Brazilian Deputy Severino Cavalcanti, who was Brazil’s Speaker of the House (president of the Chamber of Deputies) resigned from the Congress. Cavalcanti was accused of extortion and receiving kickbacks from a restaurateur who did business in the congressional office building.
In the face of overwhelming evidence of his malfeasance, Cavalcanti resigned rather than face expulsion which would make him ineligible to run for office for eight years.
In fact, in a farewell speech, Cavalcanti promised to be back in 2006 when the next congressional elections will take place. “I will be back. The people of Pernambuco, once again, will not fail me,” he exclaimed.
Cavalcanti from the PP party is 74 years old and has been in politics for 40 years. He was mayor of his hometown, Joao Alfredo (pop. 27,000), state of Pernambuco, and then a state deputy for 28 years.
Since 1995 he has been in Brasília as a federal deputy, where he became known as the King of the Lower Clergy (Rei do Baixo Clero), or leader of a group of members of congress famous for having little prominence and less power.
Cavalcanti was elected, with 300 votes, out of 513, to be president of the Chamber of Deputies (equivalent to Speaker of the House, and next in line to succeed the president after the vice president), on February 15.
He served as head of the Chamber for 218 days. His election was made possible by an internal division in the PT, which fielded two candidates, and the combined forces of the opposition and the lower clergy.
As president of the Chamber of Deputies, Cavalcanti worked hard to get a salary increase (which was not successful) and greater independence for the legislature (with mixed results).
Excerpts from his fareweel speech:
“Euclides da Cunhas’s words in Rebellion in the Backlands still echo in the remote lands of the Northeast: “The sertanejo or man of the backklands is above all else a strong individual”. All of us certainly have already heard this sentence during our life.
“And in view of what I am living at this moment, in face of the circumstances that surround me full of threats, contempt, contention, lawsuits without a cause, I remind myself that the sertanejo is above all a strong individual, and try to remember what these words meant to me.
“Land poverty, man poverty.
“João Vicente Ferreira, my father, supported the family with difficulty, and early in life, like all the poor boys of the Northeast, I had to earn my own money and help my family.
“I did not manage to go beyond first grade, because very early I had to get a job. I had to contribute, above all, to the education of my four sisters, which this way were able to graduate.
“I did not find, therefore, the Northeast hardship through the books or through literature, I was born there, grew in the middle of the difficulties, in the land where the children, from early age, are strong sertanejos, because the have already tried everything – from the implacable inclemency of the landscape, and from the social inequality that segregates humankind, excluding the dispossessed from the benefits of the economy and citizenry.”