Top Guatemalan Justice Linked to Corruption Investigation

Supreme Court Justice Blanca Stalling was named in the recordings obtained by The Associated Press. (Image: Youtube, Screenshot)
Supreme Court Justice Blanca Stalling was named in the recordings obtained by The Associated Press. (Image: Youtube, Screenshot)

Top Story — A Guatemalan Supreme Court justice has been linked to a massive tax corruption scheme, according to recorded conversations obtained by the Associated Press, demonstrating the reach of a case which, on Friday, prompted the resignation of Vice President Roxana Baldetti.

The judge, Blanca Stalling, was named in an April 16 conversation between businessman Luis Mendizábal and Javier Ortiz.

The latter is accused of involvement in a scheme to defraud Guatemala’s government of millions of dollars worth of customs duties. Mendizábal, according to the AP, can be heard implying to Ortiz that Stalling, the justice, will soon release him. Another judge – Blanca Stalling’s sister-in-law – has been accused of taking bribes to order the release of several of those arrested for the scheme, including Ortiz.

If she is investigated, Stalling will be the highest-ranking judge implicated in the case. Baldetti, the Vice President, stepped down on Friday hours after a judge rejected her appeal to halt the investigation into her role in the scheme.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

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  • Mexican authorities are investigating a Friday shooting that left a former police chief, who had previously targeted by drug cartels, seriously wounded.
  • Two buses crashed on a highway in northeastern Mexico early Sunday, leaving nine dead and 30 hospitalized.

Caribbean

  • Cuban President Raul Castro publicly thanked Pope Francis for facilitating negotiations between the U.S. and Cuba during his visit to the Vatican this weekend, saying he might turn to the Church again and resume praying.
  • 20 same-sex couples symbolically exchanged vows in a ceremony lead by Cuban President Raul Castro’s daughter on Saturday, as part of an LGBT-rights parade in Havana that drew over 1,000 participants.
  • Massachusetts state police arrested a former Dominican Republic resident who is wanted in that country for the 2013 murder of a narcotics officer.

Central America

  • Belize may implement new regulations that would permit offshore drilling in 99 percent of its waters, a move that environmentalists fear will jeopardize the world’s second-largest coral reef, according to The Guardian.
  • The latest bout of gang violence in eastern El Salvador left 10 suspected MS-13 gang members dead late Saturday, according to authorities, who are investigating whether the violence was perpetrated by a rival gang.

Andes

  • Peruvian authorities dispatched troops to the area near the Tía María copper mine in the southern region of Moquegua, after clashes between protesters and policemen left two dead in the last week.
  • Amid increasing pressure that Venezuela set a date for parliamentary elections, the head of the National Electoral Council announced that the elections will take place in the fourth quarter of 2015 — the exact date to be made public in the near future.
  • The use of glyphosate to eradicate coca plantations in Colombia will be discontinued after the World Heath Organization determined that the chemical used in U.S.-backed aerial spraying programs is “probably carcinogenic,” President Juan Manuel Santos announced on Saturday. The deadline to replace glyphosate use with an alternative is October 1.
  • A 23-year-old police officer in Venezuela was sentenced to 18 years in jail over the death of a 14-year-old student during anti-government demonstrations in February in the city of San Cristóbal.

Southern Cone

  • Paraguay is deeply divided over the case of a pregnant 10-year-old who has been denied an abortion — illegal in the Latin American country, except when it presents a risk to the mother’s life — with high-profile individuals on both sides making public statements over the issue.
  • Chilean President Michelle Bachelet is expected to announce on Monday the appointment of new cabinet ministers — less than one week after she requested the resignation of all previous ministers — in a move intended to reverse her administration’s plunging approval ratings.
  • As part of a New York Times weekly profile series, Simon Romero writes about Shigeru Nakayama, the Japanese-Brazilian, self-appointed guardian of the ruins and record of an ancient, historically important city deep in the Amazon forest.

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