Friday, May 29, 2015

Fifa fallout (May 29, 2015)

The U.S. led bribery investigation into alleged bribery in organized soccer -- and the indictments of a dozen high profile soccer officials and sports companies in Latin America  -- has led to local probes in Argentina, Brazil and Costa Rica. 

The U.S. Department of Justice indicted 14 people on charges ranging from racketeering to money-laundering and wire fraud. Seven FIFA executives were arrested in Zurich on Wednesday.

The investigation was welcomed by Brazilians who are unhappy with the quality of their national sport, according to Reuters. 

As Brazilian policy being an investigation into corruption in local soccer organizations, the national Senate, led by former national soccer star Romario, moved to open a formal inquiry into alleged bribes paid to obtain contracts with the Brazilian Soccer Federation (CBF), reports the Reuters piece. Police and prosecutors raided the offices of a sports-marketing firm owned by a prominent local businessman, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Costa Rica has opened an inquiry into the U.S. accusations against Eduardo Li, head of Costa Rica's soccer association, who was detained on Wednesday, according to TeleSur.

In Argentina the tax authorities filed criminal complaints against the Argentine businessmen accused of involvement in the corruption scheme. They are accusing the men of tax evasion, illicit fiscal association and money laundering, reports La Nación.

In the meantime, former FIFA VP, Jack Warner was released from prison citing exhaustion (he's 72 years old) but later appeared dancing in at a political rally in Trinidad, reports The Guardian.

La Nación gives a review of the conspiracy detailed in the U.S. investigation, which delves into the negotiations behind the TV rights for the Copa América. 

News Briefs

  • Former presidents of Bolivia and Colombia, José Quiroga and Andres Pastrana, arrived in Venezuela yesterday to visit jailed opposition leaders Leopoldo López and Daniel Ceballos. López and Ceballos have been carrying out a hunger strike since the weekend. The dignitaries visited Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma, who is under house arrest after undergoing a hernia operation last month. Pastrana and Quiroga requested a meeting with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, saying they are on a humanitarian mission, reports InfoBae.
  • At least six military troops were wounded in a FARC attack on a bus in  Colombia, reports El Tiempo. The attack was reportedly carried out in conjunction with the ELN.
  • Silla Vacía wonders whether the Colombian military is actively avoiding civilian participation in demining operations. While authorities reached an agreement with the FARC three months ago in Havana to begin joint efforts to remove the landmines scattered throughout the country, Silla Vacía reports that military troops have hastened to claim areas where civilians were slated to operate. At the heart of the matter may be the funding dedicated to the operations, speculates the piece.
  • Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto misrepresented to authorities how he obtained one of his properties, according to a Reuters investigation. Peña Nieto claimed in his asset declaration -- made public in 2013 as part of a transparency push -- to have received a 1,000 square meter piece of land in the town of Valle de Bravo as a gift from his father. However, Reuters found documents showing he had actually purchased it from a third party in 1988, for the equivalent of $5,000. The declaration also understates the value of the property. Reuters does not hazard a guess as to why the property is mischaracterized in the declaration. The declaration lists eight other real estate properties, five of which are also listed as donations. 
  • Bolivian police captured the escaped former advisor to the Peruvian president, after he disappeared this week before being extradited to Peru, where he is accused of corruption. Martín Belaunde was captured in an Amazon town about 100 kilometers from the Brazilian border, which he was apparently headed towards. He will be handed over to Peruvian authorities today, reports AFP. Belaunde managed President Ollanta Humala's unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2006. He accused of associating with a corrupt network of political officials that embezzled public money and may have even ordered people killed, explainsInSight Crime. "Belaunde should be an opportunity for the Peruvian government to show that they can bring corruption probes to an efficient and just conclusion, regardless of a suspect's ties to the country's highest political elites," they argue.
  • About 100,000 Chilean students protested insufficient education reform yesterday in Santiago.AFP reports that they lifted flaming barricades in the city during the day, and clashed with the police at dusk. Though President Michelle Bachelet has an ambitious reform in action, which next year would provide free university education for 260,000 students, protestors say this is not enough to mitigate the effects of a segregated and unequal education system.
  • Eduardo Cunha is Brazil's Frank Underwood, according to the Washington Post. (International political reporters like to find local equivalents of the fictional Machiavellian operator.) Cunha is a member of the Democratic Movement Party, supposedly an ally of President Dilma Rousseff's Workers' Party. But since being elected speaker of the country’s lower house four months ago he has occupied the role of an opposition party member, green-lighting legislation that undermines Rousseff's initiatives.
  • A new oil discovery off the Falkland Islands is stirring diplomatic tensions between Britain and Argentina. La Nación reports that Argentine diplomats might lodge a formal complaint in the U.K., noting that the extraction activity goes against a U.N. resolution urging the parties to not embark on unilateral measures in the area under dispute between the two countries.
  • Cuba is economically bankrupt, and a complex place to invest in, argues José Cardenas in Foreign Policy. The U.S. administration is seeking to portray the diplomatic rapprochement with the island as a golden opportunity for American businesses, he says, but the island's reality is quite different. "Don’t look for or expect transparency, legal guarantees, and predictability — none of which the Cuban government is capable of providing. And don’t look for a local economy that rewards innovation, risk taking, or hard work," he writes in the harsh op-ed. "That’s the Cuban economic reality and no amount of irrational exuberance and ideological cheerleading changes those facts."
  • The decision by a U.S. federal appeals court to continue blocking President Barak Obama's executive order to stop deportation of more than 4 million undocumented migrants will benefit the Democratic party in next years elections, argues Andres Oppenheimer in his Miami Heraldcolumn. Republicans will need at least 40 percent of the Hispanic vote to get into the White House, but the party continues to lose votes in that area as it moves rightward on immigration policy, he says.
  • About a quarter of Central America's population suffers from malnutrition, according to the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization Mesoamerica coordinator, quoted by the AFP. Though the region has had consistent advances, remaining malnutrition is a structural issue, said Ignacio Rivera. Central America went from having 12.6 million people suffering from malnutrition in 1990 to 11.4 million in 2015.
  • Two of the former Guantanamo prisoners now refuged in Uruguay will marry local women next month, reports El País. A third will be moving in with a Uruguayan girlfriend.

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