Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Curmudgeon’s last op-ed submission accused the STF of having acted without constitutional support by barring Eduardo Cunha from exercising his elected office as a Federal Deputy. But that was the official 1988 Constitution; there is an alternative available.
A century ago, Brazilian historian Capistrano de Abreu (1853 – 1927) bequeathed us an alternative Constitution, one containing only two articles. Article 1: Every Brazilian must have a sense of shame (“ter vergonha na cara”). Article 2: All provisions to the contrary are revoked.
The shameful fact is that no one in the chain of succession for the Presidency seems capable of being shamefaced. Therefore, under Article 1 of Mr. Abreu’s laconic constitution, not one of the current potential claimants of Brazil would be eligible for the office of President.
Let’s start with current (until Friday 13th May) President Dilma. Like her predecessor Lula, she has shamelessly lied about the Petrolão scheme, denying she had any knowledge, although she presided over Petrobras during the entire scheme; worse, she is now shamelessly posing as victim of a coup d’état.
Next, consider future President Temer (as of Friday 13th May). For months he has been scheming with Chamber President Cunha to oust President Dilma, while shamelessly denying it. After first promising a reduced cabinet ministry of notables, he has shamelessly returned to the despicable spoils system of making technically unqualified political appointments.
Renan Calheiros, current President of the Senate, who ten years ago resigned his seat in order to avoid being tried for corruption, has shamelessly maintained he is innocent of any wrongdoing, although there are almost a dozen charges lodged against him by the Lava-Jato prosecutors, about to be considered by the STF.
Eduardo Cunha, until last week President of the Chamber, has been shamelessly lying about his major role in the Petrolão scandal, not to mention his own mammoth enrichment in hidden offshore accounts. He too, poses shamelessly as a victim, claiming he is innocent until proven guilty.
But all is not lost, thanks to Article 2 of Abreu’s putative Constitution. The decision by the STF ordering Eduardo Cunha to step aside from any role in Congress while awaiting trial for numerous crimes, because he is next in line to assume Brazil’s presidency, is the equivalent of “revoking the provisions to the contrary“.
In other words, according to Capistrano de Abreu, refusal to be shamefaced becomes a justifiable constitutional basis for removing a public official from high office.
Many analysts believe the STF will reiterate its Cunha decision and determine that Renan’s absolute incapacity for shamefacedness means that he, too, is ineligible for the country’s highest office pending his trial. That would mean STF Presiding Justice Lewandowski would become President whenever Temer decides to leave Brazilian territory.
There are many people who believe that Lewandowski, given his tenacious (if unsuccessful) defense of José Dirceu and other PT defendants in the Mensalão cases, is likewise lacking a sense of shame. The Curmudgeon sincerely hopes that is not true.
The Curmudgeon does not apologize for expounding upon Capistrano de Abreu’s century-old maxim, because everyone in Brazil knows Abreu was right.