Brazilian Judge Calls for Investigation of 54 Politicians in Corruption Case

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Top Story — Brazilian Attorney General Rodrigo Janot has asked the country’s Supreme Court to launch an investigation into 54 politicians implicated in the multibillion-dollar corruption case involving the ruling Workers’ Party and the partly state-run oil firm Petrobras.

The attorney general’s request marks the first step in bringing charges against the politicians. Brazilian law dictates that any investigations into federal lawmakers, as well as members of the executive branch, must be approved first by the Supreme Court. The names of the politicians can only be released once the Supreme Court grants permission to proceed with the investigation.

Prior to Janot’s Tuesday announcement, the investigation had zeroed in on the top executives of major construction companies, as well as former Petrobras directors, alleged to have been involved in the kickback scheme.

Investigators say that over a period of several years, the ruling Workers’ Party accepted bribes from some of Brazil’s major engineering firms in exchange for public-works contracts. According to investigators, at least $3.7 billion — and possibly over $28 billion — were siphoned away from the oil company’s coffers, a large portion of the money having been transferred to the campaign funds of members of the Workers’ Party.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

  • Mexican authorities raided “La Bestia” — a train known for transporting Central American immigrants to the U.S. border — 153 times over the last year, according to a statement issued Tuesday, as part of a series of inspections aimed at cracking down on immigration.
  • Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s pick for the new attorney general has been called into question, given that Arely Gómez, the nominee, is the sister of a top Televisa news executive and Peña Nieto has already been criticized for his close ties to the television giant.

Caribbean

  • Fidel Castro met with five Cuban intelligence agents who were formerly imprisoned in the United States — known as the “five heroes” or “Cuban five” — in his home on Saturday, putting to rest speculation as to why Castro had not yet met with the men, one of whom was just returned to Cuba in December.
  • Members of the organization of Caribbean nations CARICOM expressed “grave concern” regarding the ongoing issues faced by Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic as well as Dominicans of Haitian descent in a statement issued Tuesday, deciding to once again bar the Dominican Republic from joining the organization.
  • The former security chief to Haiti’s ex-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, known for providing testimony in U.S. court that helped arrest key players in Haiti’s drug trafficking networks in 2005, was shot to death in Port-au-Prince Monday.

Central America

  • The Panama Canal may see its traffic further increase when an expansion project is completed next year due to an ongoing dispute at ports on the U.S. west coast, which has shipping services looking for new ways to move goods from Asia to the eastern U.S. coast.
  • Following a request to Congress by the Obama administration for $1 billion in funding for Central American nations, the leaders of the region’s governments made several proposals to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden when he visited Guatemala on Tuesday, including a Honduran pledge to reform the country’s notorious national police force.

Andes

  • The wife of arrested Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma on Tuesday petitioned the Organization of American States to intervene in his case after he was locked up for allegedly conspiring against the socialist government, a case which highlights the bitterly fractious nature of politics in Venezuela, where the socialist government has moved in one way or another against 33 of 50 mayors who belong to the political opposition.
  • Colombia’s FARC said in a statement on Tuesday that they will refuse to accept a peace deal that sends any fighters to prison for participating in the group’s 50-year rebellion, demanding instead that so-called oligarchs be held accountable for economic and human rights abuses.
  • The captain of a cargo ship was arrested in the port of Cartagena, Colombia on arms trafficking charges after authorities found 1000 tons of gunpowder, 3,000 artillery shells and other munitions aboard the Cuba-bound vessel.

Southern Cone

  • As Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff faces increasing resistance from legislators toward her proposed budget cuts, the national currency, the real, has hit a ten-year low, as several other worrying indicators have the Financial Times’ Beyond Brics blog warning of an economic “implosion.”
  • As Argentina continues to grapple with U.S. bondholders over the fallout from a 2002 default, Minister of Economy Axel Killicof on Tuesday said investors who took losses on the default have so far filed for up to $8 billion in damages.
  • Several thousand people in southern Chile have been evacuated from their towns after the Villarrica volcano erupted on Tuesday morning.

Image: Comissão de Constituição, Justiça e Cidadania, CC BY 2.0

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