Bolsonaro critic to lead inquiry on govt handling of pandemic, sources say


FILE PHOTO: Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro attends a promotion ceremony for generals of the armed forces, at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil April 8, 2021. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

BRASILIA (Reuters) - A vocal critic of President Jair Bolsonaro is expected to lead a congressional inquiry on the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, five sources told Reuters, a blow to the far-right leader's chances of emerging unscathed from the scrutiny.

The probe will investigate whether Bolsonaro's handling of the pandemic has been negligent.

Renan Calheiros, a former president of the Senate who has clashed with Bolsonaro, is expected to lead the inquiry, said the sources, requesting anonymity because the decision is not final.

Health experts worldwide have condemned the right-wing president for opposing social distancing, downplaying the severity of the virus and touting unproven treatments.

Senate leader Rodrigo Pacheco said on Friday the inquiry was likely to begin next week or the week after.

Brazil has the world's second-worst death toll from the pandemic overall and currently the highest number of daily deaths anywhere.

Sources said the staff composition of the inquiry has already been settled, although it still needs one confirmation meeting later on Friday. Calheiros was in part selected because he is a member of the Brazilian Democratic Movement, the party that holds the most seats in the Senate, they said.

Calheiros will be in charge of suggesting what hearings take place and will ultimately be responsible for drafting the final report.

(Reporting by Maria Carolina Marcello; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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