Institutions and Competition

El Comercio names the senior Peruvian politicians involved in big Odebrecht scandal

November 22, 2017
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UPDATE 27 Jan 2019 Leading print and online journal has st juprovided the general public with a list of the politicians involved in the what is probably the biggest bribery and corruption scandal to hit the Andean nation since the days of security czar Vladimiro Ilich Lenin Montesinos, who some say is still a behind the scenes player. Like the burgeoning Odebrecht scandal in Colombia that continues wreaking havoc with the peace process and governance, little to none of the news surrounding Brazil's most powerful company- which has maintained close relations with the Pentagon into for over a decade- gets reported by the media in Brazil.

UPDATE 4 Jan 2019 A particular quaientness of Peru-style democracy is that the president neither selects or confirms the choice of the attorney general. So while president Martin Vizcarra was out of the country recently, ostensibly to attend the swearing in of new Brazil president Jair Bolsonaro, the attorney general Pedro Chavarry removed the prosecutor team organizing a politically sensitive "plea bargain" deal involving corrupt practices by Brazil construction and engineering giant Odebrecht related to projects in Peru. The removals, multiple sources, including Andina, report, sparked a wave of nationwide protests. Now, less than 72 hours after their removal, the prosecutors have been returned to their roles as "prosecutors" but now say that the "plea bargain" with Odebrecht is being held in abeyance. This suggests that the new Bolsonaro regime in Brasilia has its own views on how the matter(s) should be handled, considering that the "deal" was negotiatiated during the watch of former Brazil president Michel Temer, some of whose actions are starting to come under criticism from members of president Bolsonaro's team. A legal team from Peru had planned to travel to Brazil to "negotiate" with Odebrecht representatives details of the "plea deal" but uncertainties surround this proposed visit as well. Events regarding overseas activities of Odebrecht receive little or no coverage in Brazil print and online mainstream media. If one digs deep enough, one can find that Odebrecht relations with Peru date back to the time of spymaster Vladimir Montesinos, who was no stranger to the Kremlin... Draw your own conclusions.

UPDATE 17 DEC Multiple sources have reported that the US-friendly "Group of Lima" which includes Peru, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay and St. Lucia may break off relations with Venezuela due to its authoritarian government, disrespect for democratic values, and its poor record on human rights, among other things. Venezuela's foreign minister has responded to the move with anger, accusing the "Group of Lima" of behaving like a "cartel." In a snarky move, recently, the incoming right wing regime in Brazil ex-invited Venezuela's current president Maduro from the January 1st innaguration of president-elect Bolsonaro in Brasilia. Also ex-invited were another member of the Bolivarian Alliance, Cuba. For reasons not made clear the leaders of Bolivia and Nicaragua were not ex-invited. When the news about the "withdrawn" invitations broke, the Bolsonaro team said that Maduro and the ex-invited Bolivarian Alliance nations were never invited by "them." However, Itamaraty, Brazil's Mintistry for External (Foreign) Relations confirmed that official invitations were extended, but that they were later withdrawn.

UPDATE 3 DEC El Pais in Montevideo, and other international media ia today are reporting that Uruguay president Tabare Vasquez has rejected the asylum request of former Peru president Alan Garcia. Garcia no longer an "asylum case", will have leave the Uruguay embassy in Lima and face corruption charges in connection with the letting of a contract to build a subway in Lima, the Peru capital. The contract was awarded to Brazil construction giant Odebrecht. The decision by president Vazquez, who is an medical doctor (oncologist) by profession, and leader of the Broad Front (Frente Amplio), came, ironically, after the Uruguay leader met with senior US officials in Montevideo.

UPDATE 21 NOV Local, English language Peruvian Times is reporting that Keiko has been released from jail since the legal system does not view her as a "flight risk" at this time. Former president Alan Garcia, meanwhile has entered the Embassy of Uruguay in Lima, seeking asylum, as an official investigation is trying to jail him for allegedly accepting bribe money to steer public works contracts in Peru to the Brazlian engineering and construction company Odebrecht.

UPDATE 1 NOV Jarpanese news site NHK and other news sources are reporting that Keiko has been ordered back to jail, this time for 3 years. How long she remains in jail before her lawyers can cut a deal and get her released, again, remains a matter of conjecture.

