UPDATE 3-Brazil's lower house speaker Cunha charged in corruption probe

jueves 20 de agosto de 2015 21:55 GYT

(Adds pro Rousseff protest)

By Maria Carolina Marcello and Anthony Boadle

BRASILIA Aug 20 (Reuters) - The speaker of Brazil's lower house of Congress was charged by prosecutors with corruption and money laundering on Thursday, becoming the first sitting politician to be charged in a burgeoning kickback and bribery scandal.

Eduardo Cunha, a member of Brazil's largest political party, was accused of taking a $5 million bribe related to contracts for two drillships built for state-run oil company Petrobras , the focus of the country's biggest-ever corruption scandal.

The prosecutor's office said it also made unspecified charges against former president Fernando Collor de Mello, now a senator. His name had been on the Supreme Court's list of dozens of people under investigation in the Petrobras scandal.

Cunha quit President Dilma Rousseff's coalition last month to join opposition lawmakers seeking her impeachment and has obstructed Rousseff's efforts to cut Brazil's gaping fiscal deficit by passing more spending bills.

The corruption charges will isolate Cunha and weaken his offensive against the president, who is battling the country's worst recession in three decades.

Police said 73,000 people had taken to the streets nationwide on Thursday in a show of support for Rousseff, though that was less than half the numbers reported in Sao Paulo and Brasilia alone who had called for her impeachment in demonstrations on Sunday.

Cunha vehemently refuted all of the charges and said in a statement that he would continue his work as house speaker.   Continuación...