Brazil’s lower house of Congress has voted to oust its former speaker Eduardo Cunha, who spearheaded the drive to impeach president Dilma Rousseff only to suffer his own graft-stained downfall. Cunha, who is often compared to the dark, manipulative villain Frank Underwood of the hit Netflix series “House of Cards,” was stripped of his seat in the Chamber of Deputies by a resounding vote of 450 in favor, 10 against and nine abstentions.
“I declare lawmaker Eduardo Cunha stripped of office for conduct incompatible with lawmakers’ duties,” said the decision read out at the conclusion of the late-night session. Cunha, a 57-year-old conservative allied with the
Evangelical Christian right, was a central figure in Brazil’s long impeachment drama.
His enemies accuse him of using his power to launch impeachment proceedings as a trump card to stave off his own prosecution for allegedly taking millions of dollars in bribes. He resigned as speaker in July amid swirling accusations of corruption linked to the huge state oil company Petrobras. He was forced to face the music in Congress for having “lied” to other lawmakers about his possession of secret Swiss bank accounts.
Cunha, who denies any wrongdoing, handled his own defense at Monday’s session. He mainly displayed the cool and calculating persona he is known for, but occasionally his voice broke with emotion. “I didn’t lie. There’s no bank account. Where’s the proof?” he said. “Don’t judge me based on what public opinion says,” he implored, reminding his colleagues that at least 160 of them also face judicial investigations.
But his appeals fell on deaf ears. The vote against him was well clear of the simple majority of 257 needed in the 513-member chamber. Cunha was first suspended in May, less than a month after lawmakers voted to open impeachment proceedings against Rousseff, Brazil’s first woman president. Rousseff was definitively removed from office on August 31, and replaced by her vice president turned nemesis, Michel Temer.
The new center-right administration brought an end to 13 years of leftist rule in Brazil.