Anti-corruption government riddled with cash-for-jabs scandal

Researchers say Brazil could have avoided up to 200,000 coronavirus deaths (of more than 500,000 tallied so far) if vaccination had started sooner in the country. But President Jair Bolsonaro didn’t want Chinese jabs, said Pfizer ones would turn people into crocodiles, and was a poster boy for anti-vaxxers. 

Ironically, though, the vaccine scandal which is rocking Brasília does not revolve around the vaccines that the president chose not to buy — but the ones his Health Ministry did pursue!

And the government is not battling one, but two allegations of wrongdoing involving coronavirus vaccine purchases. 

One shady lobbyist accuses a former Health Minister official of charging bribes in order to buy AstraZeneca doses the lobbyist wasn’t even supposed to be selling. In the other scandal, one congressman accuses the government House whip of pressuring for a massive deal for India’s Covaxin immunizer. Not because he wanted to speed up rollouts in the country, but because — according to whistleblowers — he was set to make a buck.

These new scandals could fuel the anti-Bolsonaro opposition and finally push the right and the left to join forces. This week, a rare showing of union culminated with a “super” impeachment request which gathered over 120 previous ones under the same document. 

But House Speaker Arthur Lira, the only person in the country who can initiate impeachment proceedings against Mr. Bolsonaro, seems to be unphased by the pressure so far. He said a decision on ousting the head of state would only happen after the Covid hearings committee is over — which shouldn’t happen in at least five months.

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