Brazilian prosecutors charged former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva with heading the vast corruption network at state-oil giant Petrobras. It's the first time he's been charged with involvement in the massive graft investigation that has taken Brazil's political class by a storm, reports Reuters.
The allegations presented in yesterday's indictment go far beyond what was expected. Dallagnol characterized da Silva as heading a "propinocracia," or "briberocracy," a government ruled by graft, reports El País. Prosecutors accuse the former president of distributing political posts with the express goal of obtaining bribes, reports Folha de S. Paulo.
Prosecutors said da Silva created a structure to purchase political support, and charged him with "passive corruption," in the scheme that provided politicians, political parties and business executives with $26 million worth of bribes and favors, reports the Washington Post.
He is not being accused of personally pocketing such funds. Federal prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol called da Silva the “ultimate commander” of the scheme, which permitted his Workers' Party to build congressional coalitions and maintain it's 13 year grip on government, notes the New York Times.
Dallagnol also connected the Petrobras schemeto the 2005 congressional vote-buying scandal known as the Mensalão, which involved close associates of da Silva.
The "dramatic" presentation was carried live on television yesterday, reports the Wall Street Journal.
He has already been accused in related cases on charges of concealing ownership of a luxury apartment prosecutors say he got in exchange for contracts, and of obstructing justice in the investigation of the Petrobras corruption scheme.
The NYTimes has a nice detail on how the steady drip of corruption scandals -- already 40 politicians and business leaders have been jailed in the past two years of the investigation -- is causing panic in Brazil's political class. "Heightening the sense of distrust, some figures involved in the scheme have been secretly recording one another, with the idea of using the information to reach plea deals with prosecutors."
- The head criminal investigator for Mexico's attorney general, Tomás Zerón, resigned yesterday, in the midst of an internal inquiry into his handling of the case of the disappeared 43 Ayotzinapa students, reports the New York Times. (See yesterday's briefs.) The official government narrative is that they were captured by a gang, killed and their bodies were incinerated. But the investigation has been heavily criticized by the families of the victims, as well as international experts. Zerón's actions in particular were singled out by the group of international experts from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. (See April 25's post.) Zerón's resignation comes 12 days before the two year anniversary of the Iguala disappearances, and was welcomed as a move towards transparency in the ongoing investigation. President Enrique Peña Nieto immediately designated him "technical secretary of the National Security Council," reports Animal Político.
- A wall to keep out undocumented migrants is at the center of the U.S. presidential campaign, but already Mexican policy has created a formidable barrier to keep migrants away at the country's southern border, reports the Financial Times. The route between Mexico's Chiapas and Oaxaca states is one of the most perilous parts of the journey for undocumented migrants headed north. Crackdowns by U.S. and Mexican authorities have made the trip even more fraught. Increasingly Central American migrants are heading to sea for that stretch, despite the dangers of traveling in small open boats, reports the Guardian.
- Venezuela's opposition MUD coalition has the difficult task of trying to force the government into accepting a recall referendum, while also controlling internal dissent from its own radical factions, writes Francisco Suniaga in a New York Times op-ed. In the wake of a successful massive demonstration earlier this month, the coalition must garner support for ongoing mass pressure, he argues, pointing to lackluster subsequent demonstrations.
- Venezuela's authorities are increasingly cracking down on shoppers queueing for scarce, price-controlled goods, in mass arrests aimed at limiting resales on the black market. A mass-arrest operation nicknamed “Dracula’s Bus” has been periodically employed to round up Venezuelans trying to wait in line overnight for groceries, now a banned practice, Provea researcher Intis Rodríguez told the Washington Post.
- Leading members of the Mercosur trade group -- Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay -- agreed to give Venezuela until December to meet requirements to fill the group's rotating presidency, reports the Wall Street Journal. Venezuela should have filled the post earlier this year -- but has been blocked by countries concerned over it's democracy track record. Earlier this week OAS head Luis Almagro called on Mercosur to suspend Venezuela from the group for jailing opposition leaders and delaying a referendum to oust President Nicolas Maduro. The newfound lack of regional support for Maduro's government reflects the regional shift towards market-friendly governments, notes the WSJ.
- The Argentine and UK foreign ministers finalized an agreement to establish regular flights between the Falklands Islands and Argentina, and to consider the possibility of joint hydrocarbon exploration, reports the Guardian. Relations between the two countries were tense under Argentina's previous government. (See last Thursday's briefs.)
- A Thompson Reuters Foundation poll found that Chile's capital is one of the world's most exciting cities for social entrepreneurship. Though businesses focused on social good have had difficulty getting investment, the government "has fueled the recent, fast-growing trend in social enterprises in and outside Santiago, experts say." TECHO, an organization dedicated to slum housing and poverty issues has been a key player in the Chilean social entrepreneurship scene. On the other hand, Brazil and Venezuela were rated poorly, as their governments don't support social entrepreneurs, reports Reuters in a separate piece.
- Former Guantanamo detainee Abu Wa'el Dhiab was found unconscious in the Montevideo apartment where he has been carrying out a hunger strike, demanding to be reunited with his family, reports the Associated Press. Doctors say he slipped into a coma after going 12 days without water, and is being treated at home, in keeping with his wishes.
- A European Parliament spokesman denied the body had approved a new measure supporting the demands of Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas, reports the Miami Herald. (See Tuesday's briefs.)