Brazil House Speaker Faces Calls for Resignation Amid Corruption Charges

Brazilian lower house Speaker Eduardo Cunha. Image: Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/ Agência Brasil, CC BY 3.0 BR
Brazilian lower house Speaker Eduardo Cunha. Image: Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/ Agência Brasil, CC BY 3.0 BR

Top Story — Brazilian lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha faced intensified calls for his resignation on Thursday after Switzerland announced criminal proceedings against the politician on charges of money laundering and passive corruption.

Swiss prosecutors gave Brazilian prosecutors information about accounts allegedly held by Cunha in Switzerland, Reuters reported.

Cunha was charged in August with taking $5 million in bribes as part of the multi-billion dollar graft scandal at oil giant Petrobras. He was the first sitting politician formally charged in connection with the corruption investigation.

A member of Brazil’s Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), Cunha led the coalition between his party and President Dilma Rousseff’s Workers’ Party, until becoming one of the latter’s most vociferous antagonists.

As the speaker of Brazil’s lower house, he can decide whether or not to initiate impeachment proceedings against the president.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

  • A federal jury in Arizona on Thursday found two men who had been extradited from Mexico guilty of murdering a U.S. Border Patrol agent during an incident along the U.S.-Mexican border in 2010.
  • Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders told members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that he supports allowing undocumented immigrants to receive health care coverage under the so-called Obamacare program.

Caribbean

  • Though the United States and Cuba continue to work towards establishing direct commercial flights, a meeting held in Havana this week failed to address technical and regulatory obstacles and it is unlikely flights will resume within the year, according to The Wall Street Journal.
  • For foreign investors looking to start business with Cuba the “gatekeeper” is Luis Alberto Rodriguez, chairmen of the largest business empire in Cuba and Raúl Castro’s son-in-law, profiled by Bloomberg.
  • Haitian President Michel Martelly said his country is on the road to restoring its election process in an address to the UN General Assembly on Thursday.

Central America

  • El Salvador native Alfredo Prieto was executed on Thursday after a U.S. judge denied his appeal, which was based on concerns about the origin of the lethal injection drug used to kill him.
  • Jimmy Morales, a comedian known for his raunchy jokes, is the frontrunner in Guatemala’s election in part because his anti-corruption platform resonates with voters, according to a Reuters analysis.
  • The construction of the proposed $50 billion Nicaragua Canal has been postponed until at least March, according to the LA Times, due to unresolved issues regarding the environmental and social effects of the plan.

Andes

  • Venezuela’s government said its economy contracted by some 4 percent in the first three quarters of year, more than any other Latin American country, a showing expected to persist through 2015.
  • Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos said that last week’s historic peace agreement with the rebels of the FARC, though not yet finalized, could permanently boost Colombia’s gross domestic product by at least 1.5 percent.

Southern Cone

  • Rio de Janeiro’s mayor banned the online car service Uber from the city on Wednesday, with São Paulo potentially following suit after ongoing protests between regular taxi drivers and Uber have escalated violently in major Brazilian cities.
  • Uruguay’s government on Thursday said it has given two companies permission to begin growing marijuana for commercial sales, to begin next year, bringing the legalization pioneer one step closer to a full consumer market for the drug.

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