For only the second time in its history, Brazil’s Congress yesterday expelled Brazilian Senator Demosthenes Torres for his ties to an illegal gambling ring. Torres, who had been a member of the right-wing Democratas Party until the party expelled him in April of this year, was charged with using his office to help Carlinhos Cachoeira (Carlos Augusto Ramos) obtain favorable contracts. Although Torres insisted he was innocent, overwhelming evidence, including phone recordings and meetings between Torres and Cachoeira, convinced his colleagues otherwise. Ultimately, 56 senators voted to remove Torres from office, with only 19 voting against (and five abstaining). In addition to being stripped of his office, in accordance with Brazilian law, Torres is prohibited from serving in public office until 2028 (he can run for office in 2027, with inaugurations taking place at the beginning of 2028). His expulsion also means the conservative bloc of the Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (Brazilian Social Democracy Party; PSDB) and Democratas (Democrats, DEM), of which Torres had been a part until his expulsion this year, has to hope to find a replacement for Torres from the state of Goiás in the next elections.
Torres became only the second Brazilian senator ever impeached, following the impeachment of Luiz Estevão of the centrist Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro (Brazilian Democratic Movement Party; PMDB) in 2000 after the Senator was tied to money-laundering. Of course, in 1992, Brazil also impeached neoliberal president Fernando Collor for corruption; although Collor’s mandate was also suspended for 15 years, he successfully ran for senator in 2007 and was present at the hearings and voting yesterday. When asked what it was like to be impeached, the ex-president simply responded, “Don’t ask.”