Tearfully, one of the most controversial political figures of recent times in Brazil resigned. Eduardo Cunha, the 58 year old former evangelical radio station host from Río de Janeiro, resigned as speaker of Brazil's Chamber of Deputies on July 7. While he maintains his seat in the lower house, Cunha is facing the possibility of being expelled from the legislature.
The chief instigator of the impeachment process against President Dilma Rousseff insisted on his innocence and that of his wife Claudia Cruz, together with a daughter from his first marriage, who are also being investigated for spending money Cunha accepted in bribes laundered through secret bank accounts in Switzerland.
Cunha spearheaded the coup in Brazil, announcing in December last year that the green light had been given to impeach the first woman president of the South American nation. Seven months later, the complex process which saw Dilma Rousseff suspended has resulted in an apparently endless political and economic crisis.
Cunha was behind the plot that saw the endless repetition of alleged violation of fiscal laws committed by Rousseff and their impact on democracy. However, the real reasons for the attacks, at least for him, were purely personal. As speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Cunha demanded that lawmakers of the ruling Workers’ Party (PT), to which the former guerrilla Rousseff belongs, not vote against him in a process started in the House Ethics Committee in which he was accused of “a lack of parliamentary decorum” for lying to his peers. Given the refusal of the PT, Cunha used all means available to him to defeat the President and her party, despite being aware of the political cost of this move, which he is now experiencing.
Cunha was described as the most powerful and influential politician of the country, with a population of nearly 200 million. His “merit” lies in publicly challenging Rousseff and destroying her political career by lying, bribing and manipulating his fellow legislators in Congress.
It also transpired that he was a committed ally of interim President Michel Temer and the machinations of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (center-right) to which they both belong. Cunha’s resignation is seen as another headache for an interim government that has sought every possible means to project an image of legality. Cunha represents a corrupt system of impunity and his links to Temer have negative implications for the latter. Aware of this, advisers to the interim president said they had been “surprised” by the resignation. However, several local media including Jornal O Globo reported that the two had met prior to the announcement and Temer had sought to convince Cunha to resign.
But silence has a price. In one of his public speeches, Cunha threatened to open a Pandora’s box and reveal information that, according to him, would finish off half of Congress. These threats are now the only means he has to maintaining his status and influence.
Several analysts have noted that Temer is seeking to postpone any trial of the man who cleared his way to the presidency, at least until the impeachment process against Rousseff is decided in the Senate. Many believe a decision could be announced in late August, to coincide with the end of the Olympic Games in Río de Janeiro.
Another issue at play is who will become speaker of the Chamber of Deputies. Cunha, just as Temer, is desperately seeking someone loyal to their interests to ensure the investigations go no further and he does not lose his impunity as a legislator. Meanwhile, the appointment of an easily influenced person who does not dent any long-term interests is crucial to the interim president.