By Maria Carolina Marcello
BRASILIA (Reuters) - There is currently no political path for launching impeachment proceedings against Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, the head of the lower house said on Thursday, dashing threats to the under-pressure leader of Latin America's biggest country.
The comments by Arthur Lira, who has the power to decide whether to accept the impeachment proceedings, will come as a major relief to Bolsonaro. He is feeling the heat for overseeing the world's second-deadliest coronavirus pandemic, a high-profile Senate probe into his handling of the outbreak and a scandal over alleged graft in vaccine purchases.
Lira, speaking with journalists in Brasilia, said impeachment required political conditions "which are not present at this moment, neither outside nor inside Congress."
With over half a million COVID-19 deaths, Brazilians are fuming over missed opportunities to buy vaccines.
The Senate probe has unearthed alleged corruption, with health ministry insiders and pro-Bolsonaro lawmakers allegedly seeking to fast-track and overpay for an Indian vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech. Federal prosecutors and the federal police have launched a criminal probe into the deal.
The scandal has triggered fresh calls for impeachment against Bolsonaro, a divisive right-winger, who has underplayed the severity of the pandemic, railed against lockdowns, pushed unproven remedies and sowed vaccine doubts.
On Wednesday, lawmakers from across the political spectrum, social groups and lawyers filed a collective impeachment request, the latest in over 100 similar filings that have gone unheeded by the speaker of the lower house of Congress.
Lira's comments, however, ensure that latest effort is going nowhere. For the time being, experts say, Bolsonaro's most likely exit from the presidency would be in next year's election rather than from being impeached.
(Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Stephen Coates)