Friday, February 10, 2017

Judge order preventive prison for former Peruvian president (Feb. 10, 2017)

News Briefs
  • Brazil's Espirito Santo state turned over security duties to the army Wednesday, amid a wave of violence that has caused at least 100 deaths since a military police strike over pay started last weekend, reports the Guardian. (See yesterday'sWednesday's and Tuesday's briefs.)
  • A Peruvian judge ordered 18 months preventive prison for former President Alejandro Toledo while prosecutors prepare criminal charges against him for allegedly receiving $20m in bribes from the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, reports the Guardian. The judge pointed to a "high degree of probability" that Toledo allegedly took bribes from Odebrecht in exchange for public-works contracts during his administration, reports the Wall Street Journal. Toledo's lawyers argued that the sentence is excessive for the 70-year-old former leader who says the trial is politically motivated. Since December, Odebrecht's revelations that it paid $788 million in bribes to government officials throughout Latin America to secure public works contracts have spurred investigations in Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Chile, Argentina, Guatemala and Ecuador, reports the Los Angeles Times. (See Wednesday's post.)
  • Colombia's chief prosecutor said allegations that President Juan Manuel Santos accepted campaign donations from Odebrecht are based on testimony of a rancher connected to the leader's opponents, reports the Associated Press. (See Wednesday's post.)
  • Panamanian prosecutors raided the offices of Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the center of the Panama Papers scandal, seeking links to Odebrecht, reports Reuters. The firm is accused of setting up offshore accounts that allowed the company to funnel bribes to various countries, explains the Wall Street Journal.
  • A Brazilian court overturned a ruling suspending the nomination of a key ally of Brazilian President Michel Temer to a cabinet post. The nomination of Wellington Moreira Franco has been controversial because he is reportedly named in Odebrecht plea testimony, and the ministerial position would give him an element of legal shielding, reports Reuters.
  • The oft promised Trump wall between Mexico and the U.S. would actually be a series of fences and walls, and could cost as much as $21.6 billion and take over three years to build, reports Reuters based on a US Department of Homeland Security internal report.
  • Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray has categorically denied a CBS News report that said he made changes to U.S. President Donald Trump's speech announcing an executive order for the construction of a border wall with Mexico, reports Reuters. The CBS report said Videgaray worked with Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner to reword the speech to cast the countries bilateral relationship in a more positive light and briefed Trump on the changes. "I never thought I would use this phrase, but today I'm doing it: FAKE NEWS," said Videgaray on Twitter. Videgaray was promoted to the foreign minister post after Trump's election, in part because of his closeness to Trump's inner circle. (See Jan. 5's post.)
  • Trump's unifying effect for Mexicans has been much commented on in recent weeks, but the Guardian susses out the difference between elites who have rallied around President Enrique Peña Nieto, and ordinary Mexicans who have rallied to the flag but are unwilling to back the unpopular leader. "Analysts say the persistent divisions – even at a time of national crisis –demonstrate a deep dismay with domestic affairs, along with a lingering distrust of authority figures."
  • Leftist presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador is opting for an unusually moderate stance ahead of his U.S. tour this weekend, reports Brendan O'Boyle in Americas Quarterly. Since Trump's election "... López Obrador has presented himself as a more modest figure, a sign he recognizes the need to allay fears on the part of Mexico’s elites and moderate voters that his presidency could disrupt the status quo and undo reforms initiated by the [current] government ..."
  • A shootout between alleged criminals and Mexican marines killed the alleged leader of the Beltrán Leyva cartel, Juan Francisco Patrón Sánchez, reports Animal Político.
  • An outbreak of diphtheria in Venezuela -- a bacterial infection particularly lethal for children but increasingly rare due to immunizations -- shows the country's vulnerability to health risks amid shortages of medicine and vaccinations, reports Reuters.
  • Guatemalan Supreme Court judge Blanca Stalling was arrested on charges of using her position to pressure a lower court judge who was hearing a corruption case against her son, Otto Molina Stalling, reports EFE. Last month the CICIG and Public Ministry asked the court to strip Stalling of immunity in relation to the case. (See Jan. 12's briefs.)
  • El Salvador's attorney general is investigating a accusations against President Salvador Sánchez Cerén in a 1986-1987 kidnapping case, committed while the current president was an FMLN guerrilla commander, reports la Prensa Gráfica. The case became possible after the Salvadoran supreme court overturned an amnesty law for civil war crimes. (See posts for July 14 and July 15 of last year.)
  • Honduran authorities announced a new arrest in the Berta Cáceres murder investigation, reports TeleSUR.
  • The FARC peace baby boom has been reported on, but the Guardian has a cute story on the subject, complete with a quote from a doctor who has gone from removing shrapnel in battle to treating diaper rash. (See Jan. 31's briefs for the Silla Vacía take, that the phenomenon is part of a lasting commitment to peace by the FARC rank and file.)
  • Protests in Peru are blocking access to Las Bambas copper mine, as residents of Challhuahuacho demand health and sewage infrastructure, reports Reuters.
  • Past enforcement of the U.S. "global gag rule" limiting aid to groups that provide abortions, and even from offering information on services has led to an increase in the number of girls aged 11–14 having unwanted pregnancies, and an increase in the prevalence of HIV/Aids in Chile, reports the Guardian. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Ecuador's main opposition candidate for president said he will give WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange a month to leave the country's London embassy if he wins in February's elections, reports the Guardian.
  • But ruling party candidate Lenín Moreno is still leading in the polls by about ten points over banker Guillermo Lasso, reports the Miami Herald. But analysts don't believe Moreno will manage to win 40 percent of the vote and maintain a 10 point lead over Lasso in order to win the presidency outright on Feb. 18. And the opposition will likely unify to beat him in the second round. Moreno's campaign has been further hit by a corruption scandal involving his his running mate, current vice president Jorge Glas, who has been accused of knowing about corruption at state-oil firm Petroecuador, according to the Herald.
  • Amnesty International is particularly concerned with some aspects of Argentina's new migration regulations, such as a special prison for foreigners being prepared in Buenos Aires and rules that force all judges to inform the government whenever a foreigner has been indicted on suspicion of having committed a crime, reports the Guardian. (See Monday's and last Friday's briefs.)
  • Winter migration of the monarch butterfly to Mexico dropped this year, after a brief recovery. The Associated Press explains the effect of logging and storms on the migration habits.

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