14 September 2016
Eduardo Cunha was formerly President of the Chamber of Deputies in Brazil. He was considered to be the most powerful politician Brazil after the President Michel Temer who took office on 31 August 2016. On Tuesday, in a session that lasted through the night, the 450 Congress members voted to end Cunha’s term. Ten voted in his favour, with nine abstentions. The house-ethics committee, found that he lied to Congress about having secret bank account worth the equivalent of $2.5 million in Switzerland, recommended his removal and put the issue to be decided by the house. Investigators think that he also has had undeclared accounts in the United States since 1990 worth more than $20 million.
Cunha, an economist turned evangelical Christian radio show host, blamed that he was being punished for leading the move to impeach and remove former President Dilma Rousseff from office. This doesn’t appear to have any truth in it as a huge number of deputies voted against him and he got only 10 votes in his favour. Cunha accused Temer’s government for its role in his ouster.
In May, a Brazilian Supreme Court justice decided that Eduardo Cunha should have his term suspended. As President of the Chamber of Deputies, Cunha had the parliamentary immunity which he loses now after his removal from the Presidency of the Chamber of Deputies. His case now goes to lower court, which is known to pronounce harsher punishments on errant politicians.
Authorities are investigating Cunha’s wife and daughter also for corruption. They have leaked credit-card statements showing that Cunha and his family spent $40,000 on a nine-day family holiday in Miami in 2013. His wife Claudia spent $59,000 on tennis lessons. The family has a fleet of luxury cars, some registered to a company named Jesus.com. Even though he reported an annual income of $120,000, Brazil’s prosecutor-general does not think that this income could justify the assets the family owns and therefore has asked for his arrest.
Brazil has had widespread corruption for more than two decades. The national oil company, Petrobras, was used as a vehicle for over invoicing to bribe executives, and government officials, politicians. Kick-backs were also widely paid. This had been a public knowledge all the time. But since the ouster of former President Dilma Rousseff, public opinion had played an important role in judicial and Congressional decisions. We cannot say whether this is good or bad but it is the reality.
In less than a month after the fall of former President Dilma Rousseff, Cunha was ousted. Therefore, it is felt that more people will be caught for corruption in the coming months. During the trail of Cunha, there were banners outside the chambers, calling for the ouster of President Michel Temer. It is possible that Cunha may have damning information on those who were involved in the Petrobras scandal. He may publish this information to take revenge on those who voted against him.
Judicial system has made wide-ranging use of a relatively new law allowing accused persons to co-operate with police in exchange for lighter sentences. Cunha may use this to lighten his punishment. This also will enable authorities to round up more corrupt politicians.
Brazil: Powerful politician ousted on corruption charges
14 September 2016