Brazil’s Bolsonaro faces scrutiny after hospitals run out of oxygen

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    After the outbreak of COVID-19, the prosecutor-general inquiry government’s response spread to hospitals from the Amazon to the breaking point.

    According to a document from the news agency Reuters, the Brazilian prosecutor-general has conducted a preliminary investigation of the country’s president and health minister for possible negligence in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the city of Manaus.

    Located deep in the Amazon rainforest, Manaus has been hit hard by a brutal second wave of cases that have raised emergency services to a breaking point.

    The city’s hospitals ran out of oxygen in January, prompting the federal government to fly supplies from around the country in an effort to save people from suffocation.

    The region is also the birthplace of the coronavirus variant with mutations similar to those in Britain and South Africa, with researchers saying it is more contagious and may worsen the city’s condition.

    The investigation by President Jair Bolonsaro and Health Minister Eduardo Pazuelo, revealed by prosecutor-general Augusto Arais in a document sent to Supreme Court Justice Ricardo Lewandowski, examines requests made by eight federal congressmen from Brazil’s far-right Communist Party.

    In the document, Arras said that he had initiated an “initial inquiry”. This may precede a more formal investigation known as “inquerito” in Brazil, a type of investigation that would require court approval.

    “If, eventually, reasonable indications of possible wrongdoing come to light …” a request for the initiation of the ‘inquerito’ will be submitted to the Supreme Court, “the document read.


    Last year, a group of unions representing Brazilian health workers urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the government of Bolsonaro for crimes against humanity to deal with the epidemic.

    On Thursday, a social media post by a Telesur TV correspondent showed protesters in Parana state protesting by Bolsanaro to deal with the epidemic, in which he alleged genocide and asked to resign.

    Last week, Luisovsky authorized the opening of a “token” in Pazuelo’s conduct regarding Manaus’ position, but Bolsonaro was not involved in that investigation.

    The office of the Solicitor-General of Brazil, which is responsible for defending Bolsonaro, and the Ministry of Health declined to comment.

    The Bolsonaro administration has also been accused of working slowly in getting the vaccine, thus delaying its vaccination roll out.

    The delay leaves Brazil’s 210 million inhabitants vulnerable to the worst coronovirus outbreak on the planet.

    As of Friday, Brazil has reported at least 228,000 deaths from COVID-19, second only to the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University data. It has started a vaccination campaign, but so far less than 0.5 percent of people have received the shot.

    At the onset of the epidemic, Bolsonaro repeatedly dismissed the virus as ‘a little flu’ and later refused to vaccinate even after contracting the disease. [File: Adriano Machado/Reuters]

    While many countries have struggled to obtain the vaccine as manufacturers attempt to meet global demand, Brazil was better than many. It has a long history of successful inoculation drives and its state-funded production facilities can churn out vaccines on a large scale.

    The federal government sidelined those advantages, said Marcia Castro, a native Brazilian and professor at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston, USA.

    “It’s a succession of errors that began at the beginning of the epidemic,” she said. “And sadly, we are measuring those mistakes in death toll.”

    Bolsonaro – who contracted Coronavirus last year and says he will not take any COVID-19 shots – has defended his government’s vaccine role. In a January 15 television interview, he said, “With respect, no one will do better than what my government is doing.”

    Bolsonaro has also eliminated the epidemic, comparing the virus to a “small flu” and attacking home remedies imposed by local authorities to prevent its spread.


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