Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro sparked outrage after approving plan to hold South America’s response to the European Championship in his Covid-stricken country despite warnings that Brazil is turning into a third wave potentially disastrous infections.
The Copa América was originally supposed to be co-hosted by Colombia and Argentina, but their struggles against the deadly street protests and the coronavirus have undermined those plans.
Surprisingly on Monday, South American Football Confederation Conmebol announced that Brazil, which has the second highest death toll from Covid in the world, will host the football event between June 13 and July 17. “I would like to especially thank President Jair Bolsonaro and his cabinet for hosting the tournament,” tweeted Paraguayan de Conmebol. president, Alejandro Domínguez.
The announcement sparked an immediate outcry in Brazil, where more than 462,000 lives have been lost in a Covid outbreak. Bolsonaro is accused of catastrophic mismanagement.
Renan Calheiros, a Brazilian senator who is the rapporteur for a congressional inquiry into Bolsonaro’s Covid response, condemned the “unbelievable” idea of holding what he claimed to be a “death championship”. Calheiros urged Brazilian players like Neymar to refuse to take the pitch “while your loved ones and acquaintances continue to die”.
Juca Kfouri, one of Brazil’s top sports writers, called the competition “Cova América” or “Tomb of the Americas”.
“There is no justification for bringing nine South American teams, and potentially new variants, to one of the epicenters of the pandemic, wasting resources and attention that should be directed to our thousands of infected patients.” , does he have wrote.
Others called the competition “Cepa América” - “the strain of the Americas” – and demanded that the Brazilian government reverse its decision which results in an average of nearly 2,000 lives lost every day.
“It’s shameful,” one of Brazil’s best-known commentators, Luís Roberto, told the SporTV network. “It’s a provocation. It’s a slap in the face to all Brazilians. “
There were few signs the Bolsonaro administration was rethinking its decision on Tuesday. “As far as it depends on me, and all ministers – including health – it’s a deal,” the far-right populist told supporters outside the presidential residence.
South America is one of the regions most affected by the Covid pandemic, with Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay and Uruguay all having gone through the most dramatic moments of their epidemics.
On Monday, Peru revealed that its true Covid toll was nearly three times the official figure of 68,000, with at least 180,000 dead. More than a million lives have been lost to the disease in Latin America and the Caribbean, about a third of the world’s official total, even though the region is home to less than 9% of the world’s population.