Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sunday Globe Special: Brazilian Car Wa$h

Gives me a chance to clean up a lot of things:

"Two possible paths for Brazil’s beloved ex-leader: Prison or the presidency" by Marina Lopes Washington Post  May 13, 2017

SAO PAULO — Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, popularly known as Lula, faces five trials for his alleged involvement in a $2 billion kickback scheme that has decimated Brazil’s political elite. If convicted, the 71-year-old could be imprisoned for the rest of his life. But Lula has a shot at an appealing alternative: the presidency. According to the latest polls, the former leader is a clear front-runner in primaries ahead of next year’s election.

The stakes could not be higher. In addition to sending him to prison, a conviction would prevent Lula from running for public office, extinguishing his political career. But if he can stall the judicial process long enough to win the October 2018 vote, including exhausting all of his appeals, he’ll gain presidential immunity, shielding him from prosecution for four years. So Lula’s defense team is taking its time. They have called 87 witnesses to take the stand for one of his trials, a process that could easily run through the election.

Related: "Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s hearing was closed to the press and not broadcast live. Thousands of supporters — both of Silva and Judge Sergio Moro — were separated by a few miles, and hundreds of police in riot gear controlled several square blocks around the federal courthouse. Silva, president between 2003 and 2010, was testifying about allegations that he received a beachfront apartment as a kickback from construction company OAS...."

He's kind of the Bernie Sanders of Brazilian politics.

A former union organizer with a fourth-grade education, Lula rose to power as a voice for Brazil’s disenfranchised poor. He proved to be an astute and charismatic politician and left the presidency with a dizzyingly high approval rate of 87 percent. During his tenure, millions were lifted from poverty into the middle class and Brazil experienced rapid growth.

The good times, however, would not last. The country was gripped by its worst economic crisis on record, with unemployment rates soaring to a record 13 percent. Still, Lula’s reputation as a champion of the middle class remained largely intact. By the time his political ally Dilma Rousseff was impeached in 2016 with a 10 percent approval rating, Lula was already said to be planning a comeback.

But he soon became the highest-profile figure to be ensnared in Brazil’s ‘‘Car Wash’’ scandal, a scheme in which politicians allegedly accepted bribes and donations in return for lucrative government contracts. Through a series of plea-bargain deals with defendants, prosecutors were able to trace the trail of corruption from a Brasilia car wash to the country’s Congress. Today, a third of the president’s Cabinet and a third of the Senate are under investigation.

Led by the Brazilian activist judge Sérgio Moro, a hero to the country’s anti-corruption movement, the Car Wash probe has been a leveling moment in Brazilian politics, signaling that no one, no matter how rich or powerful, is above the law. But whether it can bring down the most beloved politician in the country’s history remains to be seen....


The impeachment was must-watch TV in Brazil involving allegations of fraud that got her ousted in favor of some U.S. puppet (remember, Rousseff was none to happy when Snowden revealed that the Obama administration had been spying on her. But he didn't do it to Trump, yup) while the public wants new elections. I happen to think that sexism is involved (I'm sure Park Guen-hye would also agree).

Related: Closing Ceremonies

Reopened in September.

Also see:

Judo center welcomes home Olympic medalists
Needham to host rally to celebrate Aly Raisman
Aly Raisman gets a hero’s welcome in Needham

Is a romance blossoming between Aly Raisman and Colton Underwood?

She can do better than him!

Ah, Life is Good and have you seen her spread for SI?

Now for the $tring-pullers behind the politicians:

"Once Brazil’s richest man, Eike Batista sought for graft" by Renata Brito Associated Press  January 27, 2017

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian police issued an arrest warrant Thursday for a businessman famous for amassing and then losing a multibillion-dollar fortune, the latest person caught up in a wide-ranging corruption probe roiling Latin America’s largest nation.

Federal police were working with Interpol to locate Eike Batista, who might be in New York. Batista’s lawyer Fernando Martins told the G1 news portal that his client was traveling and would surrender to police.

Batista is being sought for allegedly paying bribes to former Rio de Janeiro state governor Sergio Cabral, apparently to gain an advantage in government contracts.

