by Edgardo Loguercio
The decision made by the Brazilian Supreme Court to suspend President of the Chamber of Deputies Eduardo Cunha has deepened the political uncertainty in the country.
The decision on Thursday was applauded by more than 80 percent of Brazilians, who, according to polls, see Cunha as more corrupt than President Dilma Rousseff, who faces impeachment.
Prosecutor General Rodrigo Janot asked the Supreme Court to suspend Cunha, citing mounting evidence of corruption and money laundering against Cunha, including hidden Swiss bank accounts with millions of U.S. dollars.
Brazilian media have largely hailed the decision, though considering it late, while urging the Chamber of Deputies to formally remove Cunha, since he will maintain his salary and privileges until it does so.
Cunha’s suspension opens a new political scenario concerning the potential impeachment trial of Rousseff, which will be voted on by the Senate on Wednesday.
First, the immediate consequence is that Cunha is no longer third in line of succession, a position that would make him interim vice president, should Rousseff be impeached. That role would now go to Senate President Renan Calheiros, a moderate leader who maintains an open dialogue with the ruling Workers’ Party.
Second, Rousseff’s government has said it will use Cunha’s suspension to ask the Supreme Court to nullify the impeachment vote in the lower house of parliament as the vote was carried out with Cunha at the helm.
Brazilian Attorney General Jose Eduardo Cardozo has said that he would request the Supreme Court to annul all acts passed by the Chamber of Deputies since the official request of Cunha’s dismissal in December 2015.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court’s rapid and unanimous vote against Cunha has sparked fears among legislators that corruption investigations will now speed up and zero in on them.
Around 70 deputies and senators are currently under investigation for corruption by the Supreme Court, the only tribunal allowed to do so due to the lawmakers’ legal immunity.
As president of the Chamber of Deputies, Cunha commanded a clear bloc of deputies, whom he allegedly used to keep his allies safe or vote down legislative proposals he did not like.
Justice Teori Zavascki wrote after the decision that “besides posing risks to the penal investigations of the Supreme Court, Cunha conspired against the very dignity of the institution he led.”
Cunha’s fall has also given rise to fears that he could seek a plea bargain with prosecutors to reduce his own sentence, by revealing the extent of the involvement of other politicians.
Even ousted from his position, Cunha retains the power to control political forces, especially within his the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), which may be about to ascend to power as Vice President Michel Temer of the party will take over from Rousseff should an impeachment trial is approved by the Senate.
The PMDB left the coalition led by the Workers Party in March and supported the impeachment of Rousseff. Enditem