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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?

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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. 

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