Tacio Muzzi, an inspector with the federal police, told a news conference that if Batista doesn’t turn himself in soon, he will be considered a fugitive from justice. He did not give a specific deadline. He added that Batista appears to have used his German passport to leave Brazil.

Police learned overnight that Batista might be out of the country, Muzzi said, but decided to go ahead with attempting to execute the warrant. Globo Television showed images of police going to Batista’s home in Rio de Janeiro early Thursday.

Prosecutor Eduardo El Hage told reporters that Batista paid $16.5 million to Cabral in foreign bank accounts. Officials said Thursday that they were still investigating what the money was for.

Cabral is also facing several corruption charges and was jailed last year.

The warrant for Batista was one of nine issued Thursday in connection with an investigation into the money-laundering and the hiding of about $100 million in foreign bank accounts.

The vast majority of that money, nearly $80 million, belonged to Cabral, said prosecutor Leonardo Freitas. He held out the possibility that the conspiracy could be even larger.

‘‘The wealth of the members of the criminal organization led by Mr. Sergio Cabral is an ocean not yet completely mapped,’’ he told reporters.


"Brazilian executive returns home to arrest on graft charges" Associated Press  January 30, 2017

RIO DE JANEIRO — Police arrested a businessman who was once Brazil’s richest man on corruption charges Monday, as a string of newly approved plea bargains threatened to draw more top politicians and executives into a massive graft inquiry.

Federal police said Eike Batista was taken into custody when he landed in Rio de Janeiro on a flight from New York, four days after authorities found him missing from his home here.

The prosecutor’s office said in a statement that American police had been monitoring Batista over the weekend, right up until the moment the door to his flight closed and they confirmed he was on board.

(Blog editor can only smile)

Batista, who is famous for having amassed and then lost a multibillion-dollar fortune, is accused of paying bribes to former Rio de Janeiro state governor Sergio Cabral, apparently to gain advantage in landing government contracts.

Meanwhile, plea bargains in separate cases threaten to implicate other key business and political leaders in the biggest corruption probe in Brazil’s history.

I $uppose that is saying something.


Meanwhile, further on down the river:

"Amazon River pirates terrorize ships by night" by Simon Romero New York Times  November 19, 2016

MACAPÁ, Brazil — Piracy has long been a fact of life on the rivers of Brazil’s anarchic wilderness. But as the population in the Amazon surges and drug gangs expand their sway over the region, hijacking opportunities have flourished. And police forces are struggling to keep up with the crime, culminating in a series of recent attacks that have terrorized riverboat crews and their passengers.

The growing alarm about piracy dovetails with rapid changes in the region. The Amazon is also one of the poorest parts of Brazil, and organized crime has spread, feeding a sense of lawlessness in the vast river basin. In remote riverbank villages, residents complain that police boats rarely venture into the waterways where many of the pirate attacks take place.

The authorities say they are trying....


Like the Somali pirates, they came and went as I become current regarding Brazil:

Colombia plane crash wipes out almost entire soccer team
Framingham mourns Brazilian soccer players killed in plane crash
Crash probe into Brazilian soccer team tragedy focuses on fuel, electrical systems
Grief turns to anger amid reports of lack of fuel in crash

Not only do they expect us to buy those outrageous explanations (they ran out of gas?), what's with all the wreckage?

Seeing as they came down in Colombia....

"The United Nations counts 7 million ‘‘internally displaced people’’ here, more than in Syria, Iraq, or any other war zone. Forced to flee their farms and villages, they have resettled at the edges of Colombia’s cities, finding refuge in places like this treeless, teeming slum on the outskirts of Bogota...."

No doubt due to the double-dealing, two-faced drug war being conducted by U.S. intelligence agencies:

"US extradition benefits warlords from Colombia" by Deborah Sontag New York Times   September 10, 2016

CALABAZO, Colombia — Several dozen Colombian paramilitary leaders were extradited to the United States in 2008, as the US war on drugs took precedence over the South American country’s own efforts to hold them to account. And leaving the country has turned out to be a benefit for them.

The extradited prisoners have received comparatively lenient treatment, despite being major drug traffickers who were also found responsible for massacres, forced disappearances, and the displacement of entire villages, an investigation by The New York Times found.

