Commission on President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of pandemic to resume hearings

A Brazilian Senate committee inquiry into the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic will resume today after a two-week recess.

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Photo: Adriano Machado/Reuters

A Brazilian Senate committee inquiry into the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic will resume today after a two-week recess.

Several government officials have testified, including health ministers and state governors. So far, more than 550,000 Brazilians have died of COVID-19, with reports surfacing alleging that President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration refused 14 offers to purchase discounted COVID-19 vaccines.

Expect the focus of the inquiry to center on two schemes that implicate administration officials. In one case, Bolsonaro allegedly failed to intervene when alerted to irregularities in a deal to acquire 20 million doses of the Indian Covaxin vaccine. In the second case, the Health Ministry’s former head of logistics allegedly requested a $1 kickback per dose from a false supplier of AstraZeneca vaccines. The corruption scandals have drawn widespread public demonstrations.

Expect the inquiry to galvanize demonstrations and undermine the administration’s anti-corruption image. Recent polls have shown Bolsonaro’s base shrinking and the chances of leftist Workers’ Party leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s in the 2022 presidential election increasing. Although impeachment is unlikely, revelations from the inquiry may have the potential to lead to demonstrations that led to the removal of President Dilma Rousseff from power in 2016.

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