Things That Matter

A Former Peruvian President Was Arrested On Corruption Charges While In The US And Peruvians Are Sick And Tired Of It

It is no secret that Latin American governments have forever been involved in the muddy waters of corruption and political scandals. It is pan de todos los dias to see governors, secretaries of state, diplomats and even presidents arrested, accused of either stealing citizens’ money or receiving bribes from companies or organized crime. Whole political apparatuses have fallen, as witnessed in Brazil, where two ex presidents, the iconic Lula and his successor, Dilma Rousseff, have been found guilty of corruption at the highest levels of government. It doesn’t matter on what end of the political spectrum a government: both leftists and conservatives 

The former Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo is the latest high profile Latin American politician to have been arrested for corruption charges. He was arrested on July 18 in the United States, and the process for his extradition has started. 

First things first: so who is Alejandro Toledo?

Credit: CBC.ca

Alejandro Celestino Toledo Manrique served as the 63rd President of Peru from 2001 to 2006. He won the election in April 2001, defeating former President Alan García. He was born in 1946 and like many Latin American politicians he did his postgrad studies in the United States. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of San Francisco. The beginning of his administration was met with enthusiasm by Peruvians. As Knowledge @ Wharton recalls: “Amidst great expectations, Alejandro Toledo became President of Peru in June 2001. His arrival in power put an end to 10 years of Alberto Fujimori’s authoritarian government and marked the beginning of a new democratic era”. 

And second, you gotta know some facts about the company Odebrecht.

Odebrecht S.A. is a Brazilian conglomerate founded by Norberto Odebrecht, from Salvador in the State of Bahia. The company’s portfolio includes a list of diversified businesses in the fields of engineering, construction, chemicals and petrochemicals. The company has been facing legal problems since 2015, when it was revealed that Brazilian politicians had been receiving “irregular donations” also known as bribes, or mordidas pa los cuates. This led to a wider investigation that has involved politicians in Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Venezuela and, obviously, Peru.

In short, this company has bribed politicians that range from state ministers to legislators, mayors, governors and even presidents, as is the case of Alejandro Toledo.

As reported by The Times UK, the company has admitted guilt: “In 2016 Odebrecht, once one of the world’s biggest construction companies, admitted to the US justice department that it had paid about $800 million in bribes to politicians, officials and business figures in 12 countries.” 

And this is why Toledo has been arrested 

Credit: @elcomercio_peru / Twitter

According to The Times UK, Toledo”is accused of receiving $20 million as part of a huge bribery scandal involving the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht”. Toledo was acting as a visiting scholar in Stanford University and he has appeared before a judge in San Francisco. The Peruvian government has requested an extradition. Toledo had fled to the United States in 2017 after being accused of receiving bribes. Toledo was accused by Odebrecht’s executive director in Peru, Jorge Barata, of receiving $20 million for hiring the company to build a motorway to Brazil. Todas unas joyitas los gobernantes

So what now? Well, things will move slowly

Credit: @BBC / Twitter

Judicial processes are very, very slow. According to the Xinhua News Agency, Peruvian Foreign Minister Nestor Popolizio considers that the extradition process could take a year: “The official said he was basing the estimation on a similar case, in which Panama’s ex-president Ricardo Martinelli fled to Miami, U.S. state of Florida, to avoid facing justice”. In the meantime, Toledo will remain under the custody of United States authorities.

Toledo denies the charges against him and, as reported by CE Noticias Financieras , he has “stated on several occasions that everything is an attack by his enemies and is the victim of political persecution”. One of Toledo’s lawyers, Heriberto Benítez, told the N-Channel Toledo is the victim of “political persecution”. The Peruvian government will move cielo y tierra to get Toledo back to his home country. As CNN reports, Peruvian Justice Minister Vicente Zeballos has said: ““The government is engaged in a full-on fight against corruption.”

Four Peruvian ex presidents are now in jail or arrested: it takes a second to take that in! Another former president killed himself.

Credit: acasoyotra / Twitter

Imagine being a Peruvian and dealing with the fact that four of your most recent ex presidents of your country are in jail. The usual suspects are Alberto Fujimori, Toledo, Francisco Morales Bermúdez (a dictator), and Ollanta Humala, the country’s first indigenous president. It must be a tough pill to swallow: millions of people actually voted for these people, only to be betrayed.

The country has had to face one political shakeup after another, which makes foreign and local investors hesitant about spending money and generating jobs, which stalls the economy (this process is much more complex than this, of course, but we are putting it con peras y manzanas).

Another former president, Alan Garcia, died by suicide in April. CNN remembered his death covering the Toledo arrest: “Another former president, Alan Garcia, shot himself in the head to avoid arrest in April, in connection with alleged bribes from the Brazilian builder”

Are these arrests actually a sign of political and social progress?

