Brazil, in search of culprits for the half million killed by Covid-19

A special commission in the Senate investigates the possible crimes committed by the Bolsonaro Government in its denialist management of the pandemic

Protest by the NGO Ro for peace with thousands of roses representing those killed by the pandemic.

Copacabana beach in Ro de Janeiro I woke up on Sunday with 500 red roses in memory of the half a million victims that cCovid-19 I already left in the country. According to official data from the Ministry of Health, 500,800 Brazilians have already lost their lives and there are more than 17.8 million confirmed cases. Deaths are increasing, with an average close to 2,000 deaths per day, and if this rate is maintained in a few months, Brazil will overtake the United States and will become the country in the world hardest hit by the pandemic, despite the fact that it is the ninth in the world. population. Among the roses placed in the sand, a poster invited reflection: ‘Where did we go wrong?’.

The protest on the beach, organized by the NGO Rio de Paz, wanted to be a tribute to the victims, but also a cry of protest, as its president, Antnio Carlos Costa, explained to EL MUNDO: “The pandemic numbers in Brazil are unacceptable. The president’s lack of tears in the pandemic is a scary thing. Yesterday we reached half a million dead and he did not comment on what is happening. It is time for Brazilian society to answer the question on this poster. Society has to understand that it was wrong; part of it gave effusive, unconditional, fanatical support to the president. The leadership of this government should be removed from public life, “he lamented.

Bolsonaro called “fagots” those who followed the sanitary recommendations and they stayed home for fear of dying, and even made jokes by imitating intubated patients with shortness of breath. The amount of disrespectful gestures is long, and easy fuel for indignation, but in the last weeks something is moving in Brasilia beyond the public communications, the collection of signatures and the petitions for ‘impeachment’ fell on deaf ears.

The Senate established a special investigation commission to clarify the possible crimes committed by the Government in the management of the crisis. It is not just about omission or negligence. The commission’s rapporteur, Senator Renan Calheiros, repeatedly explained that the main objective is to find out if the denial of the pandemic was a pretext for the virus to spread as quickly as possible, to achieve the so-called ‘herd immunity’ as soon as possible, despite the enormous cost in lives. Staying idly will be part of the plan.

“We still cannot say that there was genocide, not yet,” he said after the first weeks of interrogation, although he ended up comparing the attitude of senior government officials with that of the marshals of Nazism in the Nuremberg Tribunal“, presenting themselves as saviors of the country while history proved that they were part of a machinery of death.”

For the moment, the commission has already reached important conclusions, like the government ignored at least 53 emails from Pfizer offering millions of vaccines. The pharmacist made contact for the first time in August of last year, with the aim of turning Brazil into a “showcase” of vaccination in the world, but the Government was indifferent and only signed the first purchase contract in March of this year. Bolsonaro is one of the few world leaders who questioned the efficacy and safety of vaccines, which could have arrived months earlier and saved thousands of lives.

The Government also took months to respond to the alerts that arrived from Manaus warning that hospitals were running out of oxygen cylinders, which caused the total collapse of hospitals in the capital of Amazonas in January. Meanwhile, huge amounts of money and a lot of diplomatic energy were invested in obtaining hundreds of millions of doses of chloroquine, when the entire scientific community had already ruled out the efficacy of this drug for patients with Covid-19. The existence of a ‘parallel cabinet’ was also demonstrated that advised Bolsonaro by telling him what he wanted to hear, outside the technical opinions of the Ministry of Health.

From witnesses to investigated

At the moment, 14 high-ranking government officials have gone from being witnesses to being investigated by the Senate committee, including the current Minister of Health, Marcelo Queiroga and his predecessor, General Eduardo Pazuello. When the commission finishes its work, it will prepare a report that could serve as a basis for the Prosecutor to formally denounce the executive leadership. Nor is it ruled out taking Bolsonaro before the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where he is already facing other complaints for the massacre of indigenous peoples.

In parallel to the advances in the Senate, the indignation also began to take the streets of the country. On Saturday, for the second time in less than a month, the opposition mobilized to hundreds of thousands of people in more than 300 cities throughout Brazil.

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