By Ricardo Brito
BRASÍLIA (Reuters) – Arthur Lira, head of Brazil’s lower house, said on Tuesday alleged irregularities regarding the federal government’s procurement of a COVID-19 vaccine does not justify the opening of impeachment proceedings against President Jair Bolsonaro.
Lira’s remarks, made during a radio interview, come as Bolsonaro is feeling the heat for overseeing the world’s second-deadliest coronavirus toll and as a Senate probe looks into alleged graft in vaccine purchases.
Lira has the power to decide whether to initiate impeachment proceedings, but said he currently sees no grounds to do so.
“At the moment there is no new fact that justifies, that has any direct connection with the President, other than the fact that a congressman has said that he has given him some documents, invoices,” Lira said. “For the time being and until now, there are many versions from both sides.”
Lira also noted an impeachment process would destabilize the country politically and economically.
Bolsonaro was allegedly alerted by lawmaker Luís Miranda and by his brother, an official at the Health Ministry, about potential irregularities in the purchase of 20 million doses of Covaxin vaccine made by India’s Bharat Biotech in February, according to their testimony before an ongoing high-profile Senate inquiry.
After the allegations surfaced, Brazil’s Supreme Court Justice Rosa Weber authorized an investigation of the president by the top prosecutor’s office, or PGR, for “dereliction of duty.”
Bolsonaro denies any wrongdoing and has claimed he asked the then Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello to investigate the vaccine’s procurement process, adding no irregularities were found.
(Reporting by Ricardo Brito; Writing by Ana Mano; Editing by Bill Berkrot)