Brazilian Supreme Court suspends lower house president

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Brasilia, May 6 (IANS) Brazil’s Supreme Court has suspend President of the Chamber of Deputies Eduardo Cunha for obstructing corruption investigations against him.

In a unanimous vote, 11 Supreme Court judges made the decision on an injunction filed by prosecutor general Rodrigo Janot to suspend Cunha’s office, Xinhua news agency reported.

The vote was a confirmation of a preliminary decision by Justice Teori Zavaski, who ruled early in the day that Cunha should be suspended.

Given Cunha’s capacity as the house speaker, the issue had to be voted on by all Supreme Court judges as well.

The judges agreed that Cunha had been using his power to obstruct probe against him.

A massive investigation into a major corruption scheme at state-controlled oil and gas giant Petrobras was underway.

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Alleged bribery and fraudulent contracts have led to the arrests of a number of politicians, Petrobras directors and high executives from Brazil’s major construction companies.

Cunha was being investigated by the Chamber’s ethics committee for taking millions of dollars for favouring specific companies in Petrobras contracts.

In a statement issued after the decision was announced, Cunha complained that the judiciary was trying to interfere with Congress and that he would appeal.

In his injunction, Janot said removing Cunha from his position was essential for investigations to continue without interference and warned about the possibility that the lawmaker would commit more wrongdoings.

However, for Cunha to be removed, the Chamber itself must vote in favour. Until that time, he will maintain his salary and benefits. Such a vote is seen as very unlikely since his successor, Waldir Maranhao, is a close ally of his.

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Cunha is regarded as one of the major agents of President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment process. As president of the chamber, he refused to accept any impeachment requests against her for most of 2015.

However, when Rousseff’s Workers’ Party suggested it would back his removal after documents revealed Cunha had millions of dollars stashed away in Swiss bank accounts, he started the impeachment process.

Rousseff calls the impeachment against her “a soft coup” and regards Cunha and her Vice President Michel Temer as its masterminds.

Rousseff said the removal of Cunha occurred “better late than never”.

“I heard the court had suspended Cunha. Better late than never. I regret that he succeeded in presiding over the regrettable impeachment process in the house,” she said.

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