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 

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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

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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. 

I Was Today Years Old When I Found Out These Pokémon Were Inspired By Mexico And Latin America

Entertainment

I Was Today Years Old When I Found Out These Pokémon Were Inspired By Mexico And Latin America

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The Pokémon franchise is one of the biggest and most important ones in the world. Including video games, TV series, movies, card games, collectible cuddly toys and even clothing, the Pokémon empire’s profits amount to billions of dollars annually. With more than 800 species of Pokémon, the work for Pokémon creator Satoshi Tajiri has taken inspiration from various cultures around the world to invent each of the “pocket monsters,” and some were inspired by Latin America.

Nintendo and the Pokémon Company have published well over 50 different Pokémon games.

In the two decades since Pokémon first came to be, Nintendo has released over 50 games set in different worlds —featuring hundreds of unique monsters.

Currently, there are 722 official Pokémon that have been confirmed by Nintendo.

The nearly 800 monsters, draw upon the folklore from various cultures. Mawile, a fairy/steele-type monster, is loosely based on the Japanse legend of the Futakuchi-onna, a demon woman with a second mouth hidden in the back of her head, for example.

While some Pokémon are tied to myths, others are grounded in real-world cultures.

In particular, there just so happen to be a handful of pocket monsters with direct links to Latin America. Some of them are super cool and some of them are…well, pretty racist. But they’re all a part of the Pokémon legacy and you should know all about them.

Ludicolo

In typical Pokémon fashion, it’s difficult to tell what Ludicolo’s supposed to be exactly. It’s a pineapple. It’s a duck. It’s a man wearing a poncho and a sombrero who likes to sing and dance? At best, Ludicolo’s supposed to be a tribute to Mexican Mariachi. At worst, it’s just offensive. You decide.

Sigilyph

Sigilyph is a flying/psychic Pokémon first introduced in the Black and White games. Unlike most Pokémon, Sigilyph isn’t based on a specific animal, but rather a drawing of one. The monster’s design is inspired by the Nazca Lines, a set of artistic geoglyphs etched into the earth of the Nazca Desert in southern Peru.

Hawlucha

Hawlucha is definitely part of the Pokémon wall of fame. It’s a fighting/flying hawk-esque creature with an affinity for airborne wrestling moves inspired by lucha libre. Whereas Ludicolo came across as a slightly-racist reading of a cultural tradition, Hawlucha’s characterization tends to be much more respectful and celebratory. Also it’s just cool.

Wooper

This Pokémon is inspired by the axolotl, the amphibian endemic to the Mexican Basin, who can regenerate its own body. The Mexican-inspired monster is blue, and has a pair of antennae on its head —which are a clear reference to the gills of Axolotls.

Rayquaza

Rayquaza is a mixture of several mythological beings, but we gotta say that its resemblance to Quetzalcoatl is pretty evident. This is one of the most powerful Pokémon of the franchise’s universe, and there’s a colorful version in the Pokémon Go video game.

Maractus

For foreigners, the cactus is a very Mexican element, and Maractus is a Pokémon-cactus, its bright colors are reminiscent of Mexican culture. In addition, it shakes what would be its hands as if they were maracas, another very “Mexican” element for people —hence the name mar(acas)(ca)ctus.

Mew

When the first Pokémon games were released, Mew was something of an urban legend. When Mew’s existence was finally confirmed and the Pokémon was made available to the public, we learned that Mew was the original Pokémon from which all others descended.

In the first Pokémon movie, Mew’s described as being a psychic capable of learning all moves and transforming into other Pokémon. It’s also explained that researchers looking for the elusive monster eventually (and unknowingly) discover it in the jungles of Guyana. Ancient Guyanese cultures, it’s implied, encountered Mew often enough that they incorporated it into their local mythology, a concept that’s worth pointing out considering that Mew’s known for rendering itself invisible.

