BRAZIL

Brazilian Congress expels mastermind of Rousseff impeachment

Evangelist conservative Eduardo Cunha loses last means to avoid corruption trial

Eduardo Cunha at an event in July.
Eduardo Cunha at an event in July.Antonio Cruz / Agência Brasil

More information

Eduardo Cunha, widely considered Brazil’s most unpopular politician and who masterminded the impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff two weeks ago, has been expelled from Congress for lying about secret bank accounts he held in Switzerland.

A former speaker of the lower house, Cunha was suspended in May by the Supreme Court after it opened a criminal case against him on charges he obstructed a corruption investigation.

On Monday he was banned from politics for eight years, and now that he has lost his congressional prerogatives faces arrest.

In order to survive in Brazil’s hostile Congress, politicians need to be good at giving, promising, conspiring, sympathizing, talking and yielding

The chamber voted overwhelmingly by 450-10 to strip Cunha of his seat.

Cunha was a controversial figure even before taking up a post that within Brazil’s political system made him almost as powerful as the president. He had been accused of using his position to protect himself from mounting corruption accusations and also that he held a Swiss bank account, as well as being able to afford luxury family holidays with money he had allegedly siphoned from state oil company Petrobras.

Investigators discovered that Cunha, a powerful figure in Brazil’s Evangelist Christian movement, reportedly paid more than €40,000 for a holiday in Miami, and as well as holding dozens of internet religious domain names, also owned a Porsche Cayenne worth more than €100,000 associated with his company, Jesus.com. Public prosecutors had ordered his arrest in June, arguing that he was obstructing the judicial investigation into his business affairs.

Congressional sources told EL PAÍS that Cunha had helped many deputies over the years and had called in favors to help stall the vote.

The man who toppled Dilma Rousseff

Before being brought down, the 68-year-old managed to destroy the career of his implacable enemy, Dilma Rousseff. The affair was triggered in November of last year after three deputies from her Workers’ Party sitting on a Congressional ethics committee announced they would vote against him. Within hours he had accepted one of the 28 requests filed this year to have the leader removed from office.

Rousseff, who was re-elected in October 2014, had been embroiled in political scandals and an economic crisis that overshadowed her presidency for the past year. She was found guilty of manipulating the budget by shifting public loans around after an impeachment process by her peers in Congress on August 31.

The chamber voted overwhelmingly 450-10 to strip Cunha of his seat

In the final analysis, the impeachment was always about politics. Rousseff was tried and convicted, among other things, for her management style. But she would not have been ousted if the economy had not gone into freefall in 2015 and 2016, if unemployment had not soared to 11%, or if inflation had not peaked to 7% again, and if hundreds of thousands of people had not taken to the streets to protest her policies, while the media repeatedly demanded her head on a platter. Similarly, she might have survived had she managed to craft alliances in parliament.

In order to survive in a Congress as hostile, fractious and fractured as Brazil’s, politicians need to be good at giving, promising, conspiring, sympathizing, talking and yielding on an everyday basis – and Rousseff, unlike Cunha, was not. In the end, both have fallen.

English version by Nick Lyne.

More information