The Supreme Federal Court of Brazil on Tuesday ordered criminal investigations of over 100 politicians who are allegedly linked to the ongoing Odebrecht corruption scandal involving bribery and money laundering.
Eight ministers appointed by President Michel Temer, including his Chief of Staff Eliseu Padilha, are under investigation, O Estado de S. Paulo reports. Other top politicians under investigation include Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes, Secretary-General of the Presidency Moreira Franco, President of the Chamber of Deputies Rodrigo Maia and President of the Federal Senate of Brazil Eunice Oliveira.
Moreover, 29 senators, 49 federal deputies, three governors and 25 other politicians are also being investigated, most of whom have close connections to Temer, O Estado de S. Paulo adds.
Temer, however, is not being investigated, given that he has “temporary immunity” for anything that occurred before he took office in 2016.
On Thursday, Temer denied accusations of his involvement in the Odebrecht scandal, which allege that he hosted a meeting in 2010 where an executive of the engineering firm was asked to arrange an illegal payment of US$40 million to his political party.
“It is a lie that in that meeting I heard any reference to money or any shady dealings between the company and politicians,” Temer said, according to Reuters.
Many claim, however, that Temer played a central role in administering bribery and money laundering operations for Odebrecht.
Marcelo Odebrecht, former CEO of Brazil’s largest construction conglomerate, Odebrecht, has been found guilty of running an international bribery network to win contracts.
Investigations into Odebrecht, functioning as Operation Car Wash, have been carried out by the Federal Police of Brazil, Curitiba Branch and Brazilian federal judge Sergio Moro since March 17, 2014.
Other politicians involved in Odebrecht include former Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo, former Colombian minister of Transportation Gabriel Garcia, former Colombian Minister of Finance Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, Director of Argentina’s Federal Intelligence Agency Gustavo Arribas and Mayor of Quito Mauricio Rodas.
All of these politicians are part of right-wing political parties in their respective countries.
Argentine Moms Protest Macri’s Police Militarization
Dozens of Argentine mothers on Thursday protested President Mauricio Macri’s growing militarization of the police, which they claim resembles the police expansion under the country’s military dictatorship during the 1970s and 80s.
Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, the group that organized the protest, also slammed Macri for wasting money on police militarization instead of boosting social programs for the country’s poor.
Hebe de Bonafini, the leader of the organization, called on mothers across the country to draw inspiration from former president Cristina Fernandez, a notorious critic of police militarization.
“There is nothing that can extinguish our fire of passion, the fire that Cristina gave us,” Bonafini said, Perfil reports.
“Things have gotten so bad that Macri even travels with snipers everywhere he goes.”
Since taking office in 2015, Macri has cut funding for Argentina’s Education, Health and Culture ministries while expanding the budget for the Ministry of Defense.
Earlier this month, for example, Macri announced plans to consider purchasing new anti-protest equipment to ramp up the government’s arsenal to crack down on social unrest in the South American country.
And last year, Macri increased the country’s security forces’ wages by 35.7 percent, according to the Ministry of Defense, incentivizing impoverished residents to join the police. The Argentine president also allocated over US$40 billion on purchasing military equipment from the U.S. for fiscal year 2017, sparking controversy among opposition protesters.
“Macri continues to do what he wants and we have to make sure we don’t allow him to keep doing this,” Bonafini also said at the protest.
“We have to remain in the streets and show him this is unacceptable.”
Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo represents Argentine mothers whose children were “disappeared” during the military dictatorship’s Dirty War, which frequently targeted leftist political activists and journalists.
The Dirty War was Argentina’s offshoot of Operation Condor, a Cold War-era campaign of violence across Latin America. Through the campaign, which resulted in tens of thousands of activist deaths, the U.S. teamed up with right-wing military dictatorships to extinguish leftist movements.
Mothers of Plaza de Mayo is one of the leading critics of Macri’s increasingly-bloated defense budget.
Chile Must Reciprocate Israel’s Travel Ban says Barred Activist
On Tuesday activists throughout Latin America called on Chile to reciprocate after Israel denied entry to a Chilean citizen leading an annual Easter pilgrimage to Palestine.
The head of the Palestinian Federation of Chile, Anuar Majluf, said Israeli officials denied him entry to the occupied West Bank on Monday based on a controversial new law which bans anyone publicly supporting the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign against the illegal occupation of Palestine.
“I feel terrible pain because I’m now unable to visit my family’s homeland, as a Chilean citizen with a Palestinian lineage,” Majluf said in a statement.
“On the other hand, I know that what I suffer is nothing compared to the suffering of the many Palestinians who, if they dare to defy Israel’s policies, often end up dead, tortured or in the prisons of the occupation,” Majluf added.
“The Chilean government should act reciprocally and refuse entry to Israeli citizens who come as tourists to Chile. If Israel knew that its repressive actions and laws have consequences, it would be much less likely to enact them,” he continued.
“The international community, and the Chilean government specifically, should at least demand an explanation from the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, and demand that Israel stop illegitimately denying entry to international supporters of Palestinian rights,” Majluf concluded.
Majluf’s call for a firm response was echoed by Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, in a letter to Chile’s Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz.
“I respectfully ask that you take concrete measures to protect the right of your citizens to visit, work, invest and live in Palestine,” wrote Erekat on Tuesday.
Erekat warned that if Chileans traveling to Palestine continue to be “threatened and treated like criminals” it would be “a tragedy not only for the community but for the future potential of relations between both countries.”
The PLO letter came one day after 16 organizations representing the Palestinian diaspora throughout Latin America and the Caribbean called on Chile to “repair this affront against a Chilean citizen and exercise the principle of reciprocity against a country that breaks all the rules and places itself above the law of all nations.”
Several prominent Chilean politicians echoed the call, asking Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to respond in kind.
“As Chile allows the free entry and passage of Israeli citizens, it is unacceptable that Israel openly violates the rights of Chilean citizens,” said Chilean Senator Eugenio Tuma Zedán on Tuesday.
Chile has one of the largest and oldest Palestinian diaspora populations outside of the Middle East, and in November of this year the nation’s capital, Santiago, will host the first ever Latin American Palestinian diaspora conference
Majluf is the fourth person denied entry into Israel or occupied Palestine in the past week based on the 6-month old anti-BDS law.
Over the weekend, three Swedish citizens and members of a World Congress of Churches delegation were turned back upon arrival at Ben Gurion International Airport, and on Friday Israel refused entry to a U.K. citizen and member of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign.
However, the Palestinian BDS National Committee noted that the timing of Israel’s banning of Majluf was particularly egregious.
Denying entry to “a Christian who was on a delegation to visit the Holy Land this Easter, is another low for Israel,” said Mahmoud Nawajaa, a spokesperson for the committee.