The Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI) into the Pandemic is nearing its end, with voting soon to take place on the final 1,000 page report that indicts a total of 66 people. The standout is President Jair Bolsonaro. He stands accused of nine crimes: malfeasance, charlatanism, epidemic resulting in death, violation of preventive health measures, irregular use of public funds, inducement to crime, falsification of private documents, crimes of responsibility, and crimes against humanity. The CPI drew to a close days after Brazil passed the tragic milestone of 600,000 deaths, and ended with emotional testimonials from relatives of the victims, still in mourning and seeking explanations for so many senseless deaths.
The Commission managed to bring together many pieces of solid evidence about the crimes committed by the Bolsonaro government during the pandemic. Based on the evidence collected and presented in the final CPI report, the Federal Prosecutor General (PGR), the Judiciary, and Congress are obliged under existing laws to hold all those to account who are guilty of the serious crimes committed. In the case of Jair Bolsonaro, he must be removed from power and put in jail. That is the least that should happen to the main culprit responsible for the deaths of over 600,000 Brazilians from COVID-19.
It wasn’t genocide? What are you talking about?
In the days leading up to the reading of the report, senators were divided on whether or not to include the charge of genocide against Bolsonaro. They eventually removed it but kept the charge of crimes against humanity in place. This change was a mistake. There are few words like the term genocide that so correctly express just what Bolsonaro did during the pandemic. What occurred in the country was mass extermination, declared and planned. While around the world an average of 550 people for every one million inhabitants died, the figure here was 2,818 deaths per million. Five times more. The sum total of denialism, fake news, vaccine delays, and the boycott of health measures was responsible for hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths, a number that may as high as 400,000 of the 600,000 official COVID deaths in the country.
Beyond these numbers, we saw the way that the government acted deliberately throughout the pandemic, even setting up a parallel cabinet from which the decisions and the false narratives emanated. The CPI showed how the discourse of denial relied on fake news, and that the government even resorted to corruption to finance the Bolsonarista lie machine. This corruption includes the accusation that some in government proposed a bribe of one US dollar bribe for each dose of vaccine bought from one vaccine manufacturer, while the offer from Pfizer went ignored.
The degree of cruelty is startling. We learned of experiments in the Amazon where patients were used as guinea pigs before dying of suffocation from lack of oxygen. We saw reports from doctors about large scale hydroxychloroquine experiments in the ‘Prevent Senior’ network which occurred without ever warning the families of the victims, all done in an effort by health entrepreneurs to legitimize early treatment, and done at the request of the government.
Bolsonaro’s crimes cannot go unpunished
The CPI report and the crimes imputed once again place the responsibility for the judgment of Bolsonaro on the Federal Prosecutor General (PGR), the Federal Supreme Court (STF), and Congress. Yes, the Senate and the STF have often served as brakes on Bolsonaro’s authoritarian and genocidal attacks. But it is also a fact that all the impeachment petitions remain shelved in the drawer of Chamber of Deputies president Arthur Lira, and there has been no appropriate response, even after the ‘golpista’ demonstrations of 7 September.
The deposition of Bolsonaro and the punishment of those responsible for genocide and other government crimes remains a necessary and urgent task. There is nothing more important than overthrowing Bolsonaro and making him pay for his crimes.
Despite the Federal Government boycott and its denialist actions, vaccination rates have advanced and have significantly reduced the number of deaths and new cases. A full 50% of the population is now vaccinated with two doses. But this does not yet mean the end of the pandemic. There is always the danger that more contagious variants may appear. To more effectively control the spread of the virus, vaccination with two doses needs to reach 80% of the population or more. The maintaining of health precautions, such as the use of masks and the prevention of crowds (especially in closed spaces), is therefore essential. The requirement of a vaccine passport (proof that the person has been vaccinated) at public events, public offices, and businesses is of great importance. So too is the strengthening of the public Unified Health System (SUS) through greater investment and the valorization of its health professionals.
Bolsonaro is also to blame for hunger and inflation
Bolsonaro’s catastrophic conduct during the pandemic has also produced the current social and economic crisis. Bolsonaro has brought back famine for millions of people. Inflation has not stopped rising, the economy is stagnant, salaries are being squeezed, and unemployment and employment informality are soaring.
These are crimes that will not be in the CPI report, just like the 20 million people who are now starving or the mother who was arrested for stealing a packet of noodles. We can’t expect those ‘upstairs’, like Minister of the Economy Paulo Guedes, President Bolsonaro, and the ‘Centrão’ (center parties), to remedy people’s hunger.
The struggle of working people and the oppressed to defeat this government and guarantee our rights is absolutely essential. The goal must be to overthrow this government of death and hunger before the October 2022 elections. The longer it stays in power, the more suffering it will inflict on the people. But if the impeachment of Bolsonaro is not possible, we must weaken him as much as we can, to make it easier to defeat him in the elections and pave the way for a ‘governo de esquerda’ (government of the left), one committed to the working class and the poor, and one without any alliances with the right and big business.
At this time, it is necessary to commit to street mobilizations and actions in the ‘periferias’ (the sprawling city outskirts) and among sectors suffering the most from hunger, high prices, and salary reductions, and again take up the indignation expressed at the ‘Fora Bolsonaro’ (Bolsonaro Out) demonstrations. The 20 November demonstrations to mark Black Consciousness Day are of enormous importance. Under the leadership of the black movement, all left-wing parties, unions, and social movements must build strong and unified demonstrations. It is on the streets that we will strengthen the anti-racist and anti-fascist struggle. If we are to tackle hunger, the pandemic, and defend democracy, Bolsonaro must be removed. This virus must be brought to an end.
This article is an English translation of “Bolsonaro tem que pagar por seus crimes”, [https://esquerdaonline.com.
Translation: Bobby Sparks