Brazil, Latin America: Week in Review, Southern Cone

Brazil Charges 36 Over Petrobras Corruption Scandal

December 12, 2014 By Staff

Top Story — Brazilian prosecutors on Thursday filed criminal charges against 36 people for alleged involvement in a massive kickback scheme at oil giant Petrobras, Brazil’s largest company, which is partially state-run. The indictments include top executives at six of the country’s major engineering firms and two former Petrobras directors.

The 36 charged are accused of money laundering, corruption, and forming a criminal organization. Prosecutors allege that billions of dollars were paid as bribes to Petrobras by several engineering companies in order to secure lucrative contracts. The money, in turn, was allegedly funneled into funds for the ruling Worker’s Party and its allies.

News of the scheme, made public in November, followed a months-long investigation codenamed “Operation Car Wash,” and has scandalized the Brazilian public due to its size and reach.

Alberto Youssef, the police’s main informant, who was also indicted on Thursday, has accused President Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor and mentor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of knowing about the scheme and allowing their political party to benefit from it. Rousseff chaired Petrobras’ board of directors from 2003 until being elected president in 2010, a period in which nearly $4 billion was allegedly transferred to the Worker’s Party and its allies.

Both Rousseff and Silva deny the allegations, and Youssef has offered no proof of their involvement.

Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, Prosecutor-General Rodrigo Janot said, “These people stole the pride of Brazilians,” adding that “we’re far from being at [the investigation’s] end.”

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

  • Mexico on Thursday opened bidding on its oil sector to foreign and domestic companies, a major milestone following a set of reforms aimed at modernizing and attracting outside investment to its large oil industry.
  • Opposition politicians in Mexico’s Michoacán state are working to pass a law, against the will of the ruling PRI party, to provide amnesty to members of vigilante groups which emerged to fight drug traffickers in 2013 but have since been accused of rights abuses and ties to criminal gangs.


  • U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy on Thursday blasted the USAID program to infiltrate Cuba’s hip-hop scene in an effort to promote regime change, calling the operation “reckless” and “stupid.”
  • A USAID spokesman confirmed the existence of that program Thursday, explaining that “it seemed like a good idea to promote civil society.”
  • Former U.S. President Bill Clinton on Thursday said Cuba’s continued detention of USAID subcontractor Alan Gross is a major impediment to the potential for improved U.S.-Cuba relations, including the end of the U.S.’ embargo on the island nation.

Central America

  • Three-quarters of participants in a recent public opinion poll in El Salvador said they oppose the idea of government negotiation with criminal gangs, while more than 90 percent said the national police force should be purged.
  • Nicaragua’s navy searched on Thursday for 26 people following the rescue of another 20 after their fishing boat wrecked in rough seas early on the previous day.


  • After a bill passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday that would place sanctions on Venezuelan officials involved in a crackdown on anti-government protesters this spring, President Barack Obama has signaled that he will sign the bill into law.
  • The official death toll from an alleged mass drug overdose following a prison riot in Venezuela has increased from 13 to 48, but activists continue to question the true cause of the inmates’ deaths.
  • Negotiators working to produce an deal before the Lima, Peru UN conference concludes on Dec. 12 have, as of late Thursday, only managed to agree on a single paragraph.

Southern Cone

  • As the population of Brazil’s Amazon region continues to skyrocket, rainforest cities like Manaus have become the center of bloody turf battles between drug traffickers.
  • Because of strict anti-abortion laws in Brazil and a recent crackdown on illegal clinics that were previously tolerated, many women have in the country have been forced to seek out riskier ways of having the procedure.
  • Brazilian authorities have caught another serial killer, a man arrested in Rio de Janeiro suburb who claims to have killed 42 in the last decade.


Image: Geraldo Magela/Agência Senado, CC BY 2.0

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[…] state-run Brazilian oil company Petrobras continues to face an unprecedented corruption scandal, newspaper Valor Econômico has alleged in a new report that top executives knew about corruption […]

[…] chief executive officer. Petrobras, which is partially state-run, is currently embroiled in a corruption scandal alleged to involve billions of dollars and key members of Rousseff’s Worker’s […]

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