Members of Brazil’s lower house of Congress debated Monday night whether a key ally of President Michel Temer should be stripped of his legislative seat amid accusations of corruption and obstruction of justice.
Eduardo Cunha, who was the Chamber of Deputies’ speaker until the allegations arose, was the main driver behind the impeachment process that removed left-leaning Dilma Rousseff from Brazil’s presidency last month.
The session on Cunha was expected to culminate with a vote, but possibly not until the early hours of Tuesday.
Cunha has been accused by Brazilian prosecutors of receiving millions of dollars in bribes linked to the sprawling corruption scandal at state-run oil giant Petrobras. But his fellow lawmakers were deciding only on whether he lied about having secret banking accounts in Switzerland. Cunha has said the accounts belong to a trust.
If found guilty and removed from office, Cunha would lose his partial immunity from prosecution. In Brazil, only the country’s top court can decide to charge and try federal lawmakers.
Cunha, in his fourth term as a lawmaker, told his peers that the Rousseff impeachment effort was the reason for the drive to remove him.
“This is all because I opened the impeachment proceedings. The (governing) Worker’s Party wants a trophy to say this was a coup,” Cunha said. “This criminal of a government of yours is now gone thanks to me.”
During the first hours of the session, only one lawmaker, Carlos Marun, stood by Cunha, who was once considered the most powerful politician in Brazil.
Nearly all the lawmakers who spoke during the evening were favorable to removing Cunha from office.