Brazilian Senate backs criminal charges against President Bolsonaro over Covid-19 handling

A Senate committee in Brazil has voted to recommend that President Jair Bolsonaro face charges over his handling of the Covid pandemic.

Seven of the panel’s 11 members backed a report calling for nine charges to be filed against Mr Bolsonaro, including crimes against humanity.

The committee chair, Senator Omar Aziz, will send the findings to Brazil’s prosecutor-general on Wednesday.

Mr Bolsonaro has maintained he is “guilty of absolutely nothing”.

More than 600,000 people in Brazil are confirmed to have died from Covid, second only to the Covid death toll in the United States.

The report accuses the president of misusing public funds and peddling fake news.

There is no guarantee this vote will lead to criminal charges for Mr Bolsonaro, as the report’s recommendations must now be assessed by Brazil’s prosecutor-general, a Bolsonaro appointee who is expected to protect the president.

The vote concludes a six-month inquiry which has revealed scandals and corruption inside Brazil’s government.

Throughout the process, Mr Bolsonaro has insisted that his government “did the right thing from the first moment” of the pandemic.

Whether charges are brought against him or not, there is little doubt that Mr Bolsonaro’s popularity has been dented by his handling of the pandemic.

In March, he caused outrage when he told Brazilians to “stop whining” about Covid, a day after the country saw a record rise in deaths over a 24-hour period.

He has continued to spread misinformation on social media and, on Monday, Facebook removed a video in which the president falsely claimed Covid-19 vaccines were linked to developing Aids.

YouTube blocked the video and suspended Mr Bolsonaro’s channel for a week.