Thousands of people staged demonstrations after Brazil’s Supreme Court authorized an investigation into the president’s reaction to the vaccine allegations.
Thousands of people took to the streets to protest Brazilian President Bolsonaro’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic after the country’s Supreme Court authorized an investigation of the president’s reaction to potential corruption allegations related to vaccine procurement.
Brazil’s Supreme Court Justice Rosa Weber authorized a criminal investigation into Bolsonaro’s response to allegations of corruption in the Ministry of Health’s procurement of India’s COVID-19 vaccine.
Weber said in Friday’s decision that the investigation was supported by testimony from a Senate committee recently investigating the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The prosecutor will investigate whether Bolsonaro has committed a crime of “prevarication”, that is, for reasons of personal gain, delaying or failing to take actions required by public officials’ duties. Weber does not rule out the possibility of investigating other potential misconduct.
The President was accused of violations involving a 1.6 billion reais (US$316 million) contract that was related to 20 million doses of vaccine signed in February by a Brazilian intermediary for vaccine manufacturer Indian pharmaceutical company Bharat Biotech.
A committee of the Brazilian Senate investigating the government’s handling of the pandemic cited suspicions of overpricing and corruption related to contracts.
Bolsonaro denied any wrongdoing.
Anti Bolsonaro protest
Brazil’s COVID-19 death toll ranks second in the world. Due to the slow pace of government purchases of vaccines, the launch of its vaccines has been widely criticized.
The president is facing increasing anger for his handling of the country’s outbreak, and he has been accused of serious mismanagement.
So far, Bolsonaro has refused to get vaccinated, has doubts about vaccination, implemented unproven panacea, and underestimated the severity of the pandemic that killed more than 500,000 Brazilians. He has minimized the virus to a “small flu”, battled the lockdown, questioned masks and urged Brazilians to return to work.
Thousands of protesters marched in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday, demanding that the president step down.
Al Jazeera’s Monica Yanakiew reported from Rio that this was the third anti-Bolsonaro protest in five weeks.
“People are calling for Bolsonaro to be impeached. Dissatisfaction is growing.
“Before people were only angry because of the delay in purchasing vaccines because he downplayed [the danger of] virus. But what’s new is that this investigation of the pandemic’s handling of the pandemic has uncovered a number of corrupt plans that accuse some government officials of taking bribes to buy vaccines. This is very harmful to Bolsonaro,” she said.
“There are more than 120 requests for his impeachment. But at this time he is unlikely to be impeached because he has the support of the House of Representatives, which will decide whether to proceed with impeachment,” she said.
Luis Ricardo Miranda, Director of the Import Department of the Ministry of Health, said he was under undue pressure to approve the import of 20 million COVID-19 vaccines from Bharat Biotech, and therefore decided to authorize the investigation .
Miranda testified before a Senate committee on June 25 with his brother Luis Miranda, a congressman who had not allied with Bolsonaro until recently. The Mirandas said they raised their concerns directly with the President, and the President assured them that he would report violations to the Federal Police.
Onyx Lorenzoni, Secretary General of the Presidency, confirmed that Bolsonaro met Mirandas, but claimed that they submitted fraudulent documents. He said Bolsonaro ordered an investigation of the brothers.
After allegations of violations surfaced, the government suspended the contract.
Bharat denied any wrongdoing in the supply of vaccines. Bolsonaro denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of corruption, and told reporters on June 28 that he did not know what was happening within his ministry.