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Brazil's Bolsonaro blasts COVID probe

April 9, 2021

Jair Bolsonaro called a planned inquiry into Brazil's coronavirus failures "a stitch-up," adding that the justice who ordered the inquiry has "no moral courage."

 Gravediggers wearing protective suits carry a coffin of a 32-year-old man who died from the coronavirus disease
Brazil has become a hotspot for the corornavirus pandemic, recording high numbers of COVID fatalitiesImage: Amanda Perobelli/REUTERS

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.

a doctor treats a covid patient
The inquiry will look into the lack of oxygen for hospitalized patients in Amazonas stateImage: Amanda Perobelli/REUTERS

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)