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Bolsonaro’s alleged Covid crimes sound a lot like someone else you know

A group of Brazilian senators say the president's failed Covid response constitutes a crime against humanity. Couldn’t that be said of some U.S. officials?


Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro should be charged with crimes against humanity and a litany of other serious offenses for his reckless response to the coronavirus pandemic, a report from a Brazilian Senate committee said. And if you read the findings, Bolsonaro’s behavior sounds a lot like a number of U.S. officials’ response to Covid-19 — namely, former President Donald Trump.

The report released Wednesday recommended Bolsonaro be charged with nine crimes in total, including charlatanism and the propagation of pathogenic germs. Initial news reports indicated a the committee planned to recommend Bolsonaro be charged with mass homicide and genocide as well, but those charges were removed from the final report.

The report also claimed Bolsonaro used the virus to target Brazil’s Indigenous communities. In Brazil — much like the United States — there is a centurieslong history of Black, brown and Indigenous people being oppressed and disadvantaged by the government. 

“There is a clear causal link between the anti-indigenous posture of [Brazil’s] top leader and the harm suffered by indigenous people, even if he might not have directly killed anyone,” the report alleged.

The senators behind the inquiry are calling for Bolsonaro to be jailed. Bolsonaro has denied any wrongdoing, and has repeatedly accused the investigation of being a political instrument aimed at sabotaging him.

Image: Jair Bolsonaro
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Sept. 27, 2021.Eraldo Peres / AP file

It’s hard to read the Brazilian senators’ findings and not think of all the U.S. officials who have evaded accountability despite overseeing failed Covid responses that mirror — even eclipse — Bolsonaro’s failures. 

Trump, for example, knowingly downplayed the severity of the coronavirus as it was killing Americans early in the pandemic. He’s spread misinformation about the efficacy of masks, and he’s shared unproven theories about possible remedies — including his suggestion that injecting disinfectant could help eliminate Covid.

And like Bolsonaro, Trump’s Covid failures have had a disparate impact on Black, brown and Indigenous communities. A study released earlier this month found Blacks, Native Americans and Latinos all suffered higher rates of death due to Covid last year. Those disparities have come into clearer view this year, but they were known to exist last year as Trump and his allies were spreading untruths about the coronavirus.

Still, Trump has so far eluded any accountability for his role overseeing one of the worst Covid responses in the world. And the same goes for Republican governors like Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas, who have embraced Trumpian stances against mask use and vaccine mandates.

So there you have it: Today, someone was finally held accountable for deadly Covid-related failures — but unfortunately, that someone lives on another continent.

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