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Brazil Senate goes back work after high-profile Covid party

. Sep 21, 2020
Senate covid Senators during a session at the Foreign Affairs Committee. Photo: Edilson Rodrigues/Ag.Senado

After a six-month coronavirus hiatus, the Brazilian Senate is once again holding in-person sittings. And the upper house hasn’t beaten around the bush, approving a request to summon Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo to provide clarifications about the visit of the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to the Brazil-Venezuela border.

But while a return is necessary — Congress has conducted its debates and votes remotely, but the pandemic has halted all activity in issue-based committees — it seems ill-timed. Senators are returning to meet in person just 12 days after a massive dinner party held at the official residence of House Speaker Rodrigo Maia, who has since tested positive for the coronavirus.

</p> <h2>The Covid party</h2> <p>The September 9 event — gathering everyone who&#8217;s anyone in Brasília politics — was in celebration of the inauguration of Luiz Fux as the new Supreme Court Chief Justice. Members of Congress were in attendance, as well as members of high courts, and prominent business owners.</p> <p>While no-one is keen to owe up to the fact, <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong> was able to confirm that — beyond Mr. Maia and the guest of honor, <a href="https://brazilian.report/power/2020/09/10/challenges-brazil-new-chief-justice-luiz-fux/">Chief Justice Fux</a> — among those in attendance were next-door neighbor Senate President Davi Alcolumbre, senators Nelsinho Trad and Chico Rodrigues, and lower house members Baleia Rossi, Carlos Sampaio, Efraim Filho, Fábio Trad, Marcos Pereira, Aguinaldo Ribeiro, and Arthur Lira.&nbsp;</p> <p>On the day after Luiz Fux was sworn in as Chief Justice, at least six authorities confirmed they had contracted Covid-19. Besides Mr. Maia and Chief Justice Fux, Attorney General Augusto Aras, head of the Superior Labor Court Maria Cristina Peduzzi, and Superior Court of Justice members Luís Felipe Salomão and Antonio Saldanha Palheiro.&nbsp;</p> <p>In the Senate, 38 of the 81 members are aged over 60, and several suffer from pre-existing conditions that pose Covid-19 risks, such as obesity and high blood pressure. The chamber&#8217;s press office did not respond to <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong>&#8216;s inquiry about how many senators have been infected by the coronavirus, saying it &#8220;habitually does not divulge Covid-19 case numbers among its employees and members.&#8221;</p> <p>According to <a href="https://www12.senado.leg.br/radio/1/noticia/seis-senadores-ja-testaram-positivo-para-o-novo-coronavirus">Agência Senado</a>, six senators had contracted Covid-19 until June, including Senate President Alcolumbre.</p> <p>The Senate&#8217;s return to work is regulated by a normative act issued last week, which sees the installation of hand sanitizer dispensers at strategic locations in the chamber, increased distancing between senators on the floor, and &#8216;drive-thru&#8217; voting stations allowing at-risk politicians to stay out of the main chamber.

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Débora Álvares

Débora Álvares has worked as a political reporter for newspapers Folha de S.Paulo, O Estado de S.Paulo, Globo News, HuffPost, among others. She specializes in reporting on Brasilia, working behind-the-scenes coverage at the Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary branches of government.

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