Despite Mounting Evidence of Corruption Brazil’s House Speaker Says He Won’t Quit

Brazil's speaker of the House, Eduardo Cunha Lower House Speaker Eduardo Cunha declared earlier this week he is fully entitled to hold the post of Speaker of the House. Cunha gave a statement after documents allegedly proving Swiss bank accounts open in his name and his family’s were released. 

“Here [the presidency of the House] there is only one way for me to leave, which is to quit, and I will not quit. So those who think they can count on my ouster, just forget it: I will not quit,” Cunha declared.

The congressman denied to be under pressure to step down and said he is seeking support from allied parties and from his own party, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), to continue holding the post of speaker of the House. And he considers to be speculation the information leaked about this issue.

About the charges involving him, Cunha announced that he reaffirms what he had declared in a statement about documents forwarded to the Prosecutor-General’s Office by the Office of the Attorney-General of Switzerland, and released in the news program Jornal Hoje, broadcast by TV Globo.

The lower house speaker’s wife, Claudia Cruz, and his daughter, Danielle Cunha, were also named in the petition. Among the documents sent to Brazil and presented in the news program, there were copies of Cunha’s passport used to open the account, in addition to his home address in Rio de Janeiro, in a house complex at Avenida Heitor Doie Maia, in Barra da Tijuca, and phone numbers of the National Congress and the presidential palace.

Brazil's speaker of the House, Eduardo Cunha

Because of the charges, the Prosecutor-General’s Office (PGR) had requested to open an investigation against Cunha. The request had been granted by Supreme Court Justice Teori Zavaski, responsible for the examining the charges of Operation Car Wash at the Supreme Court (STF).

On the request, the PGR said that the deputy received bribes from Petrobras contracts until September 11, 2014. According to the Prosecutor-General’s Office, Cunha received US$ 5 million in kickbacks to secure drill ship contracts with Petrobras.

Fighting Impeachment Directions

Cunha filed an appeal on October 19 against three injunctions issued by the Supreme Court canceling the directions he had set for impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff.

“We’re challenging the merits of the injunctions on a point-by-point basis for consideration by the justices,” Cunha said.

He pointed out he had established the impeachment proceedings in accordance to the Internal Rules of the Chamber of Deputies and based on previous decisions of the house. For Cunha, if his appeal is turned down, there will be no way the President of the Republic could be held accountable.

“As you can see, no innovations were introduced, nor were any new guidelines established as to how to handle any charges brought against the president. Rather, as I have said again and again, the rules were merely put together and outlined with utmost transparency and clarity,” he said.

Supreme Court Justice Luís Roberto Barroso told reporters in São Paulo that the country is facing a critical moment and the main concern should be to protect institutions.

“We’ll be deciding whether our country is ready to be a great nation or a banana republic that contents itself with quick fixes and workarounds. We must address our problems within a constitutional framework, respecting our institutions, and with an awareness that the political timing is different from the constitutional timing,” he said.

The justice advocated a new government system as a possible solution to the current crisis: “We could consider at this time, in the short run, a semi-presidential model that provides institutional remedies to deal with political crises,” he said.

No Corruption in Government

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff said today that her administration has not engaged in wrongdoing, and declined to comment on a statement made by the speaker of the House, Eduardo Cunha, that Brazil’s government is involved in the world’s biggest corruption scandal.

“First of all, I’m not going to comment on the words of the speaker of the House. Secondly, my administration is not involved in any corruption scandals. It’s not my administration who’s facing charges after all,” she said at a news conference in Finland.

Asked by journalists if Petrobras was not a government’s company, the president said that “it’s not the company that got involved in the scandal. It’s people [there] who committed wrongdoing, and they’re behind bars.”

In her opinion, the opposition is trying to obstruct all government action, but it will not be detained “no matter how many times they try to press an impeachment case”.

No Breakdown

“We live in a democracy and we have the legislative and the judiciary power, and an executive power acting independently. They work with autonomy but also in harmony. We do not believe there is a risk of a more acute crisis,” responded the president in a press statement.

Rousseff announced in Sweden that she does not believe that an “institutional breakdown process” may happen in Brazil, when asked about a possible impeachment process against her government and the consequences of the country’s political instability for the purchase of Swedish fighter jets by the Brazilian Air Force (FAB).

In the president’s view, Brazil’s economic hardships do not pose obstacles to the deal between FAB and the Swedish firm Saab, which produces the Gripen fighter jet. The president pointed out that Europe and the United States have gone through a deep economic crisis in 2008 and 2009, and no contract had been broken at the time.

“There was a recovery process and all existing contracts were executed. I see no reason why this would not happen with Brazil, which has a structurally sound economy,” she claimed.

“They Cut Throats”

When asked about the situation in Syria, the president declared she does not believe in a military solution to the conflict. She opposed the Russian military intervention in the region and called for a diplomatic solution to the conflict, but noted that it would not open dialogue with the Islamic State and other terrorist groups.

“The Islamic State does not participate in a negotiating table. Do you know why they do not participate? Because they are engaged in different politics, they cut throats,” stated the president.

Contractors’ Cartel

The rapporteur of the Congressional Committee of Investigation on the corruption scandal involving Petrobras, House representative Luiz Sérgio, has turned in the final report of the Congress probe to be voted on October 22.

The final report of the Congressional Committee of Investigation (CPI) about the corruption scandal at Petrobras says the state oil company was the victim of a contractors’ cartel with the “aiding and abetting of some bad employees”.

The document, however, was criticized for not recommending the indictment of any of the Congress members implicated in the investigations carried out by Federal Police in Operation Car Wash.

According to Luiz Sérgio, statements heard by the CPI proved that there were “personal motivations” for the wrongdoing.

“Whistleblowers confirmed the existence of a ‘club’ of contractors who met to fix detailed arrangements for their bids for Petrobras contracts,” the rapporteur said.

The report made 30 recommendations to Petrobras, to the Prosecutor-General’s Office, to the Ministry of Justice, to the Chamber of Deputies, and to the Ministry of Mines and Energy (which the oil company is linked to) as well as 14 suggested changes in a range of laws to prevent corruption.

It also clears former Petrobras CEO’s José Sergio Gabrielli and Graça Foster “and former directors of the state-owned company, including President Dilma Rousseff” of the corruption allegations, as well as former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. According to the rapporteur, there were no mentions of their names in the whistleblowers’ statements implicating any of them in the wrongdoing.

Luiz Sérgio has also disputed the conclusions of the Federal Police and Public Prosecutors regarding kickback payments made in the guise of official campaign donations to political parties.

Explaining why he had left politicians’ indictments out of the report, Luiz Sérgio said the CPI committee decided it would not pursue investigations on Congress members and the charges against them could be handled by other bodies such as the Ethics Committee of the Chamber of Deputies.

Representative Hugo Motta, chair of the CPI, said their efforts have not “been in vain, because they led up to extensive investigations.” He argued that the CPI lacked the required tools to carry out a more thorough investigation, but the committee successfully produced an analysis of the political scenario surrounding the allegations.

The CPI’s proceedings were due to end by October 23. According to opposition Deputy Ivan Valente, the investigation committee has made a serious mistake by not calling the implicated lawmakers to testify.

“None of them was summoned and the only one who testified at all was House representative Eduardo Cunha, speaker of the House, who lied to the CPI by saying he had no offshore accounts.” Valente and other Congress members want the CPI deadline to be extended.



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