Those are "our guys," all right.

I'm sure Guzman is jealous.

Once the paramilitaries have completed their US prison terms, they will have served on average seven and a half years. The leaders extradited en masse will have served an average of 10 years, at most, for drug conspiracies that involved tons of cocaine.

By comparison, federal inmates convicted of crack cocaine trafficking — mostly street-level dealers who sold less than an ounce — serve on average just over 12 years in prison.

Julio Henríquez Santamaría was leading a community meeting in the sylvan hamlet of Calabazo, Colombia, when he was abducted by paramilitary thugs, thrown into the back of a Toyota pickup and disappeared forever on Feb. 4, 2001.

Henríquez had been organizing farmers to substitute legal crops like cacao for coca, which the current Colombian government, on the verge of ending a civil war fueled by the narcotics trade, is promoting as an antidrug strategy.

But Hernán Giraldo Serna, or his men, didn’t like it, or Henríquez.

From his early days as a small-time marijuana farmer, Giraldo had grown into El Patrón, a narcotics kingpin and paramilitary commander whose antiinsurgent mission had devolved into a murderous criminal enterprise controlling much of Colombia’s mountain-draped northern coast.

Henríquez was hardly his only victim. But he became the emblematic one.

Henríquez had a family tenacious enough to pursue Giraldo even after he, along with 13 other paramilitary leaders, was whisked out of Colombia and into the United States on May 13, 2008, to face drug charges.

The extradition stunned Colombia, where the men stood accused of atrocities in a transitional justice process that was abruptly interrupted. In the whoosh of a jet, and at the behest of the Colombian president, Álvaro Uribe, Colombia’s efforts to confront crimes against humanity that had scarred a generation were dealt a major setback.

The U.S. can't be hollering at others then.

Victims’ advocates howled that it was like exporting “14 Pinochets.” But Henríquez’s family quietly vowed to hold at least one of them accountable.

“We hope that the effort we have made over all these years means that things won’t end with impunity,” said his daughter Bela Henríquez Chacín, 32, who was 16 when her father was murdered and hopes to speak at Giraldo’s sentencing in Washington next month.

The Henríquezes will be the first foreign victims ever given a voice in an international drug smuggling case in the United States, experts believe. Whether this recognition is more than symbolic remains to be seen.

For some of the extradited prisoners, there is a special dividend at the end of their incarceration: a green card. Though wanted by the Colombian authorities, two have won permission to stay in the United States, and their families have joined them. Three more are seeking the same haven, and others are likely to follow suit.

Are you effin' kidding?

“In the days of Pablo Escobar, they used to say they preferred a tomb in Colombia to a prison in the United States,” said Alirio Uribe Muñoz, a member of the Colombian Congress. “But maybe now extradition is a good deal.”

Depends on for whom you work.

For 52 years, with abundant US support, the Colombian government has been locked in a ferocious armed conflict with leftist insurgents.

Though it initially empowered paramilitary forces as military proxies, the government withdrew official sanction decades later, long after landowners and cartels had co-opted them.

Before their demobilization in the mid-2000s, the militiamen came to rival the guerrillas as drug traffickers and outdo them as human rights abusers.

Now, eight years after the paramilitaries were extradited, Colombia has reached a peace deal with their mortal enemies, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, also called the FARC.

Facing an Oct. 2 vote on the accord, the country is in the midst of a polarizing debate about crime and punishment for the FARC, informed by what went wrong during the paramilitary peace process. Nobody is advocating that justice be abdicated to the United States this time.


The vote on the deal is important. Not only was it rushed through during a cease fire, the agreement was expected to pass. It was seen as a way to secure peace, if not justice, and thus the Colombian people voted against it -- with the surprise outcome being a foreign policy setback for the United States in a stunning referendum defeat by a razor-thin margin (btw, my pre$$ hates referendums and thus democracy). 

The point I am making -- and this is evident in elections ever since -- is that after the troika of Brexit, Colombia, and Trump, the Ma$ters of the Univer$e are no longer leaving votes to chance no matter how outrageous the rig jobs look.

