Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. (Image: Agência Brasil, CC BY 3.0 BR)
Brazil, Latin America: Week in Review, Southern Cone

Brazil’s Ex-President Latest Target of Corruption Probe

July 17, 2015 By Staff

Top Story — Brazilian prosecutors are reportedly investigating former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for allegedly using his influence abroad to lobby for Brazilian business interests, confirming Silva’s expressed fears that a historic corruption investigation would eventually reach him.

Prosecutors are investigating whether Silva encouraged foreign governments to award expensive contracts to the conglomerate Odebrecht, as well as for facilitating a loan of more than $1 billion from the Brazilian BNDES state development bank, The Associated Press reported. The alleged influence-peddling took place after 2011, when Silva left office.

Silva recently predicted he would come under investigation, after Odebrecht’s CEO was arrested along with the head of Andrade Gutierrez, another construction titan.

Silva’s São Paulo nonprofit told the AP that the former president denies any wrongdoing. As the AP notes, the investigation promises to further complicate the presidency of Silva’s successor and former protegé Dilma Rousseff. Her approval ratings have been devastated by an investigation, codenamed “Operation Car Wash,” into corruption at the state oil firm Petrobras. Many high-ranking officials of the Workers’ Party (PT), of which Silva and Rousseff are members, have been arrested in connection with the probe. The investigation into Silva, a spokesperson for prosecutors told the AP, is separate.

Another development on Thursday, however, served as a reminder that the PT is not the sole target of the probe. Eduardo Cunha, a member of the Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) and the head of Brazil’s lower house, was accused by an informant to the Car Wash investigation of trying to solicit from him bribes worth 10 million reais (about $1.58 million) in 2006 and 2007. Cunha, a member of Rousseff’s legislative coalition who has nonetheless become a potent rival, denies the charges.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

  • It is estimated that the tunnel Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán used for his escape took over one year and at least $1 million to construct, according to The New York Times, and experts agree the entire escape involved extensive planning and likely the involvement of an engineer.
  • On Thursday, Mexico City became the first city in Latin America, and most populous in the world, to issue official regulations for Uber, the ride-sharing app, which agreed to contribute 1.5 percent of the proceeds from each ride to a transportation-improvement fund for the city.


  • It is believed the United States will upgrade Cuba from the third and worst tier of human trafficking centers to tier two, according to Reuters, though the U.S. State Department declined to confirm the status change.
  • Haiti has assured the international community it is ready to move forward with presidential elections, long-overdue since 2011, and requested $31 million from international donors to cover election costs, though much skepticism remains as to whether the country is prepared.
  • Additional allegations of sexual assault against the founder of a Haitian orphanage that took in street children have come to light, as orphans who say they were molested have shared their testimony in a defamation case that has been ongoing since 2011.

Central America

  • As much as 25 percent of campaign financing in Guatemala comes from the pockets of criminal organizations, according to a U.N. study released Thursday, which characterized the country’s elections as ripe with corruption and in dire need of reform.
  • In the latest anti-corruption protests in the region, hunger-striking demonstrators clashed with riot police on Thursday in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.


Southern Cone

  • Ahead of August primary elections in Argentina, candidate Daniel Scioli of current President Cristina Fernández’s party is leading in the polls, prompting Washington Post correspondent Nick Miroff to speculate that Fernández will influence politics in Argentina for years to come, long after leaving office in December.
  • Brazilian state-run oil company Petrobras says that it paid some $508 million in back taxes and fines on Thursday.

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