Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Investigation into alleged money laundering by Peruvian First Lady's funds stopped (June 10, 2015)

Peruvian first lady Nadine Heredia will not be investigated for alleged money laundering between 2005 and 2009. A judge yesterday stopped a prosecutor who is investigating transfers to her account for $215,000, according to AFP.

The origin of the funds is unaccounted for, according to the prosecutor. But the case has already been tried, according to the judge, and should not be reopened, explains La Republica. The funds allegedly came from Venezuelan companies and are linked to a jailed former advisor to President Ollanta Humala.

News that the Public Ministry has been investigating the first lady has rocked Peru in recent months. El País says that public opinion and the opposition have made much of a media report detailing that Heredia had spent more than $38,000 on clothing, jewelry and home decoration in a year and a half. Payments were made using a credit card extension from a close friend and government official, Rocío Calderón.

OjoPúblico published a report last week examining the allegations in depth. Based on a confidential report of the Peruvian Financial Intelligence Unit, it concludes that the First Lady received the funds in question from unclear sources between 2006 and 2009.

Though Heredia has been cleared judicially, the political ramifications of the case are more difficult. Journalist and lawyer Rosa María Palacios argues that the political opposition is capitalizing on the case. There is little evidence of a crime, she says, but the media, judicial and congressional actors have created an unmerited scandal.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Humala's popularity rating is at its lowest: 21 percent approval, though that is related to violent protests against a mining project on southern Peru (see May 11's briefs).

News Briefs

  • U.N. peacekeepers continue engage in troublesome issues of sexual abuse and exploitation, according to an internal report obtained by the AP. About a third of alleged sexual abuse involves minors under 18 and aid for victims is deficient. The average investigation takes more than a year, according to the AP piece. The report tackles the specific case of Haiti, where 231 Haitian people said they had "transactional sex" with peacekeepers in exchange for things like food and medication. "For rural women, hunger, lack of shelter, baby care items, medication and household items were frequently cited as the 'triggering need,'" the report says.
  • Venezuelan government representatives and organizations of civil society had a stand-off at United Nations Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights’ examination of Venezuela last week, report Timothy M. Gill and David Smilde. Representatives from four Venezuelan NGOs drew attention to  discrimination against women in regards to sexual and reproductive rights; medical shortages; the acute economic situation, the unwillingness of the Venezuelan government to dialogue with all sectors of society, rising levels of poverty; and difficulties obtaining medicine and the monolithic promotion of socialism in schools and universities. The government delegation emphasized improved economic indicators, including diminishing poverty rates, the creation of over 4.6 million jobs, and wage growth – all this despite an "economic war" being waged against Venezuela. "... the economic war ... is manifest in the manipulations of international markets to drive down the price of crude oil, destabilize the national currency, and increase Venezuela's country risk," said Ricardo Menéndez, the Venezuelan Minister of Planning and Knowledge.
  • Venezuela yesterday demanded that neighboring Guyana halt oil exploration being carried out by Exxon Mobil Corp in disputed offshore territory in an escalation of a long-running border dispute between the two South American nations, reports Reuters.
  • Venezuelan government officials cited the Colombian ambassador yesterday in order to ask why the country flew out a former Spanish prime minister who had traveled to Caracas to support the opposition, reports Reuters.
  • Argentine media executive Alejandro Burzaco, wanted by authorities for two weeks after being indicted by U.S. prosecutors in connection to an alleged bribery scheme involving current and former FIFA officials, turned himself into to the Italian police yesterday. Accompanied by three attorneys, Burzaco said he intended to give information on the FIFA scandal, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Transportation unions in Argentina paralyzed Buenos Aires yesterday with a 24-hour strike that affected buses, trains, subways and even impacted many flights in and out of the city's two main airports, reports the Wall Street Journal. Unions are demanding that the government lower income-tax rates and remove a cap on salary negotiations.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denied that Moscow is trying to forge closer ties to Latin America as a counterweight to the U.S. building up relationships with the Ukraine and other former Soviet republics. "We aren't supporting the concept of backyards and aren't following that logic," he said, according to the AP.
  • A significant decline in cocaine use in Europe could have consequences for drug traffickers in Latin America, reports InSight Crime. Mexican and Colombian criminal organizations would have less profits, might have to migrate operations to other areas.
  • Cuba and the Paris Club of wealthy creditor nations have agreed that Cuba owes $15 billion stemming from a 1986 default, reports Reuters. It's considered a first step towards renegotiating the debt.
  • The foreign ministers of Germany and Cuba say that improved relations between Havana and western countries could provide stability in a period of global unrest, reports the Wall Street Journal. Speaking on the eve of a European Union-Latin America summit, the diplomats said the thaw sends signals of "de-escalation and relaxation," and could herald economic benefits for both sides.
  • Independent artists in Cuba are permitted to keep profits from direct sales of their work, which, together with the island's trendiness, is making them some of the richest people on the island, according to the AP.
  • Brazilian ranch culture is pushing north into the jungle, reports the Los Angeles Times, celebrating the rugged rural lifestyle of the farmer and adventurer, a stark change from the indigenous culture and jungle that dominated in this region a generation or two ago.
  • Andres Oppenheimer suggests battling corruption in Latin America by building National Wealth Funds to prevent discretionary use of public funds by government officials. The solution, which is similar to approaches in use in Singapur and Austria, is recommended in "The Public Wealth of Nations," by Swedish authors Dag Detter and Stefan Folster.
  • Estela de Carlotto searched for her missing grandson -- the son of her daughter "disappeared" by the military dictatorship -- for 36 years. Along the way, she led an organization of women also searching for grandchildren given in secret adoptions during Argentina's Dirty War and became a beloved public figure. When DNA testing last year confirmed that Ignacio Huberman was the long-lost Guido all of Argentina celebrated, Uki Goñi has a profile of the case in The Observer.
  • InSight Crime republished a two part series on human trafficking in Central America, originally published by Connectas in Spanish. Authorities there are fighting a losing battle against the crime, which has few convictions and many victims.
  • Honduras must do more to prevent gang recruitment of children and violence against minors according to the U.N.'s Committee on Children's Rights, reports EFE

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