Just a few months ago, Eduardo Cunha walked in the Brazilian Parliament followed by a small group of acolytes. The former Speaker of the House was all about power. He controlled the Parliament’s agenda with an iron fist, privileging the projects of his interest, and blocking anything that displeased him. No episode was more symbolic of his leadership as the start of the impeachment process against Dilma Rousseff. If it wasn’t for Cunha, it wouldn’t have gone through. But now times are different, and Eduardo Cunha was greeted only by a handful of congressmen when he arrived at the House to defend himself.
In an emotional speech, he called the impeachment process against him a “political lynching,” and asked his fellow congressmen to vote based on the evidence, not “following popular pressure.” It was ironic to see Cunha repeating the arguments used two weeks ago by Dilma Rousseff, the woman he helped to oust from the presidency, before her trial at the Senate. In a session that finished in the early moments of Tuesday, the House decided to revoke his mandate and political rights for eight years. Only 10 congressmen (out of 513) voted in his favor.
In a country that loves soap operas, none was longer and with more plot twists than Eduardo Cunha’s impeachment process – the longest in the history of the Brazilian Parliament, lasting just shy of one year.
Formally, Cunha was impeached for having lied to the House’s Ethics Committee, when he denied having secret banks accounts in Switzerland – only to be refuted by Swiss authorities. But the truth is that there was no shortage of reasons to impeach the former Speaker. He is currently being prosecuted by the Supreme Court in two separate criminal cases. He faces corruption, fraud, tax evasion, embezzlement, and money laundering charges, and is also accused of having received $5 million in bribes.
With the decision, Cunha lost his legal prerogatives as a member of Congress. In Brazil, they can only be prosecuted and tried by the Supreme Court. Now, Cunha could face the tough Federal Judge Sérgio Moro – the man ahead of Operation Car Wash. We must remember that the Federal Prosecutor’s Office has demanded Cunha’s arrest in June – but the Supreme Court never judged the request. Moro could have well put him behind bars.
Eduardo Cunha is out of Congress, but that doesn’t mean that he lost his destruction power. A man who has always acted in the background of politics, he knows like few the schemes from which politicians profit for personal enrichment. The mere thought of a plea deal of his sends a shiver down the spines of congressmen.
One thing the former Speaker has always made clear: he may fall, but he won’t go down alone. His first menace was made right after the vote: “I will write a book about the impeachment – making public every single dialogue I had with every single politician. That’s a guarantee.” We can’t wait.