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Brazil's Bolsonaro probe offers COVID-19 families some solace

Bruna Chaves was expressing her grief in an emotional support group session, just hours after a Brazilian Senate Committee recommended that President Jair Bolsonaro be indicted for criminal conduct in relation to his handling of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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Brazil's Bolsonaro probe offers COVID-19 families some solace

She told others Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro that it wasn't her mom's turn to leave. "Somebody must be held responsible."

The nearly 1,300-page report by a government agency, which lays blame on the president, is already providing solace and validation for the nation suffering from the second-highest death rate due to the virus and the eighth highest per capita.

Chaves is a 25-year old chemistry student who has been following the national televised sessions of the six-month-old probe. Tuesday's conclusion saw President Jair Bolsonaro and dozens other officials be charged.

Marcia Torres (social worker who coordinated Chaves' session) stated that public disclosure of facts during the Senate inquiry can help people grieve. Further comfort would be provided by seeing officials face the consequences for their actions.

Torres stated that "Condemnation is justice." It would be very valuable for people to see the government being arrested -- literally. It would be a relief for them.

Chaves and many others fear that there are few chances of concrete punishment for officials who are accused of being responsible for the deaths of 607,000 COVID-19 victims in Brazil. It is not certain that Bolsonaro's prosecutor-general will press charges against him or that Congress will move to impeachment proceedings.

He has denied any wrongdoing repeatedly and called the Senate probe politically motivated to undermine his administration.

Dr. Helian Nunes is a psychiatrist at Federal University of Minas Gerais, who coordinates a program that provides mental health support for front-line workers. He said that of the close to 100 people he counseled, nearly all of them having lost friends or loved ones, the majority have closely followed the Senate inquiry and brought it up during sessions.

Nunes stated that while it is impossible to replace losses, it is possible to reduce the damage if you speak up and hold those responsible accountable.

He said, "Society must give importance to the past so that it doesn't happen again."

Bolsonaro has often deflected the blame for the pandemic's death toll. He criticized governors and mayors who imposed restrictions on activities to stop the spread of the virus, and attacked the Supreme Court for upholding the jurisdictions of local leaders. He also cast himself as righteous refusing to accept politically correct recommendations to keep the economy running, ostensibly in order to protect the poor.

Bolsonaro's pandemic approach to the problem has included dismissive and belittling rhetoric. COVID-19 was "just a little flu," Bolsonaro said. He also joked about Brazilians swimming in sewage and not getting sick.

Marcio Antonio Silva, a father who lost his son to coronavirus at the age of 25, has complained about this for years. He recently expressed his pain to the Senate committee that his grief was being dismissed as mere bellyaching by a president who offers sarcasm instead of succour.

Silva testified, his voice shaking, that "that's why this probe was so important to my, because someone didn't say, ‘So what?'" Silva stated in testimony. "Someone said, "I'm going do something for you."

Bolsonaro assembled crowds of people without masks to show that everyone has the right to go and come as they like. However, he never paid respects to any COVID-19 grave or memorial. Bolsonaro has reacted to the tepid expressions of regret for COVID-19 deaths by stating that death is part and parcel of human life.

Bolsonaro, an outspoken anti-vaxxer, insists on promoting the anti-malaria pill Hydroxychloroquine even though extensive testing proved it was not effective against COVID-19. According to the Senate committee, hydroxychloroquine was "practically" the only government policy that could be used to combat the pandemic. Bolsonaro is therefore "the principal person responsible for the mistakes made by the federal government."

Despite the clamor of allegations, the president's approval rating has steadily fallen to their lowest level since his election in 2019. He is currently trailing his main rival in early polls for next years election.

While the Senate committee proposed a monument to COVID-19 victims, for the moment, families of the deceased must be content with temporary memorials such as the white flags that were planted outside Congress in Brasilia earlier this month.

Fernanda Natasha Brava Cruz was present that day to mourn her father. She recalled him as a lawyer who provided pro bono legal assistance to the poor. He initially followed the stay-at home advice, but then he began to relax and became infected. He died before he could hold his new granddaughter. He sent his granddaughter a copy of "The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint-Exuperys ahead of the much-anticipated encounter.

Cruz's daughter now points excitedly at the book whenever she sees it.

Cruz stated Wednesday that the Senate committee's decision brought about some justice.

Cruz stated, "It is important that there are institutions on the side people who are suffering and were made very vulnerable by this process." It's not personal grief. It's collective grieving."

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