By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – After more than ten hours of discussions and discourses, Brazil’s Supreme Court decided that sitting lawmakers can not be removed from office without the endorsement of the Brazilian Congress.
The decision was received well by most lawmakers, who have been criticizing the highest court in the land for unilaterally deciding the fate of one of their own.
“I think this decision is a respect for the Brazilian Constitution, more than just. Like the parliament, the Supreme Court has to respect the balance between the powers,” said Luciana Genro, Chamber representative and president of the PCdoB (Brazil’s Communist Party).
With six votes for and five against, the Brazilian Justices decided to let the Legislative branch have the last word on its members. The deciding vote came from Chief Justice Carmen Lucia Rocha, who emphasized that the decision would not translate into impunity for lawmakers.
Some lawmakers, however, fear that now Congressional representatives accused of breaking the law will close rank and help each other. “The measure of the Supreme I respect, but, regrettably, it contributes to impunity in Brazil,” stated Randolfe Rodrigues, leader of the Rede party in the Senate, noting that now those being investigated in the Lava Jato graft, for example, may count on the votes of their peers to keep them in office.
According to official Supreme Court data, of a total of 594 congressmen, 237 are being investigated, 182 of those in the Lava Jato scandal.
Wednesday’s decision is expected to help the case of suspended Senator Aécio Neves. At the end of September the country’s Supreme Court was highly criticized by lawmakers when it decided to remove former presidential candidate and current senator, Aécio Neves, from the Senate and place him in house arrest during the night.
At the time the Justices accepted the request by prosecutors, who accuse Neves of asking former JBS CEO Joesley Batista for R$2 million in bribes in the Lava Jato (Car Wash) graft.