BRASILIA – A Brazilian Supreme Court judge on Monday accepted a motion to suspend Senate president Renan Calheiros, who was indicted last week on corruption charges.
Judge Marco Aurelio Mello ruled that Calheiros, as a criminal defendant, cannot hold the post of Senate head, which is third in the line of presidential succession.
The motion to suspend the Senate leader – a key ally of President Michel Temer – was brought by the party of environmental activist Marina Silva.
Mello’s decision is subject to confirmation by the entire Supreme Court, which voted 8-2 last Thursday to allow prosecutors to proceed against Calheiros.
Under Brazilian law, only the Supreme Court can hear cases against sitting lawmakers and senior officials.
The Senate chief is accused of using his influence to benefit construction company Mendes Junior in exchange for the firm’s agreeing to support Calheiros’ out-of-wedlock daughter by journalist Monica Veloso.
The situation became public in 2007 and Calheiros was forced to give up his post as Senate leader, but not his seat, and he was re-elected leader in 2013.
Calheiros is also among dozens of Brazilian politicians under investigation in connection with the $2 billion corruption scandal centered on state oil company Petrobras.
If the suspension is upheld, Calheiros would be replaced as Senate leader by Sen. Jorge Viana, a member of the center-left Workers Party (PT) that governed Brazil from January 2003 until Aug. 31 of this year, when elected President Dilma Rousseff was ousted by Congress for alleged budget irregularities.
Allies of Calheiros told Brazilian media that the substitution of Viana as Senate chief would not affect a planned Dec. 13 vote on Temer’s proposal for a constitutional amendment to cap public spending for the next 20 years
The PT is adamantly opposed to the measure, part of an aggressive right-wing agenda Temer has pursued since taking office.