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News > Latin America

Brazilian Parties Call on Opposition Leader to Step Down

  • Speaker of Brazil's Chamber of Deputies Eduardo Cunha grimaces during an event in a public school in Brasilia, Brazil, September 24, 2015.

    Speaker of Brazil's Chamber of Deputies Eduardo Cunha grimaces during an event in a public school in Brasilia, Brazil, September 24, 2015. | Photo: Reuters

Published 14 October 2015

Lawmakers accuse the speaker of the lower house, Eduardo Cunha, of violating the code of ethics over allegations he benefited from a corruption scheme.

A group of Brazilian political parties, led by the Party of Socialism and Freedom, submitted a formal request to the Ethics Council of the Chamber of Deputies asking for the speaker of the lower house, Eduardo Cunha, to be removed from his post.

The Ethics Council is being asked to remove Cunha over allegations he is linked to a massive corruption scandal involving the state-owned oil company Petrobras.

"It is clear that Eduardo Cunha violated the Constitution and the Code of Ethics and Parliamentary Decorum of the Chamber (of Deputies), for having used the position to obtain undue advantages,” said Chico Alencar, a lawmaker in the lower house and the leader of the Party of Socialism and Freedom.

Cunha is specifically accused of having lied to the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry about his assets, claiming he did not have any foreign bank accounts.

Earlier this month, the government of Switzerland confirmed that it had frozen the bank accounts and assets of Cunha over suspected money laundering. Cunha has denied any wrongdoing.

Cunha is a fierce critic of President Rousseff. He broke away from the ruling Workers Party and has come out in support of impeaching the recently reelected head of state.

Critically, as speaker, he also controls when impeachment proceedings against the president begin, though a recent injunction by the Brazilian Supreme Court froze Cunha's efforts to unilaterally decide how that process would unfold.

RELATED: Understanding the Latest Efforts at Ousting Rousseff

The Party of Socialism and Freedom, known as PSOL, which submitted the request, was backed by seven other parties, including Rousseff's Workers Party and the Sustainability Network, the party founded by former presidential candidate Marina Silva, who placed third in the 2014 elections.

Nearly 50 lawmakers signed the request asking for Cunha to be removed from his post. PSOL submitted 100 pages worth of evidence to support their allegation that Cunha violated the code of ethics for lawmakers.

"The Chamber can no longer accept such an ominous figure as its speaker, this is an attack on representative democracy,” said lawmaker Chico Alencar of PSOL. “Everything is now contaminated by this absolutely abnormal situation.”

The Code of Ethics of the lower house states that the failure to disclose assets is one of the factors that can strip a lawmaker’s mandate. The Ethics Council has 90 days to investigate, after which 257 members of the lower house must vote to revoke his mandate.

Henrique Fontana, the deputy leader of PSOL, criticized other parties for not signing the request, saying they were protecting him in order to "negotiate the possible opening of an impeachment process against President Dilma Rousseff."

Rousseff has classified efforts by the opposition to oust her via impeachment as a “coup” attempt by politicians dissatisfied with the election results. She was returned to office last year with the support of more than 51 percent of voters.

“We are living in a serious political crisis … They want to come to power through a coup, by impeding a government elected by the direct vote of 54 million people,” Rousseff said Tuesday.

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