Brazil senators readying call for Bolsonaro criminal charges

Brazil Colombia

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — Brazilian senators met into Tuesday night discussing a report that will recommend President Jair Bolsonaro be indicted on criminal charges for allegedly bungling the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and pushing the country's death toll to second-highest in the world.

The latest draft of the report arising from a Senate committee's investigation, a copy of which was reviewed by The Associated Press, recommends the president be indicted on 11 charges, from charlatanism and inciting crime all the way up to homicide and genocide.

In the committee's so-called “G7” group of senators who aren't from Bolsonaro's base, three opposed inclusion of homicide and genocide charges, said five committee members who agreed to discuss details of the sensitive talks only if not quoted by name. The three were trying to persuade their four peers to join in opposing the two charges, the senators said.

Whether they remain or not, analysts said it was unclear such recommendations would lead to charges against the president.

Bolsonaro has denied any wrongdoing, and repeatedly accused the investigation of being a political instrument aimed at sabotaging him.

Critics have denounced Bolsonaro for insistently downplaying the coronavirus' severity, ignoring international health guidelines on masks and restrictions on activity designed to prevent the virus' spread, touting unproven treatments and delaying acquisition of vaccines.

Anger over the president's stance prompted creation of the Senate committee in April, which has investigated allegations that Bolsonaro’s management of the pandemic caused many of Brazil's more than 600,000 deaths from COVID-19.

The draft report of nearly 1,200 pages was written by Sen. Renan Calheiros, who was scheduled to present his much-anticipated final version Wednesday to the 11-person committee.

The document has to be approved by the committee before being sent to the office of the prosecutor-general, a Bolsonaro appointee who would decide whether to carry forward the investigation and perhaps pursue charges. In Brazil, members of congressional committees can investigate, but don't have the power to indict.

Regardless of the exact content of the report's final version or whether the prosecutor-general moves forward, its allegations are expected to fuel criticism of the far-right leader, whose approval ratings have slumped ahead of his 2022 reelection campaign.

“The major impact of the investigation is political, because it generated tons of news that certainly will be used by campaign stra