Covid: Brazil's Bolsonaro 'should be charged with crimes against humanity'

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A protester holds a cross at a protest against Bolsonaro and his handling of the pandemic. File photoImage source, Reuters
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With over 600,000 fatalities, Brazil has the second-highest Covid-related death toll in the world behind only the US

Brazil's president should be accused of a series of crimes over his handling of the country's Covid-19 pandemic, a major inquiry report says.

The report is the culmination of a six-month inquiry that has revealed scandals and corruption in government.

President Bolsonaro has been accused of failing to control the virus that has killed more than 600,000 Brazilians.

The panel wants Mr Bolsonaro to face a number of criminal charges, including crimes against humanity.

Reacting to the report, the president insisted that "we know that we are guilty of absolutely nothing".

"We know that we did the right thing from the first moment," he said.

Initial drafts of the report had recommended the president be charged with homicide and genocide against indigenous groups.

But these recommendations were dropped from the final 1,200 page report.

The last minute changes to the report are a measure of just how charged the political atmosphere is here in Brazil.

These past six months, Brazilians have been glued to the inquiry that has revealed scandal after scandal, and there's no doubt in anyone's mind - left or right of the political spectrum - that this has done damage to Jair Bolsonaro's popularity.

Those who still support him say it's politically motivated. But for those angry over how he handled the pandemic, the allegations are serious and they want to see justice done.

And that's where the sticking point seems to have been - original accusations of mass homicide and indigenous genocide have been removed from the report because there was no consensus. Instead, they've been replaced by the crime of "epidemic resulting in death" - as well as other charges including crimes against humanity and misuse of public funds.

There are 11 senators that make up the inquiry - seven of which are critics of President Bolsonaro. But the critics all need to agree on the charges in order for them to get a majority and ensure the recommendations can be voted on and taken to federal prosecutors who can decide the next step.

Despite the serious allegations, it is not clear what this means for Mr Bolsonaro, according to our correspondent.

The draft report still needs to be voted on by the Senate commission where it could be vetoed and altered, and there is no guarantee it will lead to criminal charges.

Image source, Reuters
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President Bolsonaro continues to oppose any lockdown measures to curb the outbreak

President Bolsonaro has dismissed the Congressional inquiry as politically motivated. He has frequently spoken out against lockdowns, masks and vaccinations.

In March, he told Brazilians to "stop whining" about Covid, a day after the country saw a record rise in deaths over a 24-hour period.

However, Mr Bolsonaro's popularity has already been dented by the pandemic, and this report could make life much harder for him if he wants to run for a second term in Brazil's 2022 elections.

Brazil's confirmed Covid-related death toll is the second-highest in the world - behind only the US.

Speaking to the BBC ahead of the report's publication, the inquiry rapporteur, Senator Renan Calheiros, said the panel wanted to punish those who contributed to "this massacre of Brazilians".

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Looking after the babies and children in Brazil's Covid ICU