Although the Senate commission is not a judging body, it has the power to gather evidence to make the case for impeachment. Moreover, the commission will also look into the federal funds transfers to states and municipalities to fight Covid-19.
But Bolsonaro’s political fate hangs in the balance, with the Senate split in favor of ousting him to usher in former government ally Omar Aziz as president, along with opponents Randolfe Rodrigues and Renan Calheiros as vice president and rapporteur, respectively.
Senator Renan Calheiros, the commission’s rapporteur, emphasized the seriousness of the inquiry in a speech on Monday, vowing that the culprits “who are to blame for the action, omission, disdain or incompetence and they will be held accountable.”
Bolsonaro’s weakening base
The recently Supreme Court-approved inquiry circulated among government ministries for information about the accusations against Bolsonaro is a blow to his base, which attempted to bar the commission from investigating the issue of pandemic management. Accusations include claims that Bolsonaro and his government sabotaged isolation measures, threatened governors and mayors who applied restrictive measures, and refused to wear masks or encourage their use.
Another point of contention is how the pandemic has been managed in Manaus, the state capital of Amazonas, where hospitals are stretched beyond capacity. The commission, backed by a study done by several local non-profits and academic groups, resolved to evaluate delays in purchasing vaccines from Pfizer, possible negligence and incompetence in purchasing and administering vaccines, excessive spending on drugs with proven inefficacy, and failure to stock needed supplies such as syringes to the public health system.
The threat of impeachment
If the inquiry were to prompt an impeachment vote, it would require at least two-thirds of the 513 deputies and a simple majority of 81 senators to remove Bolsonaro from office. Vice President and army general Hamilton Mourao would then assume control of the federal government. If the commission concludes that the president committed common crimes, the attorney general’s office could initiate an investigation or file a complaint to the Supreme Court.
Research coordinator Ventura told CNN that a looming question is whether there is sufficient political will to properly investigate Bolsonaro. “The president does not stop spreading fake news, does not stop inciting the population to disobey health authorities, does not stop inciting the population to expose themselves to the virus. Even in the face of the collapse of public health ,” said Ventura. In the researchers’ view, she continued, the federal government’s actions “may constitute a crime against humanity.”