Credit: @sleepflowrr / Twitter

However, it is not all bad news. The fact that justice is served even in the highest echelons of power speaks of a strong judiciary system, something that is rare in Latin America. In an opinion piece written by Sonia Golenberg for The New York Times she writes: “Peru is not more corrupt than other Latin American states. Nor are its courts a model of fairness and efficiency. But as overwhelming evidence of bribes taken by presidents across the political spectrum is emerging from abroad, Peruvian judges are under extreme pressure to react. As a consequence, the country’s discredited justice system is, for a change, gaining some credibility and independence”. 

Social media users from other Latin American countries are demanding that their politicians also be arrested.

Credit: @mgaznine2m / Twitter

This Ecuadorian is asking when the former president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, will follow a similar fate. Some of Correa’s closest collaborators, such as the former Vice President, Jorge Glass, was recently sentenced to six years in prison. 

Mexicans are also asking nosotros cuando?

Credit: @CastilloFco2 / Twitter

Enrique Pena Nieto, Mexico’s most recent former president, has been implicated with Odebrecht. And the previous two presidents, Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderon, also have cola que les pisen according to various media reports. The Mexican government has made some high profile arrests of former state governors, but expresidentes remain largely untouched. 

Even Chileans are demanding justice.

Credit: @hectorespinoza / Twitter

This user is asking when former president Michelle Bachelet will be summoned by a court. When she was president, questions surrounded her family, particularly her son Sebastian Davalos and some allegedly shady real estate deals. 

Coffee Is Steeped In Tradition Across Latin America, Here Is How Each Country Brews The Perfect Cup

Culture

Coffee Is Steeped In Tradition Across Latin America, Here Is How Each Country Brews The Perfect Cup

David Carillo / Getty

OK, so we’re in like Week 12 of lockdown and some of us may have taken up new hobbies and interests to help pass the time. For me, that’s been getting to know a good cup of home-brewed coffee. Plus, the draw of a warm, delicious cup of coffee can definitely help you get your day started with that often much-needed shot of caffeine.

Many coffee experts agree, that now is the time to familiarize yourself with all the traditional coffee methods from around Latin America and figure out which one you like best.

Latin America is one of the biggest producers of coffee beans, but surprisingly, coffee isn’t a big part of life here, with the exception of Cuba, Brazil, and Argentina. But those who do enjoy their coffee, have a wide array of traditions when it comes to preparing that perfect cup.

Like the millions of people and cultures of the world, coffee too has its own variations and traditions surrounding it. Here is a glimpse of how it is prepared and consumed in different ways all over the planet.

Argentina

Credit: thatgaygringo / Instagram

Maté may be the official national beverage, but coffee drinking is a refined, lingering art in Argentina’s cafes.

The country’s capital, Buenos Aires, has always been Latin America’s coffee capital and long before any neighboring nation even knew of the existence of a ‘latte’, Porteños were sipping macchiatos (called lagrimas) and café con leche like it was nobody’s business. The city has always offered the best coffee in the entire continent – mostly due to its influx of Italian immigrants who brought with them the traditional techniques of coffee brewing.

Brazil

Credit: Mattheu Defarias / Getty

Unlike much of South America, coffee is very popular in Brazil, with many Brazilians preferring a cafezinho – a strong and very sweet coffee. And it kinda makes sense considering Brazil is the world’s largest producer of the stuff.

Coffee is consumed all through the day, in dainty little cups, with or without meals. Coffee added to a glass of milk is often served for breakfast to kids as young as 10 years old. Though American-style coffee culture and drinks are gaining popularity, walking while eating or drinking is a strict no-no in Brazil

Colombia

Colombia, known for its great, versatile coffee beans, likes its coffee black with lots of sugar, in small cups. It’s known as tinto and it will leave you awake for days…

Colombia’s coffee culture only recently got off the ground. Prior to 2003, the country’s best beans were only exported and Colombians only had access to the leftover beans. But this has changed and coffee culture is a huge part of Colombian identity.

Cuba

Cuba may be best known for the cafecito – or Cafe Cubano. This very strong drink is a type of espresso coffee that first developed in Cuba after Italians arrived in the country.

The Cafecito beverage is made by sweetening a shot with Demerara sugar, during the coffee brewing process. There are variations on the method including a variety of recipes. The Demerara sugar is traditionally added into the glass into which the espresso will drip so the sugar and espresso mix during brewing which is said to create a unique and smooth quality.

Guatemala

Credit: omgitsjustintime/ Instagram

Guatemalans aren’t huge consumers of coffee. And those who do drink coffee tend to drink it as much of the world does – as a latte or shot of espresso.

However, Guatemala is revered for its superior quality and complexity of flavors. It’s a step above the rest, because many coffee fincas (plantations) still harvest beans in the most traditional of ways. The nation’s highlands are where you’ll want to head and – luckily for you – where you can experience the country’s long-held passion for coffee and discover some of the most magnificent landscapes in the entire continent. The most popular region for coffee lovers to visit is Lake Atitlan, a spectacular area framed by three volcanoes.

