Xpat Weekly Update: The 5 Most Important Latin American Stories This Week

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1. Brazil: Charges Filed Against Former President Lula da Silva

Ignazio Lula da Silva, former president and founder of the Worker’s Party, has recently been targeted by authorities on charges of corruption. On Wednesday, the accusations continued. Prosecutors said Lula had hidden the ownership of a beachfront luxury penthouse in order to avoid paying taxes. This is just the last in a myriad of accusations leveled to Lula this month. The other charges assert his involvement in a graft scheme with the state oil giant Petrobras.

Under such accusations, prosecutors petitioned a request to arrest Lula da Silva. However, since he has a degree of legal immunity, the petition for arrest must be approved by the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, prosecutors are working hard to gather enough evidence to built their case. Only last week, Lula was seized by the authorities for interrogation.

Having being credited for reducing Brazilian poverty, Lula’s legacy is now tainted. If found guilty, he may be sentenced to more than 10 years in prison. The recent events have built pressure for the removal of President Dilma Rousseff, who is currently under an impeachment proceeding.

The Wall Street Journal

2. Venezuela: Opposition Releases a Plan to Oust President Maduro

Although Maduro’s presidential term officially ends in 2019, Venezuelans are not willing to wait that long. Earlier this week, the coalition “Vamos con Todo” announced their intentions of ousting President Maduro using constitutional methods. The coalition is formed by members of the National Assembly, one of the government branches that fiercely opposes Maduro. Jesus Torrealba, the coalition leader said: “we call on the Venezuelan people to launch the largest popular pressure movement that has ever existed to activate all – I repeat, all – mechanisms for change”

What are those methods? The first is a recall referendum, in which almost four million voters must sign a petition for Maduro’s removal. The gathering of signatures will begin on April 19 this year. The second option is a constitutional amendment to shorten the presidential term from six to four years. This proposal can be introduced by the National Assembly. If approved, it will go through a national referendum. The third method is to encourage popular protests, something that even the radicals have weighed with caution, since it may lead violence and chaos.

Yesterday, Maduro aired a speech in TV channels. He delivered a clear message: “they will not get rid of me!”

BBC

3. Peru: Electoral Board Disqualifies Presidential Candidate Julio Guzman

After a 3-2 vote, the Electoral Board decided to ban the candidacy of Julio Guzman. The leader of TPP party (Todos por el Peru) was disqualified due to a technicality, failing to comply with electoral rules during registration.

Although Guzman plans to issue an “extraordinary” appeal, legal experts assure his chances are null. After the board’s decision, his supporters are considering the proposals of other candidates. A section of Guzman’s backers is now following candidate Pedro Pablo Kuczinsky, from the party “Alliance for the Great Change”. Kuczinsky, a former prime minister and a veteran politician, has promised to bring more than 20 billion dollars of investment for Peru if elected. An easy feat for Kuczinsky, who has extremely powerful links with several American tycoons and U.S government officials.

The elections are to be held on April 9. Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the former dictator Alberto Fujimori, is leading the polls with 34.6%.

Reuters

4. Colombia: Murder Of Activists Unsettles the FARC; Peace Agreement Deadline May Be Extended

Professing a leftist rhetoric has proven to be dangerous in Colombia. The overall homicide rate in the country has dropped, but the deaths of political activists have increased dramatically. Since 2014, more than 100 activists have been murdered due to their political dissent. Furthermore, four indigenous activists and peasant leaders were gunned down this past week.

The string of murders has arisen public debate about Colombia’s peace process. The political repression has left FARC leaders concerned about their safety after they lay down their weapons. Now, FARC leaders are expressing some doubts which are actually delaying the peace agreement. The deadline was on March 23, but now analysts believe the talks will likely extend. Even President Juan Manuel Santos has hinted about the delay by saying: “I will not sign a bad deal to meet the deadline”.

If the repression of political activism continues, it will only create unwanted consequences. As the Organization of American States declared in a statement: “the killings are an attack not only on the lives of the leaders but on the movements, causes and the rights of people who organize to make legitimate demands”

The Guardian

5. Bolivia: Evo Morales Defends Himself Under Allegations Of Corruption, Demands an Investigation

Bolivian president Evo Morales is a cradle robber. Back in 2005, Evo Morales began dating Gabriela Zapata, an 18-year old girl. The relationship didn’t amount to much and ended two years later. Every man had their own Lolita once in their lifetime, writer Vladimir Nabokov would say.

Yet, eleven years later, that dreamy romantic fantasy has cost Morales dearly. Gabriela Zapata, now a top executive in a Chinese firm, took advantage of Morales’ friendship to seal millionaire contracts with the Bolivian government. Such controversial piece of information was released precisely on the week of a referendum that may have allowed Morales to run for a reelection. The Bolivian public opposed Morales’s reelection.

Besides ruining the chances for reelection, the allegations of corruption have multiplied. Aware of the accusations, Morales called on Congress to set up an investigation team to mitigate the rumors of government corruption. Morales asked them to “organize a legislative commission and if they believe there was influence-peddling let them investigate. We have nothing to hide.”

This morning, Gabriela Zapata was taken into custody by the police for interrogations.

The novel “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov had this quote: “We loved each other with a premature love, marked by a fierceness that so often destroys adult lives…”

The Guardian


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