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The impeachment requests against the mayor of Rio de Janeiro

. Jul 12, 2018
marcelo crivella rio de janeiro mayor Rio de Janeiro Mayor Marcelo Crivella
marcelo crivella rio de janeiro mayor

Rio de Janeiro Mayor Marcelo Crivella

Religion has always been a central part of Marcelo Crivella’s political life. Before winning the mayoral race in Rio de Janeiro nearly two years ago, he was a bishop at the controversial Universal Church of the Kingdom of God – an evangelical denomination present in 110 countries and with over 10 million followers across the globe. The church has been accused of a wide range of crimes, from embezzlement to human trafficking.

When he ran for mayor, though, Mr. Crivella tried to avoid being dubbed as the “evangelical candidate.” He was, in his own words, a mayor “for all residents of Rio.” Apparently, though, Mr. Crivella has failed to separate his administration from religious groups – which could see him pushed out of office. He faces two impeachment requests after O Globo, a daily newspaper from Rio de Janeiro, revealed that Mr. Crivella offered public services to evangelical pastors.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The City Council interrupted its vacation to analyze the requests, in a vote that is scheduled for Thursday (July 12) at 2 pm. City councilors decided that, in order to open an impeachment process and trial, a simple majority would suffice &#8211; that is, 26 of 51 votes. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Meanwhile, the state&#8217;s prosecution office is conducting an investigation into the <a href="https://brazilian.report/2018/02/28/plan-rio-de-janeiro-intervention/">administration</a>. The probe began last year, after the mayor&#8217;s office conducted a religious census within the Corps of Municipal Guards. Prosecutors have also found that the mayor has used the public school system to co-opt new followers for the Universal Church. Preachers were allowed to carry out social work on school grounds, offering health services and &#8220;spiritual guidance&#8221; to students.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mr. Crivella and his allies deny any wrongdoing.</span></p> <h3>What motivated the impeachment requests</h3> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On July 5, </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">O Globo </span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">published a story which exposed a meeting held by Mr. Crivella with 250 evangelical leaders. The report includes audio recordings in which the mayor says that he could help people connected to evangelical groups to skip waiting lines for various medical procedures, from cataracts to vasectomies. In April 2018, the mayor&#8217;s office launched a concentrated effort to carry out 15,000 procedures and zero waiting lists.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">&#8220;I&#8217;ve paid for 15,000 surgeries until the end of the year. So if you brothers have anyone in your churches with a cataract problem, please speak with [one of Mr. Crivella&#8217;s closest advisors]. She will take care of it, and within a week or two [these people] will be operated,&#8221; said the mayor.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In another moment, Mr. Crivella indicated he could help churches avoid paying housing taxes (which are charged by municipalities), and would pay for the construction of bus stops, traffic lights and speed bumps in the vicinities of churches. While religious organizations are not required to pay housing taxes, they must undergo an extensive bureaucratic process in order to obtain this benefit.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The recordings motivated members of the City Council&#8217;s leftist caucus, which has clashed with the mayor since his inauguration and accused him of molding his administration to the interest of religious groups. In two impeachment requests, left-wing parties accuse Mr. Crivella of crimes against the public administration.</span></p> <h3>City councilors use the crisis for leverage</h3> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">While the parties who presented the impeachment requests have always been vocal opponents of Mr. Crivella, they only prospered thanks to more centrist politicians, who are displeased with the administration. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Since his 2016 election, Mr. Crivella knew he would need to depend on a strong coalition in order to stay in power. His party elected only three of the city&#8217;s 51 councilors. In Brazil, political support is often conditioned to handing out positions and power in the Executive branch. That&#8217;s how the mayor attracted the Brazilian Democratic Movement party &#8211; or MDB, the party of President Michel Temer &#8211; which has 10 seats and holds the Speaker&#8217;s chair.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But Rio de Janeiro mayor&#8217;s relationship with the city&#8217;s legislature has been soured lately.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">At the center of the crisis is Cesar Benjamin, who was Rio&#8217;s Secretary of Education. He often went public to complain about politicians who requested for favors with &#8220;opaque motivations.&#8221; In June, Mr. Benjamin almost got into a fist fight with a city councilor he called a &#8220;decaying politician&#8221; during a City Council sitting. In order to regain support, Mr. Crivella released Mr. Benjamin from his duties on July 11.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">He also had to empower MDB politicians that work in his administration, such as Paulo Messina, his Chief of Staff &#8211; who now has </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">carte blanche</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> and has become something of a &#8220;prime minister&#8221; of Rio. The move should prove to be successful and keep Mr. Crivella in office. However, he has already lost his power to the politicians who control the City Council.

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