Brazil Senate committee probing Covid response focuses on ex-ministers

Brasilia, Jun 10 (EFE).- The Brazilian Senate committee investigating the national government’s management of the coronavirus pandemic in the South American giant decided on Thursday to suspend the right to telephone and telematic privacy for two of President Jair Bolsonaro’s ex-Cabinet ministers.

The decision, which indicates an intensification of the investigation, affects former Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo and army Gen. Eduardo Pazuello, who held the Health Ministry portfolio from May 2020 until March 2021.

Regarding Araujo, it is suspected that his “hostile” attitude toward China, the country that he often referred to disrespectfully as “communist,” delayed the arrival in Brazil of medical supplies and even anti-Covid vaccine produced by Beijing.

Pazuello’s situation is more delicate, given that he held the post of health minister during the period in which the pandemic accelerated and spun fully out of control, a dire scenario that now has prevailed for months.

The committee’s decision extends to three advertising firms that had contracts with different state entities and another 16 people linked to the government, including the president’s international affairs advisor, Filipe Martins.

The legislative committee was established last May and is trying to establish whether the government bears any responsibility for the high number of Covid infections and fatalities, not to mention the fact that the pandemic is out of control in Brazil, one of the world’s hardest hit countries with almost 480,000 deaths so far.

To date, the senators on the committee have found serious indications that the Bolsonaro administration greatly delayed buying vaccine and, in addition, invested enormous public resources in acquiring and distributing assorted “remedies,” like chloroquine, the effectiveness of which against the coronavirus has not been verified.

The committee was created at the insistence of the opposition, and seven of its 11 members are anti-Bolsonaro lawmakers, and it is also investigating potential cases of corruption in the acquisition of medical supplies involving nine governors.

On Thursday, the governor of Amazonas state, Wilson Lima, was supposed to testify before the committee, but he presented a writ of habeas corpus that allowed him to cancel – or at least postpone – his appearance before lawmakers given that he is also being investigated in the courts for those alleged irregularities.


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