By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – A Congressional panel in Brazil rejected on Thursday a recommendation that President Michel Temer be charged with the crime of passive corruption. The decision comes a day after former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was convicted of money-laundering and accepting bribes. Both cases are part of the mega-corruption investigation in Brazil known as Lava Jato (Car Wash).
“President Michel Temer congratulates each of the deputies who today, with civic courage, have given their vote in defense of the Constitution and democracy,” President spokesperson Alexandre Parola told reporters after the vote.
The recommendation made by Representative Sergio Zveiter was rejected by 40 votes to 25. Zveiter argued that there was enough evidence to bring Brazil’s leader in front of the Supreme Court to be prosecuted. The charges, however, will still be brought in front of the entire Chamber of Deputies to be voted on in early August to be voted on by the entire Lower House.
If the Lower House accepts the accusations, President Temer will be forced to step down for up to 180 days while the Supreme Court hears the case. Less than a year ago, the same procedure was held for then President Dilma Rousseff, who eventually was found guilty of mismanagement of funds and impeached.
The Chamber’s decision comes a day after federal judge Sergio Moro sentenced former President Lula to nine and a half years for the crimes of corruption and money laundering.
On Thursday, Lula gave a press conference in São Paulo where he vowed to fight the accusations until the end, and said he was considering running in the 2018 Presidential elections.
“The only evidence that exists in this case is that of my innocence,” said the former leader. “I think Moro has to account for the story, which will tell who is right and who is wrong,” he added.
Appeals of this kind in Brazil have usually taken a year to be heard and voted on. Until his petition is heard, President Lula cannot, by law, run for any public office, including the Presidency. But on Thursday, the former leader seemed unfazed by the possible consequences of the conviction.
“Those who think it’s the end of Lula, are sadly mistaken,” he concluded.