The parliamentary commission of enquiry concluded in its final report that the Brazilian president and 67 others committed crimes against public health during the covid19 pandemic.
This past Wednesday the parliamentary commission that investigated the actions and omissions of the Brazilian government during the covid19 pandemic presented its final report. In more than a thousand pages that were summarised for reading in a 50-page report, the commission’s rapporteur Renan Calheiros exposed that the government’s actions caused more than 600,000 deaths.
The report, which will be voted on by the commission next week for approval, details nine crimes committed by the president during the pandemic. Among them are epidemic with death as a result, incitement of preventive health measures, incitement to crime, falsification of documents, irregular use of the public budget and crime against humanity. In addition to Bolsonaro, the president’s three sons who are active in politics, 63 other people and two companies were also accused of various crimes.
Once voted, the report will be submitted to the Attorney General’s Office, whose task will be to lead the investigations into the defendants who have immunity. This is the case of President Bolsonaro himself, ministers and federal parliamentarians. In turn, it will be addressed to the Public Prosecutor’s Office of each state, the Federal Police, the Federal Revenue Service, the president of the Chamber of Deputies – responsible for including the impeachment request in the agenda for debate – and the International Criminal Court, for accusations of crimes against humanity.
Over the course of six months, the parliamentary committee of enquiry addressed the health situation from different perspectives. One of the most prominent aspects was the denialist strategy adopted by the government, which from the outset sought to sabotage the measures of social distancing, the use of masks and the promotion of vaccination.
With a vast amount of material, including videos of the president and his allies advocating the use of remedies proven to be ineffective and stimulating crowds to defend the thesis of herd immunity through contagion, the CPI showed that there was an intention to spread the virus. According to the report, it is estimated that about 40 per cent of the infections could have been prevented if this strategy had not been adopted, and some 120,000 lives could have been saved.
“The federal government, in particular President Jair Bolsonaro, with the use of the public machine, frequently and repeatedly, encouraged the Brazilian population to continue with their normal routine, without warning for the necessary care, despite all the information available on the high risk of this strategy,” says the report.
The report also points to the existence of a parallel cabinet, composed of businessmen and doctors who advised the government to promote the use of hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, two drugs that are not suitable for treating covid19 and that have been rejected as treatments by the World Health Organisation and other scientific institutions.
“The insistence on early treatment to the detriment of vaccination points to the President of the Republic as the main responsible for the government’s mistakes during the Covid19 pandemic, as he was correctly informed and guided by the Ministry of Health, and yet he acted against technical guidelines, disregarding any warning that contradicted his ideas without scientific basis, or simply dismissing the technicians responsible for these warnings,” the text says.
In April 2020, the president dismissed the then Minister of Health Luis Henrique Mandetta, an advocate of the scientific method, and appointed Nelson Teich, a businessman with a medical degree who lasted 29 days in office and was replaced by General Eduardo Pazuello. Pazuello’s tenure saw the most harrowing images of the pandemic, when in January 2021 dozens of people died in Manaus from lack of oxygen. During the investigation, the CPI found that after being alerted to the impending collapse, the ministry sent thousands of doses of hydroxychloroquine to the Amazonian capital.
At the same time, the CPI noted that this strategy was adopted by private hospitals in order to reduce the cost of hospitalisation of patients. This is the case of the Prevent Senior social work, accused by twelve doctors of pressuring for the prescription of these medicines even in patients with pathologies that prevented the consumption of these drugs due to their deadly side effects.
In order for the denialist strategy to gain popularity, the dissemination of fake news through official bodies was fundamental, according to the report. “The fake news related to Covid19 involved several topics, such as the origin of the virus, with xenophobic attacks on China; unfounded opposition to social isolation; the disclosure that the Supreme Court would have prohibited the federal government from acting to combat the pandemic; encouragement of early treatment; misinformation about the number of deaths from Covid-19; the challenge to the effectiveness of the use of masks; and, finally, anti-vaccine propaganda,” the text says.
It reinforces that the consequences of these actions were tragic: “The dissemination of fake news created a climate of mistrust in the population, encouraged people to act frivolously as normal, created dangerous and unnecessary exposure and, consequently, contributed to the loss of additional lives during the pandemic.
The ICC also delved into the delay in the purchase of vaccines, which was attributed to the adoption of a denialist strategy that led to higher infection and death tolls. The report points to the existence of a corruption scheme in the purchase of vaccines through overpricing and negotiation with outsourced companies that had already been investigated for corruption and embezzlement. Although the pro-government senators insisted that such corruption could not be proven because the purchase of the vaccines was cancelled after the information became known, the rapporteur highlighted the government’s intention to divert money, which constitutes a crime because the intention existed even if the act was not carried out.
In relation to the situation of indigenous peoples during the pandemic, the ICC noted that the government was responsible for “policies against the rights of indigenous peoples”, that covid19 was the “most deadly” weapon and that it was used deliberately by refusing to provide vital supplies, using the little assistance offered as an alibi to try to “conceal deliberate omissions in its duty to protect”.
After six months of investigation and statements from people directly or indirectly linked to the health crisis, the countless public statements by the president and the analysis of the measures taken since the beginning of the pandemic, the role of Jair Bolsonaro’s government is more than clear. The presentation of the report at the International Criminal Court will be added to the six other complaints against the president at the Haia for genocide against indigenous peoples and crimes against humanity. Even with the weight of the report and the volume of evidence presented, it remains to be seen whether Brazilian institutions will move forward with an investigation and subsequent complaint that could hold those involved accountable or whether they will be complicit in one of the saddest and darkest periods of Brazilian history.