Thursday, October 11, 2018

Keiko Fujimori arrested in money laundering case (Oct. 11, 2018)

Peruvian opposition leader Keiko Fujimori was arrested in money laundering investigation yesterday. Prosecutors are investigating whether she accepted illegal campaign contributions during her 2011 and 2016 presidential campaigns. The arrest was unexpected: She was taken into custody after going to the chief prosecutor's office to provide testimony in the investigation, reports the Associated Press. Fujimori is considered a flight risk, and has been detained for ten days.

Prosecutors are investigating several large undeclared campaign donations and potential links to Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, reports the Guardian.  Prosecutor José Domingo Pérez accused her of running a criminal network within the Fuerza Popular party, and accepting $1.2 million in illicit funding from Odebrecht, reports La República. (El Comercio has more details on the accusation.) The money was allegedly laundered as small contributions from supporters and income from fundraisers. (See La República for more details.)

Fujimori denies the allegations, and said the move is politically motivated judicial persecution, reports the New York Times. "Persecution is disguised as justice in our country," she wrote in a letter posted on Twitter.

Prosecutors ordered the arrest of 19 other people, including the heads of her 2016 presidential campaign. (El Comercio recounts the main events in the investigation.)

It's the latest dramatic twist in relation to the Fujimori's, who have dominated the country's political scene for decades -- and experts say it may be key in weakening a political dynasty that has weakened Peru's democratic institutions. 

The detention comes only a few days after her father, former dictator Alberto Fujimori was ordered back to prison to serve out the remainder of a 25-year sentence for human rights violations. (See Oct. 4's post.) Earlier this year, Keiko Fujimori, who leads the powerful Fuerza Popular block in Congress, played a key role in forcing former president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski to resign. (See March 22's post.) And in December of last year her brother, lawmaker Kenji Fujimori, apparently helped save Kuczynski from an impeachment motion in exchange for a presidential pardon for Alberto Fujimori -- which was revoked last week by a Supreme Court judge. (See posts for Jan. 2 and Oct. 4.)

Popular Force has been losing power, in part because of allegations of corruption which have angered citizens. An Ipsos poll published last month gave her an approval rating of just 13 percent, reports the Financial Times. Voters shunned the party in municipal elections on Sunday. A schisim between Keiko and Kenji has contributed to a split within the party. And Keiko Fujimori was implicated in a judicial scandal earlier this year in which leaked audios appeared to show high level judges peddling influence. (See July 20's briefs.)

The accusations and detention are likely a result of that loss of power and will further the phenomenon said analysts consulted by El Comercio.

Current president Martín Vizcarra has made combatting corruption a central cause, and has called for a December referendum on political and judicial reforms targeting graft. On Dec. 9, voters will be asked to decide on the reform of the national council of magistrates, measure to regulate political party financing, a ban on immediate reelection for lawmakers, and a return to a bicameral congress, reports La República. (See this recent Economist article on how Vizcarra's reform efforts have earned him popular support.)

News Briefs

  • Plaza Pública investigation found the Guatemalan government ordered military patrols in the areas surrounding the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) and the U.S. embassy in Guatemala City on Aug. 31. The military deployment, which involved U.S.-donated jeeps intended for combatting drug trafficking, occurred as President Jimmy Morales announced he would not renew the mandate for the CICIG. (See Sept. 3's post.) Morales and his officials have argued that the patrols were routine. The scandal "exposes Morales’ temptation to abuse his power in an effort to hinder both criminal investigations in Guatemala and the actions foreign governments have been taking to support those investigations," according to InSight Crime.
  • The death of a Venezuelan opposition councillor in government detention earlier this week -- ruled a suicide by authorities but assassination by government opponents -- has shaken up Venezuelan politics, writes Hugo Pérez Hernaíz at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights. (See Tuesday's post.)
El Salvador
  • Oscar Romero will be canonized in Rome on Sunday by Pope Francis. The Salvadoran priest, a champion of social justice, was killed nearly 40 years ago by a right-wing death squad. Conservative factions have opposed his canonization because of his association with liberation theology, reports the Guardian.
  • In the National Catholic Reporter, Gene Palumbo explores the injustices on the ground in rural El Salvador pushed Romero to embrace land reform and oppose the country's military dictatorship.
  • Despite government assurances of normalcy, "Nicaragua increasingly seems like a country on the brink of a breakdown," writes Christine Wade at World Politics Review.
  • Roger Waters called Brazilian presidential frontrunner Jair Bolsonaro a neo-fascist at a São Paulo concert. "... as a believer in human rights – and that includes the right to peaceful protest under the law – I would prefer not to live under the rules of someone who believes military dictatorship is a good thing," he told the crowd. "I remember the bad old days in South America – with the juntas of the military dictatorships – and it was ugly,” The comments divided the 45,000 strong audience: part cheered while others chanted "Fora PT," reports the Guardian. (See Monday's post.)
  • A Datafolha poll yesterday showed that Bolsonaro had 58 percent of voter support, compared to leftist runner-up Fernando Haddad’s 42 percent. (Reuters)
  • Brazilian prosecutors are investigating Bolsonaro's top economic advisor for an alleged investment fraud. Economist Paulo Guedes is considered a potential economy minister, and has made Bolsonaro a market favorite against leftist Fernando Haddad. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Bolsonaro's campaign promised to reduce punishments for farmers who break environmental laws, reports Reuters.
  • Nearly all of Brazil's left has united in support of Haddad ahead of Oct. 28's run-off vote. (EFE)
  • Bolsonaro attracted voter support in part by pushing the bugbear that Brazil could "become the next Venezuela," reports the Guardian.
  • Bolsonaro said he will skip tonight's scheduled presidential debate, due to health complications related to a stabbing last month. (Associated Press)
  • Uruguayan authorities will seek foreign investment in the country's legal marijuana industry. (EFE)
  • U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will speak today at the second security conference with leaders of Mexico and Central America on ongoing concerns about illegal immigration, corruption and drug trafficking, reports McClatchy DC. Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, Salvadoran Vice President Oscar Ortiz, Mexican Security of Foreign Relations Luis Videgaray and Mexican Secretary of Government Alfonso Navarrete are expected to attend. 
  • Brazilian prosecutors accused their Mexican counterparts of holding up the investigation into bribes paid by Odebrecht in Mexico, reports the Associated Press.
  • Al Jazeera analyzes the controversy regarding Mexico City's new airport.
  • U.S. and Mexican authorities have discovered an incomplete cross-border drug smuggling tunnel complete with a rail track and a solar-powered lighting and ventilation system, reports the Guardian.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... 



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