The Brazilian deputy who triggered the worst crisis in the country’s Congress in the last two decades was expelled Wednesday during a tumultuous session full of shouting, threats and recriminations.
Roberto Jefferson, 52, an attorney who has been in the Lower House for the last twenty years once again launched corruption claims against the leadership of the ruling Workers Party (PT) and this time included Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva whom he called “inept”.
“If he wasn’t actively involved in these crimes, he was involved by omission”, said Congressman Jefferson addressing the Lower House for the last time. The long session was interrupted several times because of shouting, threats and recriminations among Congress members.
Jefferson was finally expelled following a simple majority of 257 votes out of a full Lower House of 513 members. Actually 156 votes, including his group’s 46 supported him during the secret voting with 489 members present in Congress.
“The expulsion (“end of the mandate”) of Deputy Roberto Jefferson has been declared” said the Lower House president after the vote count was over. No celebrations, applause or protests followed the announcement and the session was adjourned.
The removal of Jefferson from Congress is part of an effort by the legislature to oust any member who has been named in the graft investigation. Deputies were also expected to take a final vote on expelling 18 other members, including President Lula’s former Chief of Staff Jose Dirceu.
Deputy Jefferson triggered one of the most shell shocking political crises in the Brazilian Congress when last June he revealed the existence of a corruption ring which included regular money payments to Congressmen in exchange for support to government policies, plus another system to collect the funds from private sector donations – eluding taxes – and skimming government managed corporations.
Jefferson admitted having received unreported money from the ruling Workers Party, an estimated US$ 1.7 million, but argued the funds were used to repay electoral campaign debts.
However in no instance of the ever more shocking claims did Mr. Jefferson present evidence of his accusations, but President Lula’s main advisor and chief of staff José Dirceu and the leadership of the Workers Party, all close aides of the president, resigned.
A junior ally of the ruling Workers Party, the Liberal Party allegedly involved in the corruption ring demanded evidence and began impeachment actions against Mr. Jefferson.
Congress finally set up three committees, one of which last September first recommended the expulsion of 19 Lower House members. Two have since resigned, Jefferson has been thrown out and vice president José Alencar abandoned the Liberal Party following admissions that it had effectively received illegal funds.
Even with the ousting of Mr. Jefferson the snowball political crisis unraveled by his claims has already thwarted the “Mr. Clean” Workers Party image plus is seriously threatening President Lula da Silva’s aspiration to a second term next year since his public opinion standing has plummeted to below 50% for the first time and several opposition candidates would eventually defeat him in a run off, which was unthinkable just four months ago.
This article appeared originally in Mercopress – www.mercopress.com.
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