The Brazilian Supreme Court removed Renan Calheiros from his position as Brazil’s Senate President. The decision made by Justice Marco Aurélio Mello is temporary. The majority of the 11 Justices serving on Brazil’s highest court must confirm it.
Justice Mello’s decision came after a request by left-wing party Rede Sustentabilidade (Sustainable Network). The party argued that a man who is facing prosecution for corruption couldn’t be in the presidential succession line. Justice Mello agreed with the plaintiff.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court decided to prosecute Renan Calheiros on corruption charges.
Calheiros has allegedly received bribes from a construction company. The Senate President defended the company’s interests in Congress in exchange for paying the alimony he owed to an illegitimate son. At the time, Calheiros had to give up the Senate’s presidency to escape impeachment.
Back in November, the Supreme Court decided that defendants in criminal cases couldn’t be in the succession line. The court has not made a final decision, however, because one of the justices asked for more time to analyze the issue.
The decision doesn’t impeach Calheiros, who remains a senator.
Brazil’s Continued Political Turmoil
Calheiros’s removal from office further increases the government crisis. Even if he and President Michel Temer are often at odds, they both belong to the same political family. His replacement, Senator Jorge Viana, is a member of the Workers’ Party – which was ousted from power by the President’s group.
It spells trouble for an administration that planned to present a pension system reform to Congress, making Michel Temer’s situation even more fragile than it already is. Politicians in Brasília openly discuss ousting the incumbent head of state to indirectly elect a new President.
Renan Calheiros is the second head of a legislative house to lose his office due to corruption allegations. Back in May, the Supreme Court removed Eduardo Cunha, the former Speaker of the lower house. Just like Calheiros, Cunha faced prosecution for corruption charges. At the time, justices considered that Cunha was using his office to tamper with investigations.
The Supreme Court’s decision exposes an ongoing war between the branches of the federal government. Last week, Brazil’s House approved a very lenient anti-corruption law, including an article to punish abuses from judges and prosecutors. That piece of legislation was considered to be an act of intimidation against the justice system.
On Wednesday, Calheiros tried to approve the law in the Senate as an urgent matter – without debating it. One day later, the Supreme Court made him a formal defendant. Now, the court has considered him unfit to occupy his position.
Anti-Government Protests Across Brazil
On Sunday, hundreds of thousands marched to protest the current political establishment. Wearing yellow and green, demonstrators asked for more accountability from elected officials. For the past two years, the country has been riddled with corruption cases involving members of all major parties. Calheiros was one of the protestors’ main targets.