In its continuing attempts to salvage the image of Brazilian Congress, a new organization, the Pro-Congress Group (Grupo Pró-Congresso), will meet today to debate the recent surfacing of accusations against the president of the Chamber of Deputies (the equivalent of Speaker of the House), Severino Cavalcanti.
The organization has more than fifty members from eight different political parties. Cavalcanti is accused of receiving kickbacks from a restaurateur who operated restaurants and snack bars in the congressional office building. He is also accused of favoring some banks, which were allowed to do business with the Chamber without proper bidding.
During the press conference on Sunday during which he defended himself from charges of receiving bribes and kickbacks, Cavalcanti presented a copy of a document which has now become pivotal to the case.
The document extends the concession contract of restaurateur, Sebastião Buani, to operate restaurants and snacks bars in the congressional office building. Buani says he had to pay off Cavalcanti in order to get the contract extension.
Cavalcanti swears that he did not sign the document and that his signature on it is forged. On Sunday he presented a report by a handwriting expert corroborating what he said about the document.
However, since Sunday questions have been raised regarding the expertise and competence of Cavalcanti’s handwriting expert. So, yesterday the third secretary of the Chamber of Deputies, Eduardo Gomes (PSDB-TO), sent a request to the head of the Chamber’s magistratical office (corregedor da Casa), Ciro Nogueira, for a new examination of the document by the country’s most renowned handwriting experts at the University of Campinas (Unicamp).
Today members of the Constitution and Justice Commission in the Chamber of Deputies (Comissão de Constituição e Justiça da Câmara) (CCJ) will examine a motion by deputy Roberto Jefferson (PTB-RJ) in which he alleges that he was unable to exercise his right to defend himself and was deprived of due process.
Jefferson’s appeal to the CCJ is an attempt to avoid expulsion from Congress and the loss of his mandate. The PL has sponsored a motion to expel Jefferson, accusing him of infringing parliamentary decorum by making accusations without proof.
According to Jefferson, there was a payoff scheme in the Congress in which members of parties allied with the government got monthly payments to ensure that they voted with the government.