Skip to main content

The extraordinary accusations appear in a nearly 1,200-page report that effectively blames Bolsonaro’s policies for the deaths of more than 300,000 Brazilians.Andressa Anholete/Getty Images

A Brazilian congressional panel is set to recommend mass homicide charges against President Jair Bolsonaro, asserting that he intentionally let the coronavirus rip through the country and kill hundreds of thousands in a failed bid to achieve herd immunity and revive Latin America’s largest economy.

A report from a congressional investigation, excerpts from which were viewed by The New York Times ahead of its scheduled release this week, also recommends criminal charges against 69 other people, including three of Mr. Bolsonaro’s sons and numerous current and former government officials.

The extraordinary accusations appear in a nearly 1,200-page report that effectively blames Mr. Bolsonaro’s policies for the deaths of more than 300,000 Brazilians, half of the country’s coronavirus death toll, and urges the Brazilian authorities to imprison the President, according to the excerpts from the report and interviews with two of the committee’s senators.

“Many of these deaths were preventable,” Renan Calheiros, the centrist Brazilian senator who was the lead author of the report, said in an interview in his office late Monday. “I am personally convinced that he is responsible for escalating the slaughter.”

It is unclear at best whether the report will lead to criminal charges. But it may prove a major escalation in the political challenges confronting Mr. Bolsonaro, a polarizing leader who took office in 2019, faces re-election next year and is suffering falling popularity.

From the outset of the pandemic, Mr. Bolsonaro has gone out of his way to minimize the threat of the virus. As countries around the world locked down, and his own people began filling hospitals, he encouraged mass gatherings and discouraged masks. An avowed vaccine skeptic, he lashed out at any who dared criticize him as irresponsible.

Those actions, the report argued, amounted to mass homicide. The report recommends nine additional charges against Mr. Bolsonaro, including forging documents and “crimes against humanity.”

As his poll numbers decline, Mr. Bolsonaro is seeking to push tax changes and a government overhaul through Congress to shore up his pitch to voters. There is also a looming fight over the federal debt and another committee investigating allegations that the President and his supporters spread online misinformation.

Although more than half of the country now disapproves of the job Mr. Bolsonaro is doing as President, he retains control in the lower house of Congress and has enough support in the Senate to block the opposition from a majority.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.