Brazil's Bolsonaro blasts COVID probe
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has slammed the Supreme Court justice who ordered a probe into the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Justice Luis Roberto Barroso has "no moral courage," Bolsonaro said.
Barroso ruled late on Thursday that enough senators had requested a proposed inquiry on the government's pandemic response to launch the probe, despite stalling by Senate leadership.
"It's a stitch-up between Barroso and the leftists in the Senate to wear out the government," Bolsonaro told supporters outside his residence on Friday. He accused the judge of "politicking."
He said Barroso should request the impeachment of other Supreme Court justices.
Brazil has become the center of one of the worst virus outbreaks worldwide and accounts for a quarter of the world's deaths from COVID-19. Bolosonaro's handling of the pandemic has been widely criticized. He has repeatedly downplayed the virus' severity.
Brazil is the country with the second-most death and coronavirus infections worldwide. Over 345,000 people in the country have died of COVID-19 and nearly 13.3 million people have been infected, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
What the probe will examine
The inquiry should focus on "the actions and omissions of the federal government," Barroso's ruling stated.
"The worsening of the health crisis in the state of Amazonas, after the lack of oxygen for hospitalized patients," should be in the spotlight, the justice added.
In January, dozens of people died in Manaus, the state's capital, when hospitals ran out of oxygen to treat COVID-19 patients.
Probe initially stalled
The probe has taken a while to get the go-ahead. A total of 32 senators had already signed a request for a congressional investigation into the administration's handling of the pandemic, five more than is necessary.
The chamber's president Rodrigo Pacheco, who initially refused to approve the probe, conceded minutes after the judge's ruling.
Bolsonaro's response to the pandemic
Brazil's president has continued to defy expert advice on containing the pandemic, despite soaring deaths and case numbers.
He has argued that restrictions on economic and personal activity would harm more Brazilians than the pandemic.
Brazil's president criticized face masks and vaccines and notably described the virus as a "little flu" last year.
kmm/sms (Reuters, AFP, AP)