Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro faced massive protests across the country a day after Brazil’s Supreme Court gave the green light to a criminal investigation into his response to allegations of potential corruption involving a vaccine deal.
Thousands of people gathered in more than 40 cities to demand Bolsonaro’s impeachment and greater access to COVID-19 vaccines, in a country where more than half a million have died from the virus.
“If we have a minute of silence for each death from COVID, we would be silent until June 2022,” read a sign held by a man in Belem, the capital of the state of Pará.
Supreme Court Justice Rosa Weber said Friday that the investigation is supported by recent testimony in a Senate committee investigating the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prosecutors will investigate whether Bolsonaro committed the crime of “prevarication,” which involves delaying or refraining from the action required as part of the duty of a public official for reasons of personal interest. Weber did not rule out the possibility that other possible wrongdoing could be investigated.
The investigation comes after Luis Ricardo Miranda, head of the Health Ministry’s import division, said he faced undue pressure to approve the import of 20 million vaccines from Indian pharmaceutical company Bharat Biotech.
He said there were irregularities in the invoices, in particular a $ 45 million advance payment to a Singapore-based company.
Miranda testified before the Senate committee on June 25 alongside his brother, Luis Miranda, a lawmaker who until recently was an ally of Bolsonaro. The Mirandas said they took their concerns directly to Bolsonaro, who assured them that he would report the irregularities to the Federal Police.
However, the Federal Police never received any requests to investigate, a Federal Police source with knowledge of the investigations told The Associated Press.
The secretary general of the presidency, Onyx Lorenzoni, confirmed that Bolsonaro met with the Mirandas, but affirmed that they presented fraudulent documents. Bolsonaro ordered that the brothers be investigated, he said.
Bharat has denied any wrongdoing with regard to the provision of vaccines. Bolsonaro has denied wrongdoing or knowledge of corruption, telling reporters on June 28 that he cannot know what is going on within his ministries.
The Supreme Court decision greenlighting an investigation came in response to a request from three senators. Most of the senators on the investigation committee previously told the AP that once their investigation is concluded, they would vote to recommend that Bolsonaro be charged with prevarication.
The crime carries a prison sentence of between three months and one year, plus the payment of a fine.
At the Rio de Janeiro protest, 63-year-old retired Terezinha Zanata said the government had mishandled violence, the environment and indigenous rights. “This is in addition to the disregard for the issue of the pandemic,” he said, complaining about the slug vaccine campaign and a president who long downplayed the severity of the disease.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism