Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro Criticized for Hosting Copa America Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is under fire for approving plans to host Copa America this month despite experts warning of a potential third wave of COVID-19 infections.

The South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) announced on June 1 that Brazil will host the continental soccer tournament between June 13 and July 17.

“It is time to thank President Jair Bolsonaro, his team, and the local governments from the different states that will host the competition,” CONMEBOL said in a tweet.

“From our part it is all positive. In whatever depends on me, the cabinet ministers, including our health minister, it is settled. It will happen,” Bolsonaro confirmed, immediately sparking criticisms as he faces accusations of mishandling the pandemic that has killed over 465,000 people in Brazil.

Senator Renan Calheiros, the rapporteur of a congressional investigation on the criminal negligence of the government’s response to the pandemic, claimed that hosting the tournament was an “unbelievable” idea and that it would become a “championship of death.”

“Vaccine offers molded in official’s drawers, but the okay for the tournament was agile. Ridiculous,” Calheiros said in a tweet.

Calheiros also urged players, such as Neymar, to refuse to participate in the tournament “while death is a dramatic reality in the lives of Brazilians.”

Senator Randolfe Rodrigues, the deputy chair of the investigative commission, said that Brazilian Football Confederation Head Rogerio Caboclo should be called to testify on “what safety measures have been planned to guarantee Brazilians’ safety” during the tournament.

Congressman Julio Delgado pledged to block the tournament in the Supreme Court.

Colombia and Argentina were originally set to co-host the tournament, but plans were derailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the deadly street protests in Colombia.

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