Brazil will host Copa America amid COVID-19 crisis

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Amid the outcry over Brazil’s ongoing COVID-19 crisis, a member of President Jair Bolsonaro’s cabinet confirmed Tuesday that the nation had agreed to host this month’s Copa America.

Brazil is now set to host the four-year soccer championship in South America, which will take place from June 13th to July 10th. It is the oldest international soccer tournament in the world, dating back to 1916.

Tournament relocated from Colombia, Argentina amid crises

The tournament was postponed at the start of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic and postponed to Colombia and Argentina. The CONMEBOL organizing committee removed Colombia as a co-host in May amid ongoing political unrest and violent protests by President Ivan Duque.

The tournament should then take place exclusively in Argentina. But CONMEBOL announced on Sunday that it would move the tournament out of the country as it experiences its own swelling COVID-19 crisis. That decision left the Copa America without a host 13 days after its scheduled start.

Brazil hosts despite ongoing COVID-19 emergency

On Monday, CONMEBOL announced that Brazil will host the tournament from June 13th. On Tuesday, Bolsonaros said the chief of staff Luiz Ramos confirmed the decisionHe wrote on Twitter that Brazil “cannot turn its back on a traditional championship like this”. According to the announcement, four venues across the country will host games without public spectators.

The decision was severely reprimanded as the nation with the second highest confirmed COVID-19 death toll continues to wallow in the deadly pandemic. Bolosnaro’s policies are widely held responsible for the persistence of the pandemic. The right-wing extremist has defied calls for lockdowns and oversaw a slow-moving vaccination program.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has sparked widespread protests against the country’s COVID-19 crisis. (Photo by EVARISTO SA / AFP)

COVID-19 in Brazil in numbers

As of Tuesday, Brazil had confirmed more than 16.5 million cases of COVID-19 (third most common in the world) and 462,000 deaths attributable to the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins data.

Unlike the United States, which leads the world in confirmed cases and deaths, Brazil is showing little progress in containing the pandemic, with new daily confirmed cases around 80,000 and daily deaths between 2,400 and more than 4,000 in recent weeks .

Critics condemn Bolsonaro for COVID, Copa America

While protesters have denounced Bolsonaro for the general state of the pandemic, critics have condemned the president for the Copa America’s decision. Brazilian Senator Renan Calheiros called the upcoming tournament the “championship of death” and urged stars like Neymar to refuse to play “while their relatives and acquaintances continue to die,” reports The Guardian.

The Brazilian sports journalist Juca Kfouri called the tournament the “Tomb of the Americas”.

“There is no justification for bringing nine South American teams and possibly new variants into one of the epicentres.”[sic] wasted the pandemic, wasting resources and attention that should be given to our thousands of infected patients, ”wrote Kfouri.

Meanwhile, CONMEBOL President Alejandro Domínguez praised Bolsonaro for the decision in a tweet.

“I would particularly like to thank President Jair Bolsonaro and his cabinet for hosting the oldest national team tournament in the world,” wrote Domínguez.

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