UPDATE 18 OCT Spanish press service EFE (via Globo) is reporting that Popular Force leader Keiko Fujimori has been given a pardon to leave jail lockup associated with corruption charges involving Brazil consulting and engineering giant Odebrecht. The drama continues to play out.

UPDATE 11 OCT In the continuing drama that could provide a cinematic segue to "The Dancer Upstairs", Hollywood's film about Peru populist politics, Al Jazeera, BBC and New York Times are all reporting that Keiko Fujimori has been arrested so that she can answer questions about her alleged participation in a "money laundering" scheme. The court judge who issued the arrest order considers Keiko, the influential daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori (who is also fighting court orders that he be resturned to jail) a "flight risk." The maximum time she can serve under this current arrest is ten (10) days.

UPDATE 7 OCT English language Peruvian Times weighs in with in in-depth look at the Fujimori drama. Draw your own conclusions.

UPDATE 4 OCT Several news organizations including Telesur, Reuters, among others, are reporting at a judge in Peru has annulled the pardon of former controversial president Alberto Fujimori that was issued early this year by then-president Pedro Pablo Kucyznski, who was forced to resign in connection with a major corruption scandal. The judge has ordered that Fujimori, who is in ill health, be returned to jail immediately. El Comercio in Lima is reporting that police officials are waiting for Fujimori's doctors to release him to to penal authorities so he can complete his sentance. Former president Kuczynski told El Comercio that he has "no regrets" for having pardoned Fujimori on "humanitarian grounds." It is no yet clear to what extent this situation will set off yet another destabilizing government crisis in Peru. But it does provide a media platform for the feuding children of Alberto Fujimori to stay in the limelight and gain public sympathy as they move to consolidate their power bases.

UPDATE 20 SEPT Peru print and online newspaper El Comercio is reporting that, after an 18 month investigation the "Lava Jato" commission of Peru's Congress (named after the Brazil bribe and overcharging scandals in Brazil involving the Brazil constuction and project management company Odebrecht, and other companies) reveals that companies (including Odebrecht) involved in a variety of infrastructure projects in Peru, overcharged the governments in power at the time upwards of $3 billion. This amount does include any bribes, contributions, grants or "hush money" payments channelled directly or directly to politicials or other players among Peru's political class. The current situation in Peru is not very stable. According to Peru and international media, the current government in power has recently survived a "vote of confidence" but interruptive political factors could cause the ruling regime to collapse and be reorganized. And the "family feud" among the Fujimori family continues.

UPDATE 20 July Reuters, BBC, and other respected online sources are reporting that the Justice Minister, and the chief judge of the supreme court and the head of the national organization of legal professionals who are active during the new government of president Martin Vizcarra, have resigned, without admitting any guilt or wrongdoing. The resignations complicate the ongoing "institutional crisis " that continues in Peru, fueled in part by the activities in Peru of Brazil construction and engineering giant Odebrecht. Much of the information that has caused the current uproar has been developed by the investigative journalism asset IDL-Reporteros. Draw your own conclusions;)

UPDATE April 2018 Generally reliable sources including Business Insider report that Ecuador president Lenin Moreno has abruptly left the "Summit of the Americas" being held in Lima, Peru and retrurned to Quito on learning of the assassination of two kidnapped Ecuadorian journalists in Colombia. The reports indicate that the tgwo journalists, and their driver, were eliminated by a dissident faction of the FARC who are not participating in the "peace process." Ecuador is being represented at the Peru event by its foreign minister.

UPDATE According to a report by Telesur, and multiple sources, former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski has been banned from travelling outside of Peru for 18 months. According to the report, a Peru judge involved with corruption cases recommended the ban in order to continue the investigation of Kuczynski's links with Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.

UPDATE 21 MAR The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Pedro Pablo Kuczynski has resigned-- offered his resignation-- as president of Peru. Peru's Congress can either accept his offer to resign, or, refuse to accept his resignation, and continue to move forward with another vote to impeach him. The New York Times has also reported on this development.

