Otávio Marques de Azevedo, the CEO of the construction company Andrade Gutierrez, was arrested on corruption charges Friday in relation to Brazil's Petrobras corruption scandal. (Image: YouTube)
Brazil, Latin America: Week in Review, Southern Cone

Brazilian Construction Titans Arrested in Corruption Probe

June 22, 2015 By Staff

Top Story — The heads of Brazil’s two largest construction firms were arrested on Friday in connection with a massive corruption investigation which continues to expand and may soon reach former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Marcelo Odebrecht, the billionaire CEO of the company that bears his last name, and Otávio Marques de Azevedo, the CEO of the construction company Andrade Gutierrez, were arrested for their alleged knowledge, and implicit approval, of payments by their firms of some $230 million in bribes to politicians. Their companies, according to federal police, were part of a cartel that divided up contracts from state oil firm Petrobras, for which they routinely overcharged, The New York Times reported.

The investigation, codenamed “Car Wash,” has implicated so many leading members of the President Dilma Rousseff’s Workers’ Party (PT) that many have accused the judge Sérgio Moro, a leading figure in the probe, of political bias, noting his family ties to opposition figures, according to local media.

Following the arrests, da Silva said to an audience of PT supporters that he fears he may be the next target of the investigation. Rousseff, who served as energy minister under da Silva, has seen her popularity figures reach historic lows, in part due to the Petrobras scandal. A new poll found just 10 percent of Brazilians approve of her government, Reuters reported.

Just Published in Latin America News Dispatch

  • A succession of violent flare-ups in the last several months have threatened to derail the peace talks between the Colombian government and the country’s largest and most influential leftist guerrilla group, the FARC. Bogotá-based reporter Daniela Castro explores the roots of the armed conflict and the government’s past attempts at negotiating peace, in order to shine a light on the current fragility of the peace talks in Havana.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

  • Six suspected criminals were shot and killed in the northern Mexico state of Tamaulipas near the U.S. border, according to authorities. In an unrelated case, the former governor of the same Mexican state was indicted on money laundering charges.
  • Two men were charged Friday with illegally smuggling immigrants across the U.S.-Mexican border after a boat they allegedly used crashed into another vessel, leaving one passenger dead.
  • At least 10 people were shot and killed in García, Mexico, after attacking a Corona beer distribution center Saturday, prompting authorities to investigate possible links to drug cartels.


  • The anticipated mass deportations of Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic have not occurred, according to The New York Times, though advocates report there have been several several detentions since last week’s deadline for legal status applications.
  • The New York Times’ editorial board called for an end to the Cuban travel ban for U.S. tourists on Sunday, saying that the existing legislation — the sole travel ban U.S. citizens’ are subject to — is “particularly misguided” given the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries announced in December.

Central America

  • A 62-year-old man marched 125 miles from his hometown Quetzaltenang, Guatemala, to the country’s capital, in protest of government corruption, arriving in Guatemala City to cheers from crowds of supporters Sunday.
  • Recent economic growth in Panama has resulted in an influx in foreign workers, leaving many unskilled Panamanians workers jobless, according to the Los Angeles Times.


  • The government of Colombia has issued a protest letter to Venezuela, after the latter country decreed maritime borders that includes a disputed segment of the Gulf of Venezuela claimed by both countries.
  • Footage of prehistoric rock paintings of varied wildlife and human subjects thought to be as much as 20,000 years old was captured for the first time by a British filmmaker in a difficult-to-access portion of jungle in Central Colombia.

Southern Cone

  • The name of Argentine President Cristina Fernández did not appear on any list of electoral candidates by the weekend deadline, meaning she won’t run for another office when her presidential term ends in December, defying speculation that she would seek a congressional seat. Analysts believe she will continue to wield influence if her Front for Victory party retains control of the legislative chambers after elections in October.
  • Chile’s Environment Ministry has declared an environmental emergency it the capital city of Santiago, where high levels of air pollution have been made worse by one of the direst Junes in more than 40 years.

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