Brazil top court to approve inquiry into Bolsonaro’s handling of COVID-19 pandemic

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Brazil’s Supreme Court is set to approve a congressional inquiry into President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic but will leave the Senate to decide when it takes place, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Monday.

The Supreme Court is expected to meet on Wednesday to decide the issue, the source said.

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The plenary vote comes after a Supreme Court Justice Luis Roberto Barroso ruled on Thursday that enough senators had signed on to a proposed inquiry into the government’s pandemic response to launch the probe despite stalling by Senate leadership.

A Senate inquiry would heap further pressure on Bolsonaro who has come under fire due to the rising death toll in Brazil, which at over 350,000 is the second highest in the world behind the US.

Brazil is currently the global epicenter of the virus, with daily deaths topping 4,000.

Bolsonaro has drawn widespread criticism for his approach to the coronavirus, which he has described as a “little flu.” He has repeatedly ignored calls of health experts to wear masks and railed against the use of lockdown measures.

Angered by attempts to have him investigated, Bolsonaro has blasted lawmakers in recent weeks.

But the expected decision to allow the Senate to set the date of the inquiry may allow for him to leverage allies in the upper house and put off the investigation until a moment of less political pressure.

There are already attempts to divert the attention of an inquiry.

A lawmaker told Reuters on Monday that he had secured enough votes to open a separate congressional inquiry against state governors and mayors over their handling of the pandemic.

Bolsonaro has clashed with state and city authorities throughout the pandemic, pressuring elected officials to keep cities open and ignore lockdown measures arguing that job losses are more deadly than the virus.

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