The Puerto Rico Department of Justice Is Seeking An Independent Investigation Into Ricardo Rosselló

Things That Matter

The Puerto Rico Department of Justice Is Seeking An Independent Investigation Into Ricardo Rosselló

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Since Hurricane Irma and then its more vicious successor, Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico hasn’t had a moment of peace. Two years since those devastating hurricanes came the recovery period— and it seemed that with all the progress that was made, there was a suspicious underlying. We knew that there were funds being withheld at the government level from the Trump Administration, but then came news of corruption from the local level. Puerto Rico was once again in turmoil, this time with its lawmakers. Then once the fraud was rooted out (thanks to the people who demanded it) came the earthquakes. Now, Puerto Rico is once again in a period of unsettledness. 

Just when we thought his issues were over, Puerto Rico’s Department of Justice is seeking to investigate former governor Ricardo Rosselló.

Credit: ricardorossello / Instagram

Last summer, Ricardo Rosselló resigned from his role as governor of Puerto Rico after people on the island demanded it. While it was revealed that Rosselló had been involved in inappropriate chats, he was also involved in possible corruption. The Department of Justice has acquired an independent prosecutor to investigate not just Rosselló but several people he chatted with via the Telegram app. At the center of this investigation is not to disclose what was said — because we do know that information, and we’ll get to that later — but instead to discover possible illegalities that Rosselló and others committed while in office. 

On Jan. 10, the Department of Justice tweeted the details over the preliminary inquiry.

Credit: @JoshuaHoyos / Twitter

One of the concerns is whether Rosselló conducted illegal transactions that could be “conflicts of interest and violations of the law,” NBC reports. 

“They examined the contents of the group chat, and as part of the investigation, they issued 45 citations to multiple witnesses and over 60 subpoenas to secure documents and information,” DOJ Secretary Denisse Longo Quiñones said in her statement. “In the course of these appointments, participants were asked to show up and deliver their cellphones for registration.” She added, “The Department of Justice has fully complied with its responsibility to complete a preliminary investigation that allows the Office of Independent Special Prosecutors to use its own criteria to determine whether they will accept the recommendation.”

While the Department of Justice has requested an investigation, now it’s up to the Office of Independent Special Prosecutors to present the charges against Rosselló and possibly others if they find illegal actions. 

Credit: ricardorossello / Instagram

As of now, Rosselló is in the clear. It is only after the investigation is concluded will the public know for sure if Rosselló was part of any sort of corruption or if the chats that were disclosed just showed their inappropriateness. 

To recap, Rosselló’s words were more than just wrong. They were simply appalling. We expect this sort of language from President Donald Trump, but not anyone else. 

Last year, Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism revealed the chat between Rosselló and his staff (which included a total of 889 pages) in which he disrespected high profile officials and entertainers. 

In Rosselló’s chat concerning San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, Christian Sobrino Vega, then Puerto Rico’s chief fiscal officer, said: “I am salivating to shoot her.” Rosselló responded by saying, “You’d be doing me a grand favor.” 

Rosselló also said that Yulín Cruz was “off her meds” after she expressed interest in running for governor. “Either that, or she’s a tremendous HP,” which is an acronym in Spanish that means “son/daughter of a bitch.”

Sobrino Vega also went on to disrespect singer Ricky Martin. “Nothing says patriarchal oppression like Ricky Martin,” Sobrino Vega wrote in the group chat. “Ricky Martin is such a male chauvinist that he f—- men because women don’t measure up. Pure patriarchy.”

But the issue here is not so much what Rosselló said but rather if he misused funds.

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With so much talk about how Trump was withholding funds (he still is by the way), the money that was being made available could have been used in other places and not where it was needed the most. The Center for Investigative Journalism disclosed that some federal money could have been used to conduct partisan work. The investigation shows that Rosselló misused federal funds for his own purposes instead of distributing it in areas that desperately needed it. The investigation will find out if that conduct was done so legally or illegally. 

READ: The Governor Of Puerto Rico Was Caught In A Chat Using Grotesque Homophobic And Sexist Language And The Entire Island Is Calling Him To Resign In Massive Protests