FORMER Brazilian Congress speaker Eduardo Cunha was expelled by his peers from the lower house on Monday over money-laundering allegations.
The Chamber of Deputies voted 450-10 with nine abstentions to strip Mr Cunha of his office as an MP — crucially lifting his congressional immunity from prosecution.
He stands accused of corruption and obstruction of justice in the “Car Wash” probe into state oil company Petrobras.
Although prosecutors allege Mr Cunha received an illegal payment of $5 million (£3.7m) for his role in organising drilling contracts for the firm, MPs considered only the issue of whether he had lied about having secret bank accounts in Switzerland.
Mr Cunha, who said the accounts belonged to a trust, was pressed into resigning as speaker in July after they came to light.
He claimed tearfully at a press conference: “I have suffered and continue to suffer persecution” for having led the legislative coup against elected Workers Party (PT) president Dilma Rousseff.
On Monday he repeated these excuses to reporters saying: “This was a political process because I kicked off the impeachment proceedings. They wanted a trophy.”
Sensationally he accused his key alley and former vice-president Michel Temer — sworn in as president a fortnight ago within hours of Ms Rousseff’s Senate impeachment — of plotting his downfall.
“The current administration adopted the agenda of removing me from office,” he said.
Mr Cunha said that he planned to publish a book on the back-room deals that led to Ms Rousseff’s impeachment.
The former Congress speaker’s allies had already predicted he would use “technical arguments, emotion or veiled threats” to garner support from MPs with “some kind of debt to him,” according to an editorial in Monday’s O Estado de Sao Paulo daily.
Meanwhile the six biggest trade union federations pledged to unite for a general strike on September 22 against the “neoliberal reforms” imposed since Mr Temer became interim president in May.
The PT-allied CUT federation said the unions had agreed to “bring Brazil to a halt to demonstrate the limits the people impose on this putschist and illegitimate government.”
Yesterday civil servants occupied the Esplanade of Ministries in the capital Brasilia — Brazil’s Whitehall — in defence of democracy against the coup government.
Many of Brazil’s prominent lawmakers and business executives have been ensnared by the Petrobras scandal in which a total of more than $2 billion (£1.5bn) is alleged to have been paid in bribes by companies to obtain inflated construction contracts.