BRASÍLIA – Two weeks after the removal of Dilma Rousseff as Brazil’s president, the lower house of Congress will meet Monday to vote on whether to expel the lawmaker who engineered her impeachment and who faces corruption charges in the Supreme court.
Former speaker Eduardo Cunha has been charged by the court for allegedly taking a $5 million bribe on a drill ship contract for state-run oil company Petrobras and for having secret bank accounts in Switzerland.
Cunha’s fate has many politicians worried because he has threatened to bring down others by revealing cases of corruption that could endanger members of the government of Brazil’s new President Michel Temer and derail his fiscal reform agenda.
Cunha has warned he could tell all in a plea bargain that could compromise many in a discredited political establishment, where 50 politicians are already under investigation for taking kickbacks in the Petrobras scandal.
In all, about 60 percent of the 513 lawmakers in Brazil’s lower house are under investigation for various allegations, according to watchdog group Transparency Brazil.
Cunha’s peers are expected to strip him of his seat for lying to them about his Swiss accounts, but his allies are proposing he keep his political rights and not be barred from politics for eight years, as would be normal under Brazilian law, which could see him run again in 2018.
Cunha commands loyalty from lawmakers he helped elect, using what his critics say were illegally obtained funds. His supporters have sought to delay the ethics case, which has lasted 10 months, for as long as possible.
Cunha is the only sitting Brazilian lawmaker to face trial in a massive bribery investigation focused on state oil company Petrobras and if he loses his seat and partial immunity as a lawmaker he faces imminent arrest.
The office of Brazil’s top prosecutor, which has asked for his arrest, says Cunha faces nine other corruption accusations.
If Cunha survives with his political career intact, analysts say that will bolster Rousseff’s argument she was ousted on trumped-up charges of manipulating government accounts in a conspiracy by Cunha and other lawmakers from the ruling Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) seeking to stop the sprawling Petrobras kickback investigation. The PMDB is the largest political party in Brazil.
To let Cunha off the hook after impeaching Rousseff would be “total cynicism” and an “outrage” for Brazilians, the country’s largest circulation newspaper, the Folha de S.Paulo, wrote in an editorial on Monday.
“His time has come — and one hopes that of others of his ilk,” Folha wrote.