UPDATE 21 MAR Reuters is reporting that supporters of President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski are seen in a video appearing to offer lawmakers public work projects in exchange for help defeating a second motion to impeach him that is connected to Peru's Odebrecht scandal. Draw your own conclusions. Update Ends.

UPDATE 7 MAR Brazil media giant Globo, citing Agence France Presse, reports that, once again, Keiko Fujimori, daughter of recently pardoned former president Alberto Fujimori, is calling for the impeachment of current president Kuczynski over alleged improper activites connected with Peru's "Ödebrecht scandal. Keiko's position could be helped now that she has reached out definitively to left wing parties to support her new call to impeach Kuczynski. Meanwhile, in Brazil, Odebrecht claims that Keiko also received "slush money."

UPDATE 5 MAR, Xinhua China reports that Brazil supreme court has refused to release "confession" of construction magnate Marcelo Odebrecht relating to "contributions" (bribes) made by Odebrecht intereststo the campaign of convicted former leftist president Ollanta Humala (and Mrs. Humala) who are still under preventative detenion. Supreme Court in Brazil regards this information as "judicial secrets" (at least for now). This move could help flagging presidency of U.S. ally, "neoliberal" economist Kuczynski who is also caught up in the myriad of Odebrecht slush fund scandals that are helping to create political anomie in Peru.

With several presidential and local elections going off over the next twelve months “political marketing” by globalist interests, the growing influence of narcocracies, and apologists for historically corrupt mainstream parties are alienating prospective voters in Latin America.

This is happening at the very moment that their right to popular sovereignty is being threatened by social media conversations (mostly “fake news” that at best has a tangential connection to realpolitik) in the name of “transparency”and “free speech.”

UPDATE 16 Dec 17: As reported by The New York Times, Voice of America, and others, corruption scandals in Peru, Ecuador and other Latin republics have sparked a wave of political turbulence that channels populist outrage, and has resulted in the jailing of former leaders, the resignation of Ecuador's former vice president and calls for the U.S.-friendly president of Peru, a "free market guru," to resign. One should be circumspect about characterizing these "groundswells" as "populist" and even moreso in suggesting that they will bring about "real change."

* * *

A telling sign of the identity crisis among the region's body politic is the fact that in October, 2017 former U.S. president and Nobel Laureate Barack Obama chose wealthy audiences in Argentina and Brazil to test out his new "yes you can" image. Obama's

"Yes you can" emphasizes the power of wealth gained via individual achievement, spurning government managed "populist"policies that he pushed during his two terms as U.S. president, policies that attempted (in essence) to empower the poverty stricken and the working poor so tnehey can get "a piece of the pie."

Consider that just over a decade ago, the Illinois senator and presidential candidate was sowing the seeds of a populist groundswell, bonding with the electorate by telling them yes we can” and promising "change we can believe in." So far no western journalists have suggested that Obama's "rebrand"is a major "flip-flop"from the campaign rhetoric that got him elected.

According to Brazilian columnist Fernando Rodrigues, a former Nieman fellow at Harvard University, for just over $500,000.00 Brazil's ruling elite got to hear a 23 minute speech by Obama in October, attend a celebrity cocktail event featuring Obama, US dealmakers with close ties to the Democratic party and a group of Dem political marketers who do "outreach to the Latino community." Brazil, however, considers itself part of the Lusophone community. Also part of the short visit to Brazil was a "kids table" event during which Obama met with "future leaders".

The event, held at a hotel in Sao Paulo, was underreported in the media, possibly due to security reasons. The government of president Michel Temer, nursing a 10 percent approval rating, noticably distanced itself from the Obama visit, not sending anyone to the event(s). Ironically the process that led to the impeachment of former Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff and made Temer the new leader happened during Obama's watch.

The situation in Argentina was quite different. Obama friend, Argentina's billionaire president Mauricio Macri, welcomed the former US leader with open arms. Obama, while president, had been supportive of Macri and visited Argentina during Macri's first days in office in March of last year, only the fourth visit of a U.S. president to the Republica Argentina in 200 years.

On the eve of Obama's visit in October, Macri's political movement "Republican Proposal" was involved in a bitter mid-term election fight for lower house and senate seats with the populist, socialist-leaning faction of the Peronist movement led by former president Christina Fernandez Kirchner, and traditional Peronists, among others.

