Juan Carlos Varela Rodríguez, former president of Panama, speaking at the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Photo courtesy of World Economic Forum / Mattias Nutt via Flickr.
Today in Latin America

Panama’s Ex-President Attempts to Annul Statements on Odebrecht

October 2, 2020 By Staff

TODAY IN LATIN AMERICA

PANAMA: Ex-President Juan Carlos Varela went to the Supreme Court of Justice in an attempt to annul his statement on the Odebrecht’s bribery case, claiming that his case should be processed by the Electoral Attorney’s Office. He is using a constitutional guarantee protection against the ruling that charged him with money laundering. This is the fifth time that he is turning to the Public Ministry to revise his statement. The Anti-Corruption Attorney’s Office prohibited him from leaving the country and a periodic 30-day notification.

Odebrecht is a Brazilian construction conglomerate that paid $788 million in bribes to various politicians and presidential election campaigns in exchange for 100 projects in 12 countries between 2001 to 2016. Odebrecht’s ex-director revealed that he made the money transfer to the Panameñista Party for the 2009 electoral campaign when Varela was the vice president-elect, nominated by Ricardo Martinelli, and the 2014 one as well, when he was the president-elect. Varela stated the money Odebrecht gave to his Panameñista Party was a donation to the electoral campaign. Odebrecht transferred about $6.7 million to the Panameñista Party through Jaime Lasso, former ambassador to South Korea, who was the link between the company, the party and the fundraiser for their campaign.

 

Headlines from the western hemisphere

SOUTHERN CONE

URUGUAY: The Senate will make a final decision on the criminal investigation against Guido Manini Ríos. The member of the coalition of the Government of Uruguay and former commander-in-chief of the National Army is being investigated for omitting the denouncement of crimes committed by Lieutenant Colonel José Nino Gavazzo during the military dictatorship. Manini Ríos quietly left the Senate before they could strip him of his parliamentary privileges. 

ARGENTINA: Argentina’s economic crisis has left nearly half of the country’s population in poverty in the second quarter, according to data by the country’s government official statistics agency. Agustín Salvia, a researcher at the Catholic University of Argentina, blamed the loss of jobs and the economic plunge of 19.1% on the coronavirus pandemic, and explained that small businesses were hit the hardest. MercoPress reported that Salvia said the situation would not improve in the next couple of years, and predicted that 45% of Argentines would still be in poverty by the end of this year.

ANDES

BOLIVIA: Forest fires in the Vallegrande province have gotten out of hand in the past couple of days. Local authorities have begun to evacuate people who live in San Marcos, and said the fires have spread to agricultural sites as well. The last governmental report shows 24 fires in 13 municipalities, a vast increase from last week when only 10 fires were reported. The most affected zones at the moment are Chiquitania and now Los Valles Cruceños. 

COLOMBIA: Campo Elías Galindo, known historian, political leader and close friends with Gustavo Petro, found dead on Thursday in his apartment. Authorities reported the public figure was killed after his daughter found him and filed the report. Mayor of Medellín Daniel Quintero is offering a reward of 20 million for anyone who might provide a lead about his presumed killers. Galindo was a member of Colombia Humana, a leftist-political group led by Petro.

CARIBBEAN

CUBA: Cuba lifted a curfew and partial lockdown that was put in place on Sept. 1 to contain the second wave of the coronavirus in Havana yesterday. Havana Gov. Reinaldo García Zapata said there has been an average increase rate of 21 cases per day and an infection rate of 0.87. The new measures include operating public transportation at 80% capacity, beaches and public pools at 30% capacity, lifting of the general curfew from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m., opening schools in November, permission for citizens to purchase goods outside of their municipality of residence and reopening of commercial establishments at 50%. Cuba has reported 6,000 COVID-19 cases and 122 coronavirus-related deaths to date. Havana, which accounts for 20% of Cuba’s population, remains isolated from the rest of the country.

CENTRAL AMERICA

EL SALVADOR: Judge Jorge Guzmán wants to investigate the El Mozote massacre with all the legal means he has and make a new attempt to access the military archives. He clarified to President Nayib Bukele that he does not intend to harm the Armed Forces nor does he have political motivations. Guzmán is the fourth judge to lead the trial of the El Mozote massacre, where soldiers from the Armed Forces killed more than 800 people, including 558 children, in 1981 during the Salvadoran Civil War. Bukele considers Guzmán as his opposition and accused him of being involved in a leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) political campaign and seeks to damage the image of his government and the Armed Forces. 

COSTA RICA: The Costa Rican government announced on Wednesday it will close down its embassy and the General Consulate in Venezuela as part of the measures to limit public spending, effective Thursday. The Chancery said its citizens in Venezuela will receive service directly from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Costa Rica has considered Juan Guaidó as the legitimate leader of Venezuela rather than Nicolás Maduro since Jan. 2019, and recognizes María Faría, designated by Guaidó, as its ambassador. It will also close its consulate in Sydney, Australia, and keep the embassy in Canberra.

NORTH AMERICA

UNITED STATES: The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) mismanaged the distributions of goods in Puerto Rico after hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, a new government report found. The office of the Inspector General said it took more than two months on average for the goods to reach communities in the island and lost around 40% of its shipment that was worth $250 million. Additionally, the goods stayed in FEMA’s custody for about 48 days, and approximately 40% of Puerto Rico’s municipalities said they had problems with expired food. FEMA noted that it had a difficult time meeting the mission requirements because of the nature of Hurricane Maria. It also noted that Puerto Rico’s government did not keep track of the goods delivered by the agency, and that they were also distributed to a personal residence.

MEXICO: The Supreme Court declared a referendum for the prosecution of former Presidents Carlos Salinas, Ernesto Zedillo, Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto as constitutional. According to Court President Arturo Zaldivar, six out of the 11 of the judges declared the referendum constitutional. The query came directly from President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who sees the referendum as a charge of corruption for the “social and humanitarian” disasters in Mexico in the past 30 years. He also proposed the referendum to be held on June 6, 2021, the same day as the midterm congressional election, which he needs to win the majority in Congress.

MEXICO: The opening of the border between Mexico and the United States will depend on states’ placing on the current “traffic light” model. The “traffic light” is a four-step epidemiological model to reopen, with green as the lowest risk for COVID infection rate and red as the highest. Government restrictions will not be lifted until all states located in the northern border are “green.” Apart from Nuevo Léon, all other states are still in yellow. Additionally, an extension on restrictions to cross the border has been placed for an additional month.

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