Forced Resignation of Brazil’s Number 3 Opens Battle in Congress

The speaker of Brazil’s Lower House resigned Wednesday his post and seat in Congress faced with growing claims of corruption, which he denied to the bitter end.

Severino Cavalcanti, 74, leader of a small right wing party, which belongs to the ruling coalition of president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Congress stepped down after he was accused, two weeks ago, of having bribed in 2002 and 2003, the catering manager of the Congress restaurant to renew his concession contract.


In his farewell speech Mr. Cavalcanti said his quitting was not an admission of guilt but rather because he was “trialed and hanged” with no appeal even before any formal charges had been presented, leaving him the “only option of resigning”.


He insisted the charges were “false, false, false” and “in response to those charges, I must tell the truth: Severino Cavalcanti leaves Congress as when he first arrived, not only as a poor Deputy but as heavily indebted politician”.


Anyhow, “I would do it allover again” in spite of the fact “politics made me poor”.


The fact is it was suggested to him to take leave of absence of the speaker’s post, or if not he would be impeached and expelled from Congress.


Mr. Cavalcanti, Deputy for three periods and whose conservative stands made him a close ally of the Brazilian Catholic church was also named as one of the at least 18 Congress members who received regular payments from the ruling Workers Party in exchange for supporting the government’s Congressional agenda.


The exit of Mr. Cavalcanti opens a battle for the crucial post of speaker in the midst of Brazil’s major political crisis triggered by the illegal scheme of money and favors for votes involving millions of dollars, implemented by the Workers Party whose leadership was forced to resign when the scandal became public.


Mr. Cavalcanti’s post will be temporarily occupied by deputy speaker Jose Thomaz Nonô, from the conservative Liberal Front and a bitter opponent of President Lula.


Mr. Nonô will chair the Lower House for the next five sessions and must then call an election, which already has eleven hopefuls including him.


Actually Mr. Cavalcanti’s squeezed into the post last February as a result of differences within the Workers Party when two of its members sought the speaker’s chair.


The ongoing political crisis which erupted last May has seriously eroded President Lula and his administration. The latest public opinion poll to be published shows the administration support dropping to 29% from 35% last June with the negative perception of government performance jumping to 32% in September from 22% in June.


Trust in President Lula da Silva has also eroded from 56% in June to 44% in September. The Ibope poll was contracted by the Brazil’s CNI (National Industry Confederation).


This article appeared originally in Mercopress -www.mercopress.com.

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