Friday, July 26, 2019

Brazilian police arrest alleged hackers (July 26)

Brazilian federal police arrested four people on Wednesday for allegedly hacking the phone of anti-corruption judge Sergio Moro, who is currently the Brazilian justice minister. Yesterday President Jair Bolsonaro said his own mobile phone was among hundreds of targeted by hackers.

Gustavo Henrique Elias Santos, Suelen Priscila de Oliveira, Danilo Cristiano Marques and Walter Delgatti Neto are accused of hacking the messaging app accounts of Moro, two federal judges and two federal police investigators. Leaks from those exchanges -- reported on by The Intercept, Folha de S. Paulo and Veja -- have formed the backbone of a scandal that appears to show significant improprieties in the landmark Lava Jato anti-corruption case.

Deglatti reportedly started the hacking scheme after a prosecutor accused him of drug trafficking, and he told investigators that he leaked material to The Intercept voluntarily, anonymously, and without seeking compensation. Journalist Glen Greenwald, co-founder of The Intercept Brazil, said Deglatti's statements confirmed “everything we’ve said from the beginning about how we obtained this material: simply passively receiving the already-obtained information and then reported on it." Greenwald also said Moro could not credibly oversee the hacking investigation.

Anger at corruption schemes revealed by the Lava Jato investigation helped propel Bolsonaro to power last year -- particularly after his principal opponent, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was imprisoned. The hacked messages appear to reveal collusion between then-judge Moro and the prosecutorial team, as well as politically partisan scheming to hurt the Workers' Party's electoral chances. But the leaks have pushed public opinion against Moro. A recent poll found that 58 percent of Brazilians believed the exchanges between Moro and prosecutors to be “improper.”

The Workers' Party said the arrests were a farce and denounced efforts to link the party's leaders to the scheme.

News Briefs

  • Amazon deforestation in Brazil rose sharply in July, following previous increases in May and June. More than three football fields a minute are destroyed now, a number that pushes the world's largest rainforest closer towards the tipping point of no return, warn experts. (Guardian)
  • Environmental enforcement combined with economic incentives could provide a way forward for Amazon Basin countries falling behind deforestation targets, argued Lisa Viscidi and Enrique Ortiz in a recent New York Times op-ed.
Regional Relations
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Cuban counterpart, Bruno Rodríguez, met in Havana this week. Lavrov promised to strengthen Russia's alliance with Cuba and Venezuela in the face of what he called US “impositions” and “neocolonialist methods.” (EFE)
  • Notorious Haitian gang leader Arnel Joseph was arrested this week, in a dramatic arrest while the fugitive was awaiting surgery on a leg wound in Les Cayes. (Voice of America)
  • Guatemala cannot be considered a safe haven for people fleeing violence in El Salvador and Honduras, argue Cecilia Menjívar and M. Gabriela Torres in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece.
  • Venezuelan doctors who have fled the country could play a key role in providing health care to their fellow exiles around the region, who are taxing host countries' hospital systems, writes Diana Montoya Maya in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • Small businesses in Mexico face extortion from organized crime and corrupt officials -- but also red tape, regulations and fiscal system confusing enough to function as a prohibitive tax on small and growing businesses, reports Americas Quarterly.
  • A new round of U.S. sanctions against Venezuelan government allies targets three stepsons of President Nicolás Maduro and a Colombian business partner of theirs named Alex Saab. U.S. officials accused the men of a long-term plan to steal government funds, mostly from Venezuela’s state-run food program. (New York Times)
  • United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet's recent report on Venezuela "paints a devastating portrait of the country’s economic situation—but overlooks the US role in the suffering," argues Gabriel Hetland in The Nation.
  • Vulture strike: Funds from Europe and and Latin America are snapping up Venezuelan debt, which has dropped to record lows, reports Bloomberg.
  • The compliance industry is booming in Latin America, amid a spate of new corporate criminal liability laws in many countries that have put executives and board members on edge, reports Americas Quarterly.
  • A separate piece in Americas Quarterly looks at what anti-corruption measures have worked -- such as plea bargains -- and which haven't -- term limits. Campaign finance reform and pre-trial detention are indeterminate, according to the piece.
  • Campaign finance reform efforts are laudatory, but the proliferation of new norms hint at the real challenge in the region: bridging the abyss between the legislation and implementation, writes Kevin Casas in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra said the national government willre-evaluate its recent decision to grant a construction permit to Southern Copper Corp for its proposed mine Tia Maria at the request of local authorities calling for its annulment, reports Reuters.
  • Chilean lawmakers abolished an old law under which the country's state-run copper miner, Codelco, helped fund Chile's military. (Reuters)
  • Argentina's economic activity rose in May, for the first time in over a year, a timely boost for President Mauricio Macri ahead of the August primary vote that serves as a sort of general election first round. (Reuters)
Thank you to Elyssa Pachico for the amazing briefs during my break -- you always raise the bar. I'm back and, as always, welcome feedback, comments and suggestions.

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