Nevertheless, Colombia’s president was awarded the Peace Prize -- which really means nothing now seeing as they gave one to Obama -- as he forged a new pact against the will of the people, God help him.

UPDATE: Rebels free Colombian ex-lawmaker, key step to peace talks

You know what is going on in Venezuela, so....

"Hunt continues for Peru’s fugitive former president" Associated Press  February 13, 2017

JERUSALEM — Peru’s fugitive former president was not on a plane from San Francisco to Tel Aviv on Sunday night, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said, after reports he was en route amid an international search for him over a corruption scandal in South America.

Alejandro Toledo, whose wife has dual Belgian-Israeli citizenship, had been believed to be in San Francisco over the weekend and was thought to be aboard a flight to Israel, which does not have an extradition treaty with the South American nation.

But Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said Toledo was not on the flight from San Francisco that landed Sunday night.


Earlier, the ministry said Toledo, who governed Peru from 2001 to 2006, would only be allowed into Israel ‘‘once his affairs in Peru are settled.’’

An international search has been underway since a judge issued an arrest order for Toledo, finding that there was a high probability he had received bribes from a Brazilian construction firm that has admitted to paying off officials throughout Latin America.

Toledo is accused of accepting some $20 million in bribes from Odebrecht to help the company win a contract to build a highway from Brazil to Peru’s Pacific Coastline.

Odebrecht last year admitted in a plea agreement with the US Justice Department to paying some $800 million in bribes to politicians throughout Latin America, including $29 million during the 2001-2006 governments of Toledo and his two successors.

Toledo, who was last believed to be in Paris a week ago, has denied any wrongdoing.

A Peruvian judge Thursday ordered the arrest of Toledo on suspicion of taking bribes from a Brazilian construction company at the heart of the regionwide corruption scandal.

Judge Richard Concepcion accepted prosecutors’ request that Toledo be jailed for up to 18 months as they investigate the bribery allegations.

Toledo, who was president from 2001-2006, is a visiting scholar at Stanford University in California. He was in Paris for a meeting earlier in the week.

The judge said a red alert had been sent to the international police agency Interpol for his arrest ‘‘wherever he is.’’

‘‘Even though he has been president, he must be subject to the law,’’ said Concepcion, adding that there is ‘‘a high degree of probability’’ he was involved in money laundering and influence peddling, including ‘‘selling the [highway] work in exchange for a sum of money.’’


I'm sure God will forgive him.

Related: "It is the latest development in a case that started in Brazil but has ensnared dozens of politicians from around Latin America in a far-reaching investigation. The prodemocracy activist, who rallied Peruvians to force the resignation of strongman Alberto Fujimori, denied any wrongdoing in a telephone call late Friday with El Comercio newspaper...."

Also has something to do with the mine strike in Bolivia, but I'm sure Evo will fix things.

Jorge Batlle, 88, former president of Uruguay

The dictator outlasted him.

Time to head back north:

Unusually late Tropical Storm Otto takes aim at Central America
Hurricane Otto makes landfall on coast of Nicaragua

It didn't disrupt the election though.

"A judge has ordered prosecutors to reopen a probe into one of the most notorious massacres in the nation’s history: the army’s slaying of hundreds of people in the village of El Mozote. Human rights advocate Ovidio Mauricio said Saturday that Judge Jorge Guzman Urquilla had accepted the request filed by his organization and two other groups. A postwar UN truth commission concluded that the army massacred at least 500 people in December 1981 during the civil war (AP)."

Those were U.S.-allied and trained troops that did that.

"A key Guatemalan official was ordered not to leave the country Saturday, as the death toll rose to 38 girls in a fire that began when mattresses were set ablaze during a protest by residents at a youth shelter. A judge ordered Carlos Rodas, head of the child protection agency, not to travel abroad as authorities investigate the disaster, which has put a spotlight on alleged failings of the agency (AP)."

US owes black people reparations for a history of ‘racial terrorism,’ says UN panel 

Someone better tell the politicians to tone down the self-adulating speeches then, and what was that at the bottom?

Memorial to confront South’s troubled history of lynchings

So they erase the Confederate stuff because of the church shootings, but....