Mexican prosecutor investigating Odebrecht bribes fired (Oct. 23, 2017)
Mexico's top election corruption prosecutor was fired on Friday, in the midst of an investigation into whether bribes allegedly received by the head of the state oil firm were used to finance President Enrique Peña Nieto's campaign. The Attorney General’s Office said Santiago Nieto was fired for breaching the internal code of conduct, a few days after telling a local newspaper that he is being pressured by the former Pemex head to clear him of accusations, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Mexican authorities are investigating allegations that Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht paid about $10 million in bribes to then-Pemex head Emilio Lozoya in exchange for contracts.
Nieto said his removal was illegitimate, and that he will contest the firing in the Senate, reports Animal Político.
Leaders from across the political opposition spectrum condemned the move, and some said its aimed at covering up further charges of wrongdoing, according to Animal Político. The case may complicate the ruling PRI party's attempts to shake-off corruption allegations ahead of next year's presidential elections, notes Reuters.
A DEA surveillance video appears to contradict the agency's version of a 2012 episode in Honduras that ended in the deaths of four Honduran civilians. The three hour video -- released due to a Freedom of Information Act request -- seems to show gunshots going from an anti-narcotics boat aimed at a passenger vessel, indicating the DEA narrative of "exchange of gunfire" is inaccurate, report the New York Times and ProPublica. A scathing report from the inspectors general of Justice and State departments earlier this year also questioned the DEA's characterization of events, and has captured the attention of critical lawmakers. (See May 25's post.)
Argentine President Mauricio Macri's Cambiemos coalition won yesterday's mid-term elections decisively. The coalition won in several key districts around the country, as well as the country's most populated provinces, reports the Wall Street Journal. Though Macri still won't have an outright majority in either chamber of Congress, the results will strengthen his hand in passing a tax reform, reduce the federal budget deficit and reduce costs for businesses hiring and firing workers. Cambiemos' candidate for Senate in the Buenos Aires province outperformed former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, though she still won a seat and claims to represent the opposition to Macri's economic liberalization plans, reports the New York Times.
The appearance of the body of a disappeared Argentine activist, Santiago Maldonado, was originally interpreted as boon for the opposition. But though the Guardian reports on the government's many PR missteps in the case, it doesn't seem to have affected the electoral outcome as much as initially expected.
Hyper-politicized Argentines have a long history of unresolved political deaths, which combine flawed justice institutions with each citizen's conviction that they know the truth, writes Sylvia Colombo in a New York Times Español op-ed. "But it's negative for a society to have the sensation that important political crimes will never be solved and could transform into a weapon for political attacks." She focuses on the Maldonado case and prosecutor Alberto Nisman's death as cases that have been used politically recently but which would be simple cases for justice in a "normal" democracy.
Reintegration of Colombia's former FARC guerrilla fighters isn't going well, and could ultimately impact the peace process, warned the U.N.’s deputy human rights chief on Friday. Should efforts to transition the former fighters into society fail, there is a strong change the individuals could turn to trafficking and other illicit activities, he warned, according to the Associated Press.
The issue of coca cultivation is becoming central to peace efforts in Colombia. And areas where coca is concentrated are ripe for the type of altercation that led to confrontation between cultivators and security forces in Tumaco earlier this month, resulting in eight deaths. Former President Ernesto Samper argued there is a contradiction between policies of forced eradication and crop-substitution, reports El Tiempo.
The achievements of the peace process are being lost in areas where coca cultivation is growing, argued Colombian attorney general Nestor Martínez in an interview with El Tiempo this weekend. He advocated a return to aerial fumigation eradication efforts, and said voluntary crop-substitution efforts are unlikely to meet targets. (See last Thursday's post.)
The Colombian government authorized meetings between FARC and ELN leadership, hoping to further the ELN peace talks, reports El Tiempo.
The international community has been divided regarding Venezuela's regional elections earlier this month. The 12 member Lima Group has called for an audit of the results. The U.S., Canada and Colombia have taken a harder stance, while the European Union is reportedly contemplating sanctions against Venezuelan officials, but has not announced anything yet. The country's main international creditors, China and Russia, have lauded the vote. The "opposition’s decision to participate in the vote appears not to have cost them too much internationally, despite significant criticism from OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro," notes Geoff Ramsey at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights. (See last Friday's post.)
Though the Observers are now starting to look at next year's presidential elections. The main question is whether President Nicolás Maduro will run for another term, and who else might be the PSUV candidate if not. Socialist Party leader Diosdado Cabello and National Constituent Assembly president Delcy Rodríguez are possibilities, according to NBC.
Brazil is increasingly dangerous for LGBTQ people. A local organization found that 343 LGBT people were killed in 2016, compared to 260 in 2010. But a drag queen pop sensation, Pabllo Vittar, has become a symbolic beacon for those opposed to the moralistic conservative politicians who have won power across the country in recent years, reports the Guardian.
Ecuador's plan to exploit oil reserves located in a rainforest reserve will have minimal environmental impact -- at least according to the state oil company, reports Reuters.
Mark Weisbrot compares Brazilian right-wing presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro to the U.S president in U.S. News and World Report, though he admits Bolsonaro's "racist, misogynist and anti-gay statements have been so violently over-the-top that the comparison to Trump – whom Bolsonaro sees as a role model – is almost unfair to Trump."
Peru's Congress overwhelmingly approved a measure legalizing medical marijuana, reports the Guardian. Advocates' efforts were aided by a police raid earlier this year on a makeshift laboratory where mothers produced cannabis oil for their epileptic children.
A group of 16 international forensic experts found that Chilean poet Pablo Neruda did not die from cancer as stated on his death certificate -- though the actual cause of death remains unclear. The Nobel laureate, former diplomat, and senator from the Communist Party died two weeks after the the 1973 military coup that overthrew Salvador Allende. His former driver alleged Neruda was poisoned by an injection, and eyewitness accounts from the time differ on Neruda's state before death, reports the New York Times. Those who believe Neruda was killed say he could have been a prominent critic of the regime if he went into exile, notes the Guardian.
The Guardian reviews a "compelling, devastating book" by Mexican writer Veronica Luiselli, an essay based on her work as an interpreter for undocumented Mexican children crossing into the U.S. She "documents the huge injustices done to the children by both the American and Mexican governments, and by the public who treat them as “illegal aliens”, rather than as what they truly are: refugees of war."