By Eduardo Davis
Brasilia, Jun 10 (EFE).- The Copa America will finally get under way this weekend in Brazil after the Supreme Court here on Thursday rejected three lawsuits trying to prevent the South American soccer tourney due to the country’s sky-high Covid-19 infection rate.
The last judicial hurdle standing in the way of holding the competition starting next Sunday was swept away by the high court in a 6-5 decision ratifying earlier rulings that the governors of Brazil’s 27 states have the final word regarding sports events in the midst of the pandemic.
The ruling was a big win for the six high court justices – out of the 11 sitting on the court – who voted to reject the three suits against holding the tourney filed by two political parties and a union.
The lawsuits alleged that the health crisis is completely out of control in a country that has already suffered almost 480,000 Covid-19 deaths and is on the verge of a new pandemic wave, using this as an argument for cancelling the Copa America, in which 10 South American national soccer teams are competing.
The only qualification placed on the tourney by the high court is that a security protocol must be put in place, which according to the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) will be similar to that placed on other competitions held in Brazil and the region which keep the teams in rigid “bubbles” during the contest, and with no fans in the stands.
The Supreme Court’s decision was backed by the examining magistrate in the matter, Carmen Lucia Antunes, who emphasized that in earlier rulings the court had determined that governors and mayors have the power to suspend or free up activities in their jurisdictions, including economic and social activities as well as sports events.
In this particular case, Antunes said that “it is incumbent on (the governors) to define, ensure the fulfillment of and monitor the protocols so that there is no ‘copa-virus,’ which would be a source of infection and transmission of new strains.”
She also said that local authorities, “if that were the case” – that is, if the Copa America were to become a mega-infection event – will be responsible in the future “for their administrative decisions” and the consequences that they would potentially have.
The case law providing the basis for the ruling has been condemned on assorted occasions by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who accuses governors and mayors of having “destroyed jobs” by suspending economic activities in an attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
However, that same legal basis now allows for holding a competition that the ultrarightist Bolsonaro did not hesitate to agree to once Argentina and Colombia – the original hosts – backed out of organizing it.
On May 31, 2021, when Conmebol announced that Brazil would host the Copa America with Bolsonaro’s consent, a massive wave of criticism erupted from the country’s political sectors, as well as from health experts and many of the players themselves.
There were contacts between the South American teams and Brazil’s planning staff up to and including threats by the teams not to participate, but those threats ultimately dissolved and, although they still criticize the organization of the event, the players have decided to participate after all.
“We’re in contact with the Copa America organization, but we will never say no to the Brazilian team,” players and members of the Brazilian national team’s technical corps revealed on Tuesday.
However, the criticism of the tourney has resonated with some of the companies that were to have sponsored the Copa America.
US multinational Mastercard announced on Tuesday that it will not promote its products at this edition of the Copa America along with Ambev, the Brazilian affiliate of Belgian multinational AB InBev, the world’s largest brewer.
On Thursday, Diageo – which owns the liquor brands Johnny Walker, Smirnoff and Tanqueray – also backed out of the tourney, and other companies, too, will take a pass on promoting their products at the competition.