A trio of corporate sponsors – Mastercard, Ambev and Diageo – have withdrawn their marks from the Copa America football competition in Brazil, which is due to start on Sunday despite the Covid-19 crisis raging in the country.
The largest Latin American country offered to host the regional tournament at the end of last month after the cancellation of previous co-hosts Argentina and Colombia. Buenos Aires cited a growing number of coronavirus cases, while BogotÃ¡ blamed national protests.
Brazil’s decision to intervene, which had the backing of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, drew censorship from many medical figures and opposition politicians, who argued that it risked further spreading the virus as the pandemic continues unabated in the country.
Mastercard has said after careful analysis that it has decided to withdraw its mark from this year’s Copa America, although it will remain a sponsor of the competition, which has already been postponed to 2020.
British alcoholic beverage group Diageo, which owns Smirnoff, Guinness and Johnnie Walker, said it would halt all brand activities “given the current health situation in Brazil and within the timeline for the Covid pandemic -19 “.
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âThe sponsorship terms were agreed when the event was to be held in Colombia and Argentina,â the company added. âDiageo reiterates its commitment to society, respecting security protocols and institutional actions that contribute to the mitigation of the pandemic. “
Brazilian brewer Ambev, part of the world’s largest brewer AB InBev, said âits brands will not be present at Copa Americaâ.
The no-confidence votes come as Brazil faces a potential third wave of Covid-19 infections with the cooler season setting in.
With more than 480,000 lives lost, the country has the second highest death toll from respiratory diseases after the United States. A vaccine shortage hampered vaccination campaigns.
“We are still in a very serious situation,” said Marcelo Ramos, public health researcher at the Fiocruz biomedical institute. “When it was announced that Brazil would host the Copa America, the message was that we are in a calm situation, which does not correspond to reality.”
However, the country’s Minister of Health insisted this week that the holding of the football competition would not generate any additional risk of contamination, since no supporters would attend the matches.
Bolsonaro has won international stigma for his handling of the pandemic, which has included denigrating the use of masks and reducing the importance of vaccines.
But the former army captain received a boost when Brazilian department store chain Havan, whose co-founder Luciano Hang is a staunch supporter of the president, announced it would sponsor the tournament.
“I am sure it will be a competition that will delight the entire Brazilian population,” he said.
This week, Brazil’s Supreme Court rejected attempts to prevent the country from hosting the Copa America.
The Brazilian Football Confederation and the South American Football Confederation did not respond to requests for comment.