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Rousseff foe Cunha suspended by Brazilian high court

Eduardo Cunha was about to be second in line to presidency, should President Rousseff be impeached. Now he has been suspended following allegations he tried to block his own corruption probe.

The man leading the charge to see President Dilma Rousseff impeached was suspended as the speaker of Brazil's lower house of parliament on Thursday. Lawmaker Eduardo Cunha was temporarily removed from his post by a Supreme Court justice for allegedly obstructing a corruption investigation.

The judge was acting on a recommendation from Brazil's top prosecutor, who also recently requested Rousseff be

investigated for obstructing justice

amidst a deepening political crisis in Brazil.

Cunha and Rousseff are bitter rivals, and should the president be suspended from office next week in order for impeachment proceedings to take place, Cunha would become second in line to the top job after current Vice President Michel Temer.

Swiss accounts at the center of Cunha probe

Justice Teori Zavascki allowed the injunction against Cunha under suspicion that the lawmaker intimidated other legislators and attempted to obstruct a probe into allegations that he held secret bank accounts in Switzerland. Cunha, who enjoys strong support from the religious right-wing of Congress, has been fending off Ethics Committee inquiries for months as rumors swirled about his undisclosed funds.

Cunha is the only lawmaker still in office who has been charged in the far-reaching corruption scandal surrounding state-owned oil giant Petrobras. Despite evading official charges so far, Rousseff has herself often been at the center of speculation, as she was chairwoman of the board at the time the oil firm was allegedly paid millions in kickbacks from construction companies.

Cunha launched impeachment proceedings against Rousseff in December for breaking budgetary laws. Despite their enmity, his suspension is likely to hurt Rousseff even more - as it weakens the argument that she is being targeted by corrupt foes. An upper-house Senate committee is set to recommend on Friday whether she should be put to an impeachment trial.

es/sms (AP, Reuters)

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