesday, the rapporteur justified the changes, citing that the request for indictment of Bolsonaro for genocide of indigenous people was replaced by a crime against humanity to better typify the crimes. He also accepted the technical arguments of senator Alessandro Vieira (Cidadania-SE), a delegate for more than two decades, and withdrew the request for indictment for the crime of aggravated homicide against the president.
In total, the president is the target of indictment requests for the following crimes: epidemic resulting in death; infraction of preventive sanitary measure; quackery; incitement to crime; forgery of private document; irregular employment of public funds; malfeasance; crimes against humanity, in the form of extermination, persecution and other inhumane acts; violation of social rights; and incompatibility with the dignity, honor, and decorum of office.
After reading the text, Renan told Reuters that, with the amendments, his opinion will be approved by the CPI with the votes of “all of the G7”, in a reference to the majority group of the inquiry commission, which has been dictating the course of the investigations.
Covid’s CPI vice president, Randolfe Rodrigues (Rede-AP), stated that the crimes committed by President Jair Bolsonaro in the pandemic could earn him 78 years in prison, noting that the tragedy will not be forgotten.
“This tragedy will not be forgotten by us, and this group (G7) will work in every way so that those indicted in this final report, including the President of the Republic, who is charged at least 78 years in prison, can respond in the criminal courts of Brazil and even in the International Criminal Court”, said Randolfe.
The president’s allies reacted to the rapporteur’s opinion. The government leader in the Senate, Fernando Bezerra (MDB-PE), called Renan’s report a political ploy and stated that there are no legal elements to indict Bolsonaro, in a previous defense of the Executive during the session.
“A political act cannot lead to the criminalization of a President of the Republic of a country with more than 200 million inhabitants. Law cannot be used as a policy instrument. In this sense, either a final technical report is produced or a politically committed opinion is drawn up. There is no way to mix the two things, that is, the appearance of technicality in an ideological report”, he said.
Other allies and those involved in Renan’s report have refuted the conclusions in public demonstrations, saying that it is a text aimed at wearing down the president and the government electorally.
Ricardo Barros has already said that he will sue the rapporteur and anyone who supports his opinion for slanderous denunciation and abuse of power, saying that none of the deponents of the CPI involved him in irregularities in the case of contracting the vaccine from Indian Covaxin de Covid.
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