Jair Bolsonaro fabricated many battles in this pandemic: of the economy against life; chloroquine against vaccines; freedom against face masks; magical thinking against science. In the field of facts, he lost them all. In the field of fantasy, he insists on all. Politically, it remained for him to harass the Supreme Court and Congress, to blame states and municipalities, and insinuate military intervention to discharge himself of the damage caused by his conduct.
The measurable damages are on the table: 430 thousand deaths and 15 million contaminations (without counting the underreporting); impoverishment, hunger and lagging economy in the world's recovery process; collapse in health and education, with irreversible impact in the training of children and young people (remote education was still a pretext to cut investments, while part of the world expanded them). The incommensurable damages are observed in suffering and indignity.
We will spend decades discussing who should pay for what: legal responsibilities, both criminal (with jail) and civil (with damages); political and moral responsibilities of the protagonists and accomplices, of the collaborators and beneficiaries. If we are mature enough to conceive responsibilities beyond individuals, an awareness of collective guilt and a "never again" movement will emerge.
The exercise of the attributing legal responsibilities has a difficult part and an easy part. The difficult thing is that the disaster is produced by a combination of State failures and Government failures at all levels of the federation, and also of individual blame, both public and private. The easy part is that, among the individual faults, there is scintillating guilt. It does not end with Bolsonaro, but it begins with him and stays there for a long time.
Of all that Bolsonaro said in that period, a phrase stands out for the power of synthesis and richness of the assumptions: "It may be a placebo, but at least I didn't kill anyone."
The sentence contains a confession and a theory of responsibility. The confession is unnecessary, as there is torrential evidence of its deliberate action and inaction; the theory has no legal ground, as "killing" is not limited to the physical act of pulling the rifle trigger with an exact target. In Bolsonaro's normative universe, there is no such thing as killing at a distance, for non-compliance with duties. For law, however, there is such a thing.
As obvious as saying that Bolsonaro is not solely liable for the slaughter is to note his primary responsibility. It is no less evident to discover that, for everything he did and failed to do, he caused thousands of deaths and millions of preventable contamination. Causality is beyond doubt. Intentionality overflows in speeches and acts not only against vaccine, testing, isolation and face masks, but in favor of charlatanism for shady profits.
Anyone who wants to delve deeper into causalities can read, in addition to the Brazilian publications, numerous articles in major scientific journals in the world, such as Science, Nature and Lancet. Whoever prefers to look for intentionalities, it is worth starting with the bulletins "Direitos na Pandemia", produced by Cepedisa (USP) and Conectas. If you want to compare with legal experiences in the world, do browse the "Lex-Atlas: Covid-19" platform (King's College London).
No one has legal, verbal and symbolic powers comparable to the president to influence or determine social behavior.
His omission failed to fulfill constitutional duties. But it was not just an omission. Aware of the deaths it would cause, he acted to disrupt common sense sanitary measures. He used the unparalleled power of his presidential pen and word to sow doubt, spread misinformation and incite violations of the law. How many crimes are there in this conduct?
The question is not rhetorical. It is not answered only by the liver or by moral intuition. It needs to be qualified by legal analysis. The mountain of evidence of criminal conduct does not fit under the rug. A career forged in delinquency and rewarded by impunity, which has already produced both material and immaterial damage, could at least end in legal sanction. Unfair because it is so late, no less correct and urgent.
Or the country can opt for another general and unrestricted amnesty. The torturers and their heir ministers will continue to be out there, inventing techniques of torture and of body hiding. They are no longer just playing illiterate anti-communism in the military club, such a playground of orphans from the cold war.