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Monday, May 20, 2024

Jair Bolsonaro and his crimes against humanity

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When the pandemic broke and the WHO sounded the alarm, nations across the world began taking heed, scurrying to put in place protocols that would save their citizens from the worst ravages of the viral attack. But some countries and leaders either lived in wilful denial or willingly chose to ignore the threat. There were so-called strong, nationalistic and swashbuckling leaders who phoo phooed at the perils of the fast-spreading contagion.

In retrospect, some leaders, like Boris Johnson of the UK, course-corrected; some countries with deep democratic principles voted their leader, who had wilfully bungled the response, out of power, like Donald Trump of the USA; and then there is Brazil that has decided to launch criminal proceedings against their President.

Brazil is one of the worst impacted by the virus, where the leadership of Jair Bolsonaro is accused of having directly contributed to the devastation. More than 600,000 people died of Covid-19 in Brazil, second only to the USA in death figures.

The senators of Brazil on October 26 formally accepted an indictment report of President Bolsonaro’s actions during the pandemic. The 11-member Senate panel voted 7 to 4 to recommend prosecution based on the report, which concludes that President Bolsonaro should be held personally responsible for 300,000 avoidable deaths. According to the report, he delayed the purchase of vaccines; he told Brazilians to ‘stop whining’ even when people were dropping dead like flies; he stopped local and regional governments from implementing restrictions saying the economy cannot be made to suffer; he called the infections a ‘little flu’ and made fun of those who wore masks and practised social distancing; he told the people to go in for scientifically untested and quack solutions.

For 6 months, a committee had been going over with a toothcomb every action and inaction of Bolsonaro and his government’s handling of the pandemic. The Committee presented its nearly 1200-page report calling for prosecutors to try Bolsonaro on charges ranging from charlatanism, inciting crime, misuse of public funds and crimes against humanity. Of the 13 charges, there is one of genocide against indigenous communities for actions that left them vulnerable to the virus. The report is not just against Bolsonaro but against 78 people in total that include the President’s 3 sons, government officials and other politicians.

The report includes 2 counts of what is called ‘crime of responsibility, ‘ something that provides the grounds for impeachment but that might be a long shot since the Speaker of the Lower House is said to be sitting on more than a hundred other previous impeachment requests. But what the report is expected to do is put the truth of Jair Bolsonaro, who faces re-election in 2022, in front of the people of Brazil. A copy of the report will possibly get sent to the International Criminal Court in The Hague because one of the charges against Bolsonaro is crimes against humanity.

Meanwhile, President Jair Bolsonaro has denied all charges. The decision to file the charges would now be decided by the Prosecutor General of Brazil Augusto Aros, who being a Bolsonaro appointee, might not prosecute his President.

Minutes after the report had been accepted by the Senate, Bolsonaro’s idol from up north gave out a statement in his support. Former US President Donald Trump said “President Jair Bolsonaro and I have become great friends over the past few years. He fights hard for, and loves, the people of Brazil — just like I do for the people of the United States,” He went on to add that “Brazil is lucky to have a man such as Jair Bolsonaro working for them. He is a great President and will never let the people of his great country down!” The support from the former US President did not come as a surprise because theirs is a mutual admiration society with Bolsonaro projecting himself as the Trump of the Tropics. He was also one of the last leaders to recognise Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump.

Brazil, on October 26th, became that rare country to have put on record that their leader failed to protect the nation and willingly harmed it, showing that whatever other problems Brazil may have, its democratic fundamentals are holding strong. The country’s Federal Senate, representing the various provinces and regions of Brazil, recommending prosecution of a sitting President gives the message that the will of federation remains stronger than the wilful machinations of one individual.

Brazil has sent out a strong message to other democracies tottering on the brink of totalitarianism that it is possible to put on record the misdemeanours of those who misuse the mandate that the people entrust in them, forever tainting their legacy with criminal intent over the glory of adulation that brought them to power.

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