Brazilian lawmakers vote to strip ex-speaker of his seat


RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil’s lower house of Congress voted overwhelmingly late Monday to strip the legislative seat of its former speaker amid accusations of corruption and obstruction of justice.

The Chamber of Deputies voted 450 to 10 to remove Eduardo Cunha after hours of debate. Nine legislators abstained.

As speaker, Eduardo Cunha was the main driver behind the impeachment process that led to the Senate trying left-leaning President Dilma Rousseff and removing her from office last month. He has been a key ally of new President Michel Temer, who had been Rousseff’s vice president.

Cunha has been accused by Brazilian prosecutors of receiving millions of dollars in bribes linked to the sprawling corruption scandal at state-run oil giant Petrobras. But the issue before the Chamber of Deputies was only whether he lied about having secret banking accounts in Switzerland.

Cunha, who said the accounts belonged to a trust, was pressured into resigning as speaker after the accounts came to light, but he had refused to give up his post as a lawmaker.

With the loss of his congressional seat, Cunha also loses his partial immunity from prosecution. In Brazil, only the country’s top court can decide to charge and try federal lawmakers.

Cunha, who had been in his fourth term as a lawmaker, told his colleagues during the debate that the Rousseff impeachment effort was the reason for the drive to remove him.

“This is all because I opened the impeachment proceedings. The (governing) Worker’s Party wants a trophy to say this was a coup,” Cunha said. “This criminal of a government of yours is now gone thanks to me.”

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