Thursday, March 30, 2017

Brazilian Politician Who Orchestrated Ousting of Rousseff Sentenced to Prison
Worker's Party President Dilma Rousseff was ousted in a political
coup during 2016.
Former lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha convicted over role in Car Wash corruption scandal and
given 15 years in prison, which could be appealed

Reuters in São Paulo
Thursday 30 March 2017 14.54 EDT

Eduardo Cunha, the former head of Brazil’s lower house of congress, has been sentenced to more than 15 years in prison for his role in the vast Car Wash corruption scandal.

Cunha’s conviction led to one of the stiffest penalties handed down to such a senior politician since the end of the dictatorship era in 1985, but public satisfaction with the judgment will be mixed with concern that he could yet win an appeal and that many other powerful figures accused of similar crimes remain unpunished.

Sergio Moro, a Curitiba lower court judge, found Cunha – a rightwing evangelical Christian – guilty of corruption, money laundering and currency law evasion in connection with a $1.6m bribe he received from a deal by the state-run oil firm Petrobras to buy exploration rights in Benin. The judgment also noted a pending case in Switzerland related to $2.3m stashed in a secret bank account in the European country.

“The responsibility of a federal parliamentarian is enormous, and so, therefore, is his guilt when he commits crimes. There can be no more serious offence than the betrayal for personal gain of a parliamentary mandate and the sacred trust of the people,” the judged noted in his ruling.

Public opinion is firmly behind the conviction. As recent mass protests have indicated, many Brazilians are angry at endemic corruption and the impunity long enjoyed by senior office holders.

Cunha – often compared to Frank Underwood in House of Cards due to his reputation as an arch-manipulator – has long been one of the most unpopular figures in the country.

He orchestrated the impeachment of the Workers party president Dilma Rousseff in an attempt to evade justice. But – amid a public outcry – he was forced to stand down soon after and was then expelled from congress, stripping him of the immunity of office.

In his resignation speech, Cunha warned that other lawmakers would follow him to jail: “It’s the price I’m paying for the country to be free of the Workers party. They are charging me the price for leading the impeachment process,” he told lawmakers. “Tomorrow, it will be you.”

But although dozens of senators, deputies, governors and the former presidents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Rousseff and Fernando Collor de Mello have either been charged or are under investigation, it is far from clear that they will be brought to trial and convicted. The current president, Michel Temer, has been named in several plea bargains as a senior figure in the scandal, but he has not been charged by prosecutors.

In recent months, there have also been several signs that the Car Wash inquiry is being weakened both by the mysterious death of a senior judge, political appointments to the supreme court and growing efforts in congress to pass an amnesty bill and outlaw plea bargain deals.

Should these trends continue, Cunha’s conviction could also prove to be the only one of its kind.

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