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“The report assigns more than 100 years in prison to the president of the republic,” said Senator Randolfe Rodrigues, the inquiry’s vice president. “That is what the collection of suggested crimes points to.”
What’s going on with Bolsonaro?
- Last week, a congressional inquiry alleged that Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro should be criminally charged over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The final 1,180 paged report accuses Bolsonaro of “crimes against humanity,” among other things, of a pandemic response that has so far led to the death of over 600,000 Brazilians.
- The reason we say “final" is because a previous draft of the report had actually accused the president of murder and genocide of Brazil’s indigenous populations. Now, the final version just points out that these deaths disproportionately affected these communities – a group of Brazilians that Bolsonaro has been publicly hostile toward.
- “The report assigns more than 100 years in prison to the president of the republic,” said Senator Randolfe Rodrigues, the inquiry’s vice president. “That is what the collection of suggested crimes points to.”
- Bolsonaro himself, though, was defensive, saying, “we know that we are guilty of absolutely nothing. We know that we did the right thing from the first moment."
- He’s also been critical of the inquiry itself, saying it had “produced nothing but hatred and resentment.”
Will Bolsonaro actually be punished, though?
- From a legal perspective, it seems somewhat unlikely.
- Seven of the 11 Senators that make up the inquiry are critical of Bolsonaro, but they would have to agree on the actual charges for it to get referred to federal prosecutors.
- And even if it is referred, the attorney general in Brazil is a Bolsonaro ally, as is the lower house in the Brazilian Congress.
- But that doesn’t mean there won’t be any repercussions at all.
- Although experts are skeptical that Bolsonaro will face criminal charges, this move from Bolsonaro’s opposition is at least in part intended to drag his name through the mud before he runs for reelection.
- And so even if it this doesn’t put him behind bars, the president will likely pay a political price for this one way or another.
Is he the only one?
- Not at all; there are plenty of other world leaders facing criticism for handling the pandemic.
- For example, in September, France’s former health minister Agnès Buzyn was charged by investigators over how she handled the pandemic. According to the special French court that deals with government accountability, Buzyn “[endangered] the lives of others.”
- These accusations have direct political effects on the country’s president, Emmanuel Macron, who is up for reelection in 2022.
- And in the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing criticism after a parliamentary inquiry, led by members of his own conservative party, found that missteps in Britain cost thousands of lives in the country.
- The parliamentary report said that the handling of the pandemic was “one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced,” and that it was responsible for “many thousands of deaths which could have been avoided.”
- But it’s not just nation leaders that are under scrutiny. Last year, The World Health Organization’s Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus repeatedly came under fire.
- Well, these inquiries are only the beginning for many of these world and agency leaders. Because, while much of the world is learning to “live with the virus,” the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over.
- And it’s also not always clear who exactly has jurisdiction in these cases. While there is overlap, human rights abuse accusations, like in Bolsonaro’s case, are typically handled by international courts. Meanwhile, issues of crisis handling, like in Johnson’s case, usually fall under national jurisdiction.
- Overall, though, it’s going to be a little while until we know anything specific. But, these cases are worth paying attention to since world leaders’ reputations are on the line and, at the very least, will impact their chances of reelection.
- How these cases progress may also act as a precedent for what will happen to some of the other world leaders who have also been scrutinized for their handling of the pandemic.