Brazil politician who led Dilma Rousseff impeachment sacked
Eduardo Cunha expelled from congress after being caught lying about overseas accounts
Former speaker of Brazil’s lower house of Congress, Eduardo Cunha: faces imminent arrest as part of the probe into corruption at Petrobras. Photograph: Adriano Machado/Reuters
One of the principal architects of the impeachment of former Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff was expelled from the country’s Congress on Monday night after he was caught lying about overseas bank accounts.
In a dramatic fall from grace, Eduardo Cunha saw the lower house over which he presided up until May vote 450 to 10 to strip him of his mandate and ban him from public office until 2027.
The most powerful president of the lower chamber in decades, a man who thought of himself as a possible presidential candidate in 2018, Mr Cunha’s problems stem from his claim made before a parliamentary commission last year that he did not have any bank accounts abroad.
He made it after federal prosecutors accused him of receiving millions of euro in bribes from contractors to the state oil giant Petrobras.
But his declaration of innocence was undermined by information supplied by authorities in Switzerland, leading his opponents to start the process to remove him.
That led to a game of brinkmanship with Ms Rousseff that has now ended with both politicians kicked out of office. Last December, Mr Cunha tabled an impeachment motion against Ms Rousseff in revenge for members of her Workers Party voting on the house’s ethics committee to send a motion to expel him before the full chamber.
By April of this year Mr Cunha had harnessed growing public hostility to Ms Rousseff to his own skill in directing the chamber to deliver a crushing vote in favour of stripping the president of her mandate. Ms Rousseff never recovered from the blow, being suspended from office by the senate in May. The senate voted to permanently remove her last month.
But after his success in delivering April’s vote to impeach, Mr Cunha’s position began to unravel quickly. In May the supreme court ordered his suspension from the presidency of the lower house, claiming he was using his position unlawfully to prevent efforts to remove him.
Aware that Mr Cunha was deeply unpopular with voters, Michel Temer, the man who replaced Ms Rousseff, distanced himself from his former ally. With local elections due next month, Mr Cunha also saw his former allies and acolytes in the chamber desert him for fear that being identified with efforts to save him could impact on the electoral chances of their allies.
After his crushing defeat Mr Cunha reportedly threatened retaliation, telling friends he could use what he knows to “topple the government” of Mr Temer.
Like Ms Rousseff, by losing his mandate Mr Cunha has now lost his political immunity from prosecution from any court except the supreme court. That means he faces imminent arrest as part of the probe into corruption at Petrobras. He is charged with receiving up to tens of millions illegally in bribes. Ms Rousseff faces possible charges for obstruction of justice.