Tom Phillips – The Guardian
Brazilian lawmakers have voted to expel the gospel star turned congresswoman Flordelis over her alleged involvement in the murder of the husband with whom she had raised more than 50 children.
In the latest dramatic chapter of a saga that has gripped Brazil, 437 members of Brazil’s 513-member lower house voted to strip the disgraced evangelical celebrity of her mandate as a result of “conduct incompatible with parliamentary decorum”.
Twelve lawmakers abstained and seven opposed the expulsion of Flordelis dos Santos de Souza, a favela-born church leader who was elected in 2018 as part of the same evangelical wave that brought Brazil’s ultra-conservative president Jair Bolsonaro to power.
As the verdict was read late on Wednesday afternoon the 60-year-old congresswoman – who became famous for taking in dozens of children she claimed to have saved from lives of deprivation and violence – covered her face with her right hand.
Earlier, in a final bid to avoid expulsion – a move which could leave her open to arrest – Flordelis insisted she was innocent and beseeched colleagues to show mercy. “Here Flordelis is, destroyed,” the singer said dramatically.
The downfall of Flordelis – who was born into poverty in one of Rio’s most violent favelas and rose to once unimaginable power and fame as the leader of a multi-million dollar church empire – began in June 2019 when her husband Anderson do Carmo was shot dead as the couple entered the home they shared with their super-sized family.
Flordelis claimed he was the victim of a bungled robbery. But within hours of the crime police began to suspect the involvement of family members, including Flordelis herself, and lurid claims appeared in the local media, including allegations the couple spent their final night together at a swingers club in Rio de Janeiro.
One year later, in August 2020, investigators formally accused the congresswoman of masterminding her husband’s murder and arrested five of her children and one granddaughter, although Flordelis’s parliamentary privilege meant she remained free.
Earlier this year the head of the murder investigation, Allan Duarte, told the Guardian he believed Flordelis was the head of “an intra-family criminal organisation” set up solely to kill Do Carmo, whose control of the family finances the plotters resented.
“She’s cold. She’s calculating. She’s sly … I consider Flordelis a psychopath,” Duarte said.
Flordelis, who was recently ordered to stand trial for aggravated murder, continues to maintain her innocence. During an interview at the home where Do Carmo was killed earlier this year she claimed she was the victim of a misogynistic and racist vendetta being waged by rival preachers and politicians.
“Give me one reason – just one – why I would kill my husband?” she protested. “He was more than just my husband, he was my friend.”
After being stripped of her mandate on Wednesday Flordelis denounced the “cruel and cowardly” decision, telling reporters: “I have committed no crime.”
Police chief Duarte said he had the feeling of accomplished duty after his suspect’s expulsion from congress. “But I will only be fully satisfied when she is convicted, jailed and pays for the crime she committed,” he added.