Landmark corruption ruling in El Salvador (Sept. 13, 2018)
Former Salvadoran president Antonio Saca was sentenced to ten years in prison. He pleaded guilty to charges of embezzlement and money laundering, and was accused by prosecutors of appropriating public funds for himself and the ARENA political party. The court also ordered him to pay back $260 million to the state. (BBC)
Saca pleaded guilty in exchange for a more lenient sentence -- he confessed to embezzling $301 million in public funds with the assistance of six collaborators. In an abbreviated trial Saca detailed how funds were paid into officials' private accounts, as well as $10,000 per month to the account of his wife. Most of these funds were then withdrawn in cash. He also laundered money through pacts with advertising agencies that then funneled funds to radio companies partially owned by the president. Former officials, including his secretary, have also been sentenced to jail time and must repay millions of dollars. (La Prensa Gráfica and El País)
Saca is the first former president of El Salvador jailed for corruption, but both his predecessor and successor in office have been accused of misappropriating public funds. Saca has two other cases against him pending, a civil case for illicit enrichment and an accusation of attempting to bribe a judicial official.
A U.S. backed military option to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro seemed like a fringe option when U.S. President Donald Trump mentioned it last year. But a section of the Venezuelan political opposition seems increasingly receptive to the alternative, reports the Guardian. (See Monday's post.)
Maduro needs to go, but the U.S. should stay away from coup attempts, argues the New York Times editorial board.
Speaking with WBEZ World View, David Smilde suggests the U.S. should seek a leadership role in addressing the Venezuela crisis, and that other countries in the region should develop a “group of friends” approach, including shuttle diplomacy.
Politically connected elites have enriched themselves with access to a government-controlled currency exchange, making astronomical profits off the country's crushing economic crisis. A landmark $1.2 billion money-laundering case in Miami shows how it works, reports the Miami Herald.
In a U.N. meeting, a U.S. treasury official accused Venezuelan officials of stealing from a state-run food program by overcharging for products. (BBC)
Baby formula is so expensive in Venezuela that mothers have started supporting each other with breast-milk donations. (Miami Herald)
In the midst of Venezuela's human food crisis -- with large percentages of the country's population forgoing meals and losing weight -- family pets are increasingly abandoned or left in overflowing shelters, reports the Washington Post.
An Amnesty International report details human rights violations against Venezuelans seeking refuge in Curaçao. (Miami Herald)
The U.S. government plans to use up to $20 million in foreign assistance funds to help Mexico deport as many as 17,000 people who are in that country illegally, reports the New York Times. The goal is to reduce the number of undocumented migrants crossing into the U.S.
The Trump administration's temporary recall of ambassadors from El Salvador, Dominican Republic, and Panama is a hardline response to those countries recognition of China, but will have little impact without appealing policy proposals to counter Chinese investment, according to Axios. (See Monday's briefs and Aug. 24's post.)
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is traveling to China to discuss economic agreements. (Reuters)
And Cuba is in the midst of a potential U.S.-Russia conflict, after a sonic attack against diplomats posted in Havana was traced to Moscow, reports the Miami Herald. (See Tuesday's briefs.)
Workers' Party presidential candidate Fernando Haddad must work quickly to move up in the polls ahead of the Oct. 7 election. He will be helped by formidable party machinery and television time allocation, but must also woo voters away from Ciro Gomes, another leftist contender. (AFP)
Far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro underwent a successful emergency surgery late yesterday. (Reuters)
In the meantime, his VP candidate, Army Gen. Antônio Hamilton Mourão, told the Huffington Post that return of military governance to Brazil could be justified in certain “hypothetical” scenarios.
Candidates across the political spectrum were critical of the knife attack that hospitalized Bolsonaro last week, but have not spoken up about the murder of Rio de Janeiro councillor Marielle Franco earlier this year, writes Jill Langlois in a Washington Post Global Opinions piece.
Colombia’s ELN freed six people it took captive last month. President Iván Duque has made release of all hostages a central demand in continuing piece talks with the guerrilla group. (Associated Press)
Gen. Humberto Guatibonza, one of Colombia's most decorated police officers, has been arrested for his alleged involvement in a criminal ring that illegally intercepted the private communications of prominent politicians and business leaders, reports the Associated Press.
A new report by Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity found that dozens of Mexico City buildings that collapsed in last year's earthquake had been shoddily constructed and wrongly deemed safe by building inspectors. (Los Angeles Times)
Sky-high rates of domestic abuse in areas of Mexico have been met with little by way of public support for victims, reports Animal Político.
Labor unions and social groups blocked streets in downtown Buenos Aires yesterday in protest against austerity measures. (Reuters)
Fútbol legend Diego Maradona said his newest post, coaching a second division Mexican team is a "rebirth." (BBC)
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...
Latin America Daily Briefing