Mexico

In Mexico, coffee is often brewed with cinnamon and sugar. The cinnamon and sugar aren’t merely added to the coffee after brewing, but they’re incorporated right into the brewing technique. The result is a coffee that’s at the same time sweet and spicy. 

Cafe de Olla is the national coffee drink and it varies from state to state but it’s definitely a must to try if visiting the county. But it’s also easy to make at home!

Venezuela

Credit: Unsplash

At one point, Venezuela rivaled Colombia in terms of its coffee production. However, those days are long gone and now the country produces less than 1% of the world’s coffee (since 2001). Although some Venezuelan coffee is exported, the vast majority is consumed by the Venezuelans themselves. 

Venezuela’s most renowned coffees are known as Maracaibos. They are named after the port through which they are shipped, close to Colombia. The coffee grown in the eastern mountains is called Caracas, named after the country’s capital. 

As People Lose Their Jobs, They’re Not Sending Money To Their Families Back Home And It’s Having A Major Impact On Local Communities

Things That Matter

As People Lose Their Jobs, They’re Not Sending Money To Their Families Back Home And It’s Having A Major Impact On Local Communities

Pixabay

As the coronavirus continues its march around the world, economies from Brazil and Mexico to the United States and Colombia have been hit hard. The measures taken by governments to save lives have stalled economies, and are in the process of delivering a global recession. Economic contagion is now spreading as fast as the disease itself.

You don’t have to look any further than the unemployment numbers recorded each week in the United States. They’re at staggering, record-breaking levels. This huge impact on the U.S. economy, and its workers, is having an outsized impact on economies across Latin America as migrants aren’t able to send remittances back home to their families.

As the economic repercussions of the pandemic continue to grow, global remittances from migrants are being hit hard.

The pandemic is hitting jobs and wages in a variety of sectors of the global economy – including economies (like the U.S.) that depend on migrants. A global economic turndown will mean a slowdown in the amount of money these workers send back home to their families and will be crucial in spreading the economic contagion from richer countries to poorer ones.

For 2020, the International Monetary Fund is now predicting that the global economy will shrink by 3% – that’s a difference of trillions of dollars – and it will have trickle down effects on the world’s most vulnerable people.

Undocumented communities are especially vulnerable during economic downturns.

Credit: EqualityNYC / Instagram

Many of those who send remittances often work in the service industry and have been let go or furloughed from their jobs in hotels, restaurants or cleaning companies, without pay. Meanwhile, those who are undocumented cannot apply for unemployment, even though they likely contributed to state unemployment funds and paid taxes.

Even the recent federal stimulus bill – a $2 trillion dollar bill meant to dampen the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic – specifically left out undocumented migrants. It prevents even tax-paying migrants from receiving any federal aid. However, California has partnered with non-profits to become the first state to offer $500 in assistance to undocumented residents.

Remittances are crucial to the economies of poorer countries and help support millions of families.

Credit: @BancomerMX / Twitter

Remittances shelter a large number of poor and vulnerable households, underpinning the survival strategies of over 1 billion people. In 2019, an estimated 200 million people in the global migrant workforce sent home US$715 billion. Of this, it’s estimated US$551 billion supported up to 800 million households living in low- and middle-income countries.

And these families aren’t spending this money on cars and new computers. They’re spending it on everyday subsistence needs including food, medicines, and education. The World Bank projects that within five years, remittances will outstrip overseas aid and foreign direct investment combined, reflecting the extent to which global financial flows have been reshaped by migration.

In fact, global remittances hit record highs in 2018.

Credit: Pixabay

According to the World Bank, global remittances reached a record high in 2018, the last year for which figures are available. The flow of money to Latin America and the Caribbean grew by 10 percent to $88 billion in 2018, mostly due to the strong U.S. economy, where most of the money originates.

In many countries, remittances account for a significant portion of their gross domestic product. In Nicaragua and Guatemala they account for around 12 percent, and in El Salvador and Honduras, around 20 percent.

Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, asked Mexicans in the United States not to stop supporting their relatives back home. He said February set a record in remittances to Mexico.

“Tell your countrymen to not stop sending help to their families in Mexico, who are also going through a difficult situation,” he said at a recent news conference.

Many migrants to the U.S. feel a strong responsibility to send back as much as they can to help their families back home.

Credit: @FamiliesBelongTogether / Twitter

Many immigrants to the U.S. are worried about not being able to send money to their parents, children, or abuelos back home. Many relatives depend on those who have emigrated to the U.S. to pay for electricity, food, medicine, and doctor’s visits. But with many losing their own jobs – money is just too tight for many.

In an interview with NBC News, Lesbia Granados – from Honduras – said what many can relate to, “I am everything to my parents, and it’s my responsibility to take care of them, after they did so much for me.”