Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Friday he was the victim of “judicial activism” after a Supreme Court judge ordered the Senate to launch an inquiry into his government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
The comment came a day after Justice Luis Roberto Barroso’s ruling set up a potentially damaging inquiry into Bolsonaro’s response to Covid-19, which the far-right leader has repeatedly downplayed even as it has claimed 345,000 lives in Brazil.
“Barroso suffers from a lack of moral courage and an excess of judicial activism,” Bolsonaro told supporters outside the presidential palace in Brasilia.
“That’s not what Brazil needs. We’re at a critical moment in the pandemic, there are people dying, and a Supreme Court justice is playing politics along with the Senate.”
Brazil is suffering through a new, deadly surge of Covid-19 that is pushing hospitals to the breaking point across most of the country.
It already has the second-highest death count worldwide in the pandemic, after the United States, and is struggling to secure enough vaccines for its 212 million people.
The Senate commission will be tasked with investigating “the actions and omissions of the federal government… particularly with regard to the worsening of the health crisis in the state of Amazonas, after the lack of oxygen for hospitalized patients,” the judge’s ruling stated.
In January, dozens of people died in Manaus, the state’s capital, when hospitals ran out of oxygen to treat Covid-19 patients.
In another blow to Bolsonaro, the Supreme Court also ruled Thursday that regional authorities can prohibit in-person religious services under Covid-19 restrictions, something he had strongly opposed.