Ample media coverage of Macri and Obama, playing golf and holding discussions likely helped Macri and candidates representing his "ticket"to solidify their still somewhat tenuous position in congress. Argentine media did not mention what it cost to bring Obama to the industrial city of Cordoba, 700km northwest of Buenos Aires, where he gave a talk to business leaders about "the green economy". He was accompanied to Cordoba by his entourage of Democratic party consultants.

Still, while Macri's so-called "free market" policies-- like bringing the "dishonest" (manipulatHaaed) annual inflation rate of the Kirchneristas down from 40 percent to around 23 percent and removing some subsidies on basic food items and pharmaceuticals, there is mistrust among poor and working class citizens that the Macri regime is insensitive to their moral and social concerns, a mistrust that has also been noted at the Vatican.

In Colombia, meanwhile, political anomie is extremely high. This indicates a lack of confidence in the UN mediated “peace process” involving pacified associates of the FARC (rebranded as the Revolutionary Altenative Force of the Common People) some members of the ERP (Revolutionary Peoples Army) and ambivalent right wing paramilitary squads who are open to talking about pacification but always looking for "free lance"opportunities that reward their wicked ways.

According to analytics published by Colombia Reports, 91 percent of those surveyed disapprove of the nation's three major political parties: the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, and the Party of National Unity ( known as the party of the “U”), the party of president Juan Manuel Santos. Last year, in contrast, only 50.2 percent of those who voted rejected the FARC peace deal, which was ultimately cobbled together among factions by president Santos... with a little help from his friends in the Northern Hemisphere.

Most recently, El Espectador on December 4th ran results of a poll by the Yan Hass organization indicating that 80 percent of those surveyed said they believe president Juan Manuel Santos and his policies are moving the nation in the wrong direction.

In early December senior leadership of the "hard right" Gulf Cartel", relative "newcomers" with strong connections with Mexican counterparts, announced it giving Colombia a Christmas season gift, officially halting hostilities. Some media credit president Santos and the UN team on the ground for helping facilitate what is likely to be a temporary "bargaining chip" move.

***

The visit of Pope Francis to Chile next month (Jan. 2018) comes after December's final round of the nation's two round presidential election, because his words could help make a difference in the vote in what is still a conservative Roman Catholic nation.

While anomie is manifested by growing mistrust of the traditional political alignments of center-right/conservatives and socialists in Chile, their influential families and cozy business relationships, this system is incontrovertibly imbedded in the national political culture.

According to Bloomberg, voter abstention in the first round of Chile's presidential election held Sunday, November 19th, reached 46.7 percent, the lowest turnout since U.S.-backed leader Gen. Augusto Pinochet acquieced to a return to Chilean-style "democracy"in 1990. Poverty, increasing income inequality (low real wage levels) and variants of the middle income trap have expanded during the current socialist regime of Michele Bachelet and her predecessor, the self-styled "neoliberal" Sebastian Pinera, current standard bearer of the "Let's Go Chile" movement,who is now being tipped by some pollsters and think tanks to emerge victorious in the final round of presidential voting next month.

He is being opposed by current senator and former television journalist Alejandro Guillier, of the leftist Social Democrat Radical Party. Although liberal northern hemisphere media and assets are positioning Guillier as a tough challenger, historic in-fighting among Chile's left could diminish his chances of winning. The policies of both candidates as they relate to Chile's major "dollar earner", the copper industry, in which state plays a major role, are nearly identical.

In Brazil, where the corruption, narcocracy and the costly inept bureaucracy that are imbedded in the fabric of the nation are being subjugated to the political interests and economic agenda of the highly unpopular Temer government, Joaquim Barbosa, former chief justice of Brazil's supreme court (Supremo Tribunal Federal) and a likely candidate for the presidency, says that the October 2018 national election is similar to that of 1989, the first democratic vote after the military cycle. In an interview published on the Congress in Focus (Congreso em Foco) website Barbosa emphasizes the importance of the coming election because he believes voters will be looking for alternatives to the mainsteam politicos who have been embroiled in the current crisis and maniplulate the system with impunity. In addition, Barbosa, like most informed voters, is aware that several politicians who are members of powerful global Evangical Christian megachurches with strong ties to their brethren in Canada and the United States are now sitting in jail due to the current crisis of scandals. These include the former speaker of the Lower House and two former governors of Rio de Janeiro state.

