Opinion by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – This week, Eduardo Cunha, former President of the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies, now a private citizen after having been removed from office by a vote of 450 of his peers, has been arrested and sent to jail in the “Republic of Curitiba” presided over by Judge Sergio Moro. He is charged with bribery, money laundering and interfering with Lava-Jato criminal investigations.
Mr. Cunha had been an elected member of the Chamber since 2003, one of the major stars in the PMDB firmament. He was also supported by Congressional backbenchers belonging to political “parties for hire”. These parties thrived through the practice of “fisiologismo”, the trading of favors among political cronies.
Cunha was the unrivaled master of this procedure, and at one point it was theorized that he had as many as 200 federal Deputies in his hip pocket because they owed him favors. All but fifty of those deserted him and voted to remove him from office, despite his threats of retribution.
Now that Cunha’s day of reckoning has arrived, he is said to have hired a lawyer who specializes in plea bargaining. That news has literally hundreds of politicians quaking in their boots. These include fellow legislators whose election campaigns he financed; those whom he served by attaching special interest riders onto “medidas provisórias” being voted into law; those whose constituents received appointments to state-owned companies; and much, much more.
In short, Cunha knows where all the bodies are buried because for over a dozen years, he was the caretaker of the cemetery, the one who allocated the various plots and saw to their maintenance. The living dead are spinning in their graves.
Lula’s grand plan for Brazil depended upon docile legislators being herded into line. The Curmudgeon submits that without the active collaboration of Eduardo Cunha and his henchmen, the Mensalão and Petrolão schemes would have failed.