Brazilian Supreme Court to decide Copa America fate

BRASÍLIA: Brazil’s Supreme Court on Thursday opened an extraordinary session to decide whether the Copa America can take place in three days, the latest threat to a tournament beset by the chaotic fallout from the pandemic.

The 11 High Court judges have until 11:59 p.m. to vote remotely in three cases brought by opposition parties and a union, which argue that the tournament’s organization as Brazil faces a potential new wave of Covid-19 poses an unacceptable health risk.

The first three judges voted to allow the tournament to proceed.

This is the last moment – and possibly the last – for the organizers, who seem determined to win this edition of the oldest ongoing international football tournament in the world despite the obstacles.

Already delayed by 12 months due to the pandemic, the Copa America nearly collapsed when the original co-hosts Colombia and Argentina failed at the last minute – the first because of violent anti-government protests , the second because of a wave of Covid-19.

As time is running out ahead of Sunday’s opener, President Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right government intervened last week, agreeing to host the South American 10-nation championships in Brazil.

But the decision is extremely controversial: Brazil itself is reeling from Covid-19, which has claimed nearly 480,000 lives in the country, just behind the United States.

Epidemiologists warn Brazil is currently facing a new wave of coronavirus cases, and say hosting a major international sporting event could add fuel to the fire.

The Supreme Court cases were filed by the National Union of Metalworkers, the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) and the Workers’ Party (PT) of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, likely opponent of Bolsonaro in the presidential elections of next year.

Bolsonaro and South American football confederation CONMEBOL insist the tournament will be safe.

The government has drawn up an elaborate health protocol and all matches will be played in empty stadiums, including the final on July 10 in Rio de Janeiro.

The organizers are however faced with many negative reactions.

Mastercard and beer giant Ambev, two main sponsors, said on Wednesday they were withdrawing their marks from the tournament.

And many players and coaches criticized the event, including Uruguayan Luis Suarez, Argentinian Sergio “Kun” Aguero and the entire Brazilian national team. – AFP

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