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Brazil court suspends house speaker

Published 05/05/2016

A justice on Brazil's supreme court has suspended Eduardo Cunha, which temporarily removes him (AP)
A justice on Brazil's supreme court has suspended Eduardo Cunha, which temporarily removes him (AP)

A justice on Brazil's supreme court has suspended the leader of the country's lower house of Congress.

Justice Teori Zavascki's made the decision to strip Eduardo Cunha of his post ahead of a full session of the court, which could decide to confirm, overturn or simply not take up Zavascki's decision. Unless the full court acts, Mr Cunha's suspension will remain in effect.

A spokeswoman in Cunha's office said he had been informed of the decision and had no comment.

Besides obstruction of justice, Mr Cunha is facing several corruption allegations, including accepting bribes and failing to declare foreign bank accounts with millions of dollars.

Mr Cunha has repeatedly denied wrongdoing in all the cases against him.

Mr Cunha has been leading the effort to impeach President Dilma Rousseff over allegations she used budget tricks to hide deficits that have contributed to the worst recession in Latin America's largest economy in decades.

A measure to impeach her was passed last month by the Chamber of Deputies. It is now before the Senate, so Mr Cunha's suspension has no direct impact.

"Cunha is the only person that brings Brazil together" in shared contempt, said Francisco Fonseca, a political analyst at the Fundacao Getulio Vargas, a think tank focused on education and politics.

Chief prosecutor Rodrigo Janot has called Cunha "a criminal" who used his position to obstruct a probe into corruption at the state oil company Petrobras. Zavascki's decision was based on a request from Mr Janot that was filed in December.

Zavascki said in his ruling that because Mr Cunha was being investigated in several corruption cases, he was not fit to be in line for the presidency should Ms Rousseff be impeached. If Ms Rousseff is impeached, Vice President Michel Temer is set to take over, and next in line would be Mr Cunha.

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