Opinion by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The most popular chant around Brazil today will not be “Fora Temer!” but rather “Fora Cunha!” The reason is that, starting (probably) at 7PM and stretching (surely) well into the wee small hours of Tuesday September 13th, Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies will be voting on whether to remove from its ranks Federal Deputy Eduardo Cunha.
Mr. Cunha, who has a degree in economics and worked as an auditor before entering politics, has been an elected member of the federal Chamber since 2003 and in 2014 received the third highest number of votes in the state of Rio de Janeiro. He has long been associated with PMDB, and was elected its party leader in the Chamber in 2013; two years later, he was elected President of the Chamber.
In May 2016, however, Cunha was deposed from his position as President through an STF order because of allegations of criminal behavior against him connected to the Lava Jato scandal. After much protesting of his innocence, Cunha resigned the Presidency in July 2016. However, notwithstanding his efforts to the contrary, the investigations have continued, and the vote today will be to remove him from office entirely.
Cunha is uniformly loathed by the supporters of former President Dilma, who claim that he was the creator and artificer of the impeachment process. He has long been supported by Congressional backbenchers, many of whom belong to small satellite “parties for hire”. These parties have managed to stay alive through the practice of “fisiologismo” or the trading of favors among political cronies.
Cunha was the unrivaled master of this procedure, and because so many people owe him favors, he was able to postpone today’s vote for almost a year. There were even federal Deputies who threatened not to vote for impeachment if the efforts to unseat Cunha were allowed to proceed.
But, in the fullness of time, the day of reckoning has arrived, and many of his long-time sycophants and cronies have now deserted him, in the face of the overwhelming evidence that, not only did he commit any number of crimes, he hid all his ill-gotten gains in offshore accounts, which are no longer secret.
Assuming the vote goes as predicted, by tomorrow Eduardo Cunha will be a private citizen, not an elected member of the legislative branch of government. That constitutes his worst fear, because it means the criminal proceedings against him from the Lava Jato scheme will be heard by crusading Judge Sergio Moro in Curitiba, rather than by the overburdened federal Supreme Court.
There is still a possibility that the Chamber will not vote to remove Cunha; he has occasionally hinted that if he goes, he will bring down the entire house of cards he built up during his tenure. That is the worst fear of dozens of federal deputies. Fortunately, the vote in the Chamber will not be secret — if it were, Cunha would still be President of the Chamber.
The Curmudgeon isn’t sure that newly elected Chamber President Rodrigo Maia will be much of an improvement, but he could hardly be worse.