The final report, more than 1,000 pages long, charged that Bolsonaro and his allies committed “the crime of epidemic” by both failing to act to stop the deadly coronavirus and undermining efforts to do so.
Legal repercussions, however, are unlikely in the short term: Bolsonaro’s allies, who include the attorney general and dominate Brazil’s lower house of parliament, are expected to reject any attempt to impeach or indict the president ahead of elections next October.
But Carlos Melo, a political scientist and professor at the Institute of Teaching and Research in São Paulo, said the impact is seen in “political and institutional consequences.”
“At the beginning of the year, Bolsonaro said there wasn’t evidence of corruption in his administration,” he said. “After the special commission, he can’t tell this anymore. … Today, the chances of an impeachment process are small, but we cannot control new facts. We don’t know what could happen after this report.”
Lawmakers plan to debate the findings and language of the text next week.
The report contains allegations against 68 people — including Bolsonaro’s current and former ministers of health, his chief of staff, his former foreign minister and three of his sons — as well as two companies involved with vaccine procurement.
“This report attributes to the president crimes that can result in more than 100 years in jail,” Sen. Randolfe Rodrigues, vice president of the special commission, told Brazil’s GloboNews on Wednesday.
Brazil could have reduced coronavirus transmission by 40 percent — and thereby saved an estimated 120,000 lives — if Bolsonaro’s government had imposed and not resisted disease-prevention measures such as masks, vaccines and social distancing, the investigation found.
The federal government’s “actions and inactions exposed people to contamination and, after they were infected, they became the disease vector,” said the report, whose lead author was opposition Sen. Renan Calheiros. “The profusion of the virus spread even allowed the emergence of a Brazilian variant.”
A draft version of a report detailing the committee’s findings had included calls for authorities to indict the president, other senior officials and three of his sons on charges of mass murder and genocide against the Indigenous population, whose communities were particularly vulnerable to the virus.
Rodrigues said the committee ultimately removed that language as “it would weaken the other allegations.” He noted, “Epidemic that led to death is also homicide, [and] it could result in more than 30 years in jail.”
Brazil has suffered one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks of the pandemic. Its official death toll stands at more than 600,000, second only to that of the United States.
Throughout the pandemic, Bolsonaro has played down the threat of the virus, flouted public health guidance and urged his supporters to discard masks and treat covid-19 with unproven drugs such as hydroxychloroquine.
According to Our World in Data, which tracks publicly available figures, more than 73 percent of Brazil’s population has received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
“The delay in buying vaccines by the responsible authorities, who had the power and legal duty to act, prevented millions of Brazilians from being immunized … which resulted in millions of lives that could have been safe,” the report said.
The report also highlighted how Bolsonaro “criticized and undermined” disease-prevention measures while continuing “to emphasize an early treatment with a proved ineffective medicine,” hydroxychloroquine.
“In the United States, former president Donald Trump supported this drug, and in Brazil, President Bolsonaro attached himself to this idea unconditionally,” the report said.
It continued, “With all this considered, the acts of Brazilian authorities should be investigated.”
But few in Brazil believe that the recommendations will lead to a trial of the nation’s most senior officials.
Bolsonaro has dismissed the probe as a politically motivated “joke.”
“How great would’ve been if the panel had done something productive for our Brazil,” he told Brazilian media Wednesday. “They haven’t produced anything but hate and resentment among some of us. But we know we’re not guilty in any ways: we have done the right thing from the start.”
But Esther Solano, a political scientist at the Federal University of São Paulo, said that the committee’s investigation has helped to unite anti-Bolsonaro forces and erode public support.
“The first political consequence of the special commission was to gather a part of the left-wing forces that weren’t mobilized,” she said. “There was also an impact on Bolsonaro’s moderate supporters, who got shocked after all the information, videos and testimonies they watched. The rejection of his pandemic management fundamentally explains the lowering of Bolsonaro’s popularity, and the panel is in many ways responsible for that.”
Cunningham and Berger reported from Washington.