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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday named a family friend to head the federal police, days after his justice minister quit and accused the president of meddling in law enforcement for political motives.
The controversy over the appointment by Bolsonaro and allegations by outgoing minister Sergio Moro of improper interference in the police force triggered talk of impeachment and a criminal investigation approved by the Supreme Court, distracting from the coronavirus epidemic that has killed 5,017 people in Brazil, hundreds more than the official Chinese toll.
The government's official gazette confirmed the appointment of new federal police chief Alexandre Ramagem, 48, who took charge of the president's security after he was stabbed on the campaign trail in 2018. The selection comes amid investigations of alleged wrongdoing by Bolsonaro's sons.
Ramagem, who joined the federal police in 2005, has the fewest years of service of any officer tapped to lead the force.
He has run the Brazilian Intelligence Agency since July.
Announcing the appointment, Bolsonaro said the federal police under the command of the new chief will have autonomy from the government.
On Friday, Justice Minister Sergio Moro alleged in a stunning televised address that Bolsonaro had repeatedly said he wanted a "personal contact" in the top police job "from whom he could get information, intelligence reports".
Brazil's Supreme Court on Monday gave the green light for the top public prosecutor to investigate the allegations against Bolsonaro of interfering in law enforcement. Justice Celso de Mello gave the federal police 60 days to carry out the investigation requested by Brazil's chief public prosecutor Augusto Aras.
Based on the results of the police investigation, the public prosecutor will decide whether to press charges against the president. An indictment would have to be approved by the lower house.
Distraction from coronavirus crisis
The biggest political storm since Bolsonaro took office last year came in the midst of Brazil's worst public health crisis.
The health ministry reported that a record 474 people died from Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 5,017. Confirmed cases have risen at 5,000 a day in the last 48 hours, to 71,866.
Bolsonaro regularly expresses his impatience with restrictions imposed by the state governors to slow the disease's spread and has pushed hard for economic activity to restart.
Asked about the rising death count, Bolsonaro responded, "And what? I am sorry about it. What do you want me to do?"
Divisions over impeachment chances
On Tuesday, the opposition Democratic Labor Party asked the Supreme Court to block Ramagem's nomination, alleging an abuse of power.
The affair has sparked talk in Congress of impeachment, just four years after such proceedings toppled former president Dilma Rousseff.
However, a poll by Datafolha published on Monday evening showed Brazilians divided on impeachment, with 45 percent supporting the move and 48 percent against.
Crucially, Bolsonaro appears to be keeping core supporters, the poll showed, with 33 percent of those surveyed saying they thought he was doing a good or excellent job.
Still, the accusations from the popular "super minister" Moro, who locked up scores of powerfulRead More – Source