In 1921, an officer of the Ottoman-Turkish Empire was assassinated in the streets of Berlin. The perpetrator was a young Armenian who, during his trial in a local court, claimed that he was avenging his mother’s death in one of the greatest massacres of the 20th century.
One hundred years later, a new extermination shook society. This time, there was no trench and no control of territories. It was a war without bombs. But with millions dead. The covid-19 pandemic brought a portion of the world to its knees and showed that even rich governments were unprepared.
But this is not the full story of the pandemic. The deadly virus landed in a world where denial, populism, deliberate misinformation, corruption and the quest for power spoke louder than the defense of life in various parts of the planet.
The final report of the CPI on the Pandemic — presented this Wednesday with its more than 1,000 pages —, therefore, is one of the most important reports ever produced since the beginning of the pandemic in the world. Using law, rule of law and transparency mechanisms, the report details how more than 600,000 people died in Brazil. Yes, there was a virus. But also an ally: the Brazilian Government.
The report makes it clear that the ballot box is not a sufficient response to the deaths and that accountability needs to be established.
Immediately after its publication, the document won the covers of the main world newspapers. But the attention given to the report is not due to Brazil’s importance in the international arena. The reason is much greater: the work transforms what we have all seen and felt into law, evidence, investigations and witnesses.
In different countries, prosecutors have opened investigations into policymakers. In France, for example, the head of the Health portfolio was investigated. At the World Health Organization (WHO), meticulous work tried to understand what happened, what were the failures of the entity and governments.
But none of these exercises —because of diplomatic constraints or political considerations— managed to take as deep a dive as the CPI report.
For the first time, denial was not just identified. But it was also systematized and revealed in every one of its details. If the senators’ poll refers to the Brazilian government, dozens of specialists are beginning to analyze the document to try to understand how similar practices by foreign governments could fit into the same pattern.
Another key aspect that drew international attention was the report’s ability to unravel how governments used the pandemic to defend their ideologies.
By power or with electoral calculations, the mask, the virus, the vaccine and even the hug were politicized.
But the document also brought clear indications that, on the basis of this response, there are suspicions of corruption. Since the early days of the health crisis, entities such as the OECD have warned that the pandemic was “a paradise” for the corrupt, as dangerous breaches were opened in the face of pressure for immediate purchases of materials, bidding rules that were suspended, popular pressure for answers and an under-supplied market.
The document was also received as a fundamental contribution to reinforcing the international accusations against Bolsonaro, even without any reference to the crime of genocide. At the International Criminal Court, where there are six complaints against the Brazilian president, officials closely monitor what is happening in Brazil and the findings of the CPI.
Still in 2020, a UN rapporteur angered the Brazilian government by officially proposing that an international inquiry be established on the country’s response to the pandemic. Today, the CPI document is interpreted as a step in this direction.
It is also clear that, given the tragedy of death, society will not tolerate waiting 20 or 30 years for a Truth Commission to be created. The justice that takes time cannot boast of not having failed.
Even with its limitations, the CPI outlines a fundamental front page in the response to the pandemic in the world. There is no use of weapons as revenge, but the law, the only instrument a democracy can resort to. And because of that, the document has a historical role in the global trajectory of the virus.
sign up on here to receive the daily newsletter of EL PAÍS Brasil: reports, analyses, exclusive interviews and the main information of the day in your e-mail, from Monday to Friday. sign up also to receive our weekly newsletter on Saturdays, with highlights of coverage for the week.