Educated in Brazil and in France, Joaquim is the only truly Afro-Brazilian to become a Supreme Court chief justice in the history of a nation where the Federal Institute for Geography and Statistics (IBGE) finds that currently, six out of 10 of the nation's 11.7 million who are "officially" unemployed (numbers are much higher in the "informal"sector) are black (preta) or mixed (parda).

Meanwhile, media in Brazil still amp up polling that suggests Lula remains the nation's most popular politician and that he is likely to win the presidency if legal issues do not impede him from running next year. In reality, while Lula always makes good copy as a news story, his Workers Party (PT) and its allied parties have been weakened by the political fallout from the current wave of corruption investigations.

Although Lula may be found guilty of charges in the investigation(s) his right to appeal the decision(s) could still allow him to run for president.

Some opportunistic old-school politicians with their eye on Brazil's presidency are seeking to capitalize on the public's historic fear of "communism" by feigning an increased role for the armed forces in government. One of them, a "reserve officer" who has suggested that a modicum of "integralism" (a quai-fascist throwback that militarizes components of civilian rule to insure "security";) will insure that Brazil has a better social and economic future.

Overtly, at least, Brazil's military are having no part of the ruse. The armed forces are the major South American player in the Inter-American Defense System that historically is an important component of U.S. "Latin Policy."

Earlier this year, for example, open source media in Brazil announced that president Temer agreed that Brazil would host a training operation in November baptised “Operation America United” to include forces and bases in Colombia and Peru as well as participation of U.S. military and equipment and include other organizations. The stated motive was to strengthen respect for democratic values in the Transamazonian region.

As mentioned in an earlier column by this writer, the operation was supposed to help promote security and democratic values in the Amazonian “triple frontier”region, a major corridor for the global narcotics trade, gold and other strategic contraband.

The item quickly moved out of the news cycle and was not covered by major U.S. media. Then on November 2nd, an item appeared on popular internet site Universe Online (UOL) noting that Brazil will be hosting a "logistics"exercise in the Amazon with participation of U.S. forces and bases in Colombia and Peru to assist with natural disasters, flooding and other emergencies to include "migration."

By the time the "logistics"exercise was winding down, president Temer's defense minister, Raul Jungmann, was already in Washington meeting with Under Secretary of State Thomas A. Shannon, Jr., to discuss Brazil taking the lead to create a South American "security force" (with U.S. participation) to combat drug trafficking and other criminal activity in the Amazonian "triple frontier."

At this writing, it is still too early to present a list of pretenders and contenders in Brazil's presidential derby, which could easily morph into a Japan-style Kabuki theatre reprenting the continuation of clientist politics. There is a lot of "public relations positioning" by "pre-candidates" who provide good copy for newspapers and online media, and seek to boost their standing in "tracking polls."

The success of U.S. policy to "realign" Latin America that started with a $10 billion investment in Plan Colombia in 1999 is evidenced by the fact that the Amazon is the new Rio Grande, and that Washington treats Mexico as a "lesser" (Trump's view).

Washington under Trump views its southern neighbor as being part of the North American "space" and in terms of realpolitik, there is little that "Latin America" can do to change that.

Perhaps the best takeaway in light of the political anomie that has cast a cloud over participatory democracy in the region is to remember that rebranded "yes you can" Obama reminded his audiences of rich South Americans about the importance of being "good listeners." With that in mind, those who seek to foment change in the region should listen to what may be the most important thing Barack Obama ever said, namely..."be careful what you say on Facebook and Twitter."

Update -- a recent article published in Brazil quotes Amnesty International saying that, in spite of the "peace process" in Colombia, a lot of violence continues

Update 2 -- an article published 27 Nov in english version of Voice of America notes that outgoing president Pena Neto has accepted the resignation of finance minister Jose Antonio Meade, who has announced his pre-candidacy for president of Mexico representing the traditional Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which could lessen the political anomie that exists in the "North American" nation.pd

Update 3 -- this blog post content was edited by its author on 5 Dec 2017

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