Brazil: President Bolsonaro gives a ‘Green Signal’ to host Copa America 2021

President Jair Bolsonaro confirms the Brazilian government’s support to hold the Copa America 2021 in Brazil. CONMEBOL proposed Brazil as the new host for the competition after Colombia and Argentina were dropped.

The South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) was set to commence the tournament in Argentina along with its co-host Colombia from 13 June 2021.  Argentina was dropped as the host for the competition as coronavirus cases overwhelmed the South American nation. Co-host Colombia was also dropped due to massive social unrest and protests against the country’s president, Ivan Duque.

Despite the low rate of vaccinations and the contrasting high death rate in Brazil due to the coronavirus, the government has expressed its support for the competition to be held. More than 463,000 people have died with COVID-19 in Brazil, second only to the United States. Experts predict another wave of the pandemic to hit the country by late June. Residents in more than 80 cities took to the streets to protest against Bolsonaro on Saturday.

Host cities for the competition have not been announced but mayors have expressed opposition to being part of the tournament while others have said that it can be held only under strict health protocols. Opposition political parties are planning to take Bolsonaro’s decision to court and are also increasing the pressure in a Senate inquiry on the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sen. Renan Calheiros appealed to Brazil striker Neymar.

“Neymar, I want to send you a word. Do not agree with this Copa America in Brazil. That is not the championship we need to play now. We need to play the championship of vaccination,” Calheiros said. “You need to score some goals so this scoreboard can be changed.”

Sen. Eduardo Girão, a close Bolsonaro ally, defended the decision.

“There is a big politicization of the tournament,” Girão said. “We should celebrate Copa America coming here again. It is not a random tournament.”

Less than 11% of the Brazilian population has been fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data, an online research site. The Copa America 2021 was set to begin on 13 June with the final match being played on 10 July but due to the new changes, the actual dates are yet to be confirmed.

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