How Father Jorge Maria Bergoglio supported Argentina’s military junta’s “Dirty War” in the 1970s was known and documented prior to his accession to Vatican.
Image: Father Bergoglio with General Jorge Videla, Argentina, 1970s
The media was complicit through omission. The Catholic hierarchy including the Vatican conclave of “Cardinal Electors” turned a blind eye. They were fully aware of Bergoglio’s insidious role.
The military government headed by General Jorge Videla acknowledged in a Secret Memo that Father Bergoglio had (without evidence) accused two priests of having established contacts with the guerilleros, and for having disobeyed the orders of the Church hierarchy (Conflictos de obedecencia). The document acknowledges that the “arrest” of the two priests, who were taken to the torture and detention center at the Naval School of Mechanics, ESMA, was based on information transmitted by Father Bergoglio to the military authorities.
María Marta Vásquez, her husband César Lugones (see picture right) and Mónica Candelaria Mignone allegedly “handed over to the death squads” by Jesuit “Provincial” Jorge Mario Bergoglio are among the thousands of “desaparecidos” (disappeared) of Argentina’s “Dirty War”, which was supported covertly by Washington under “Operation Condor”. (See memorialmagro.com.ar)
The accusations directed against Bergoglio regarding the two kidnapped Jesuit priests and six members of their parish are but the tip of the iceberg. “La punta dell’iceberg”.
While Bergoglio was an important figure in the Catholic Church, he was certainly not alone in supporting the Military Junta.
From the outset of the military regime in 1976, I was Visiting Professor at the Social Policy Institute of the Universidad Nacional de Cordoba, Argentina. My major research focus at the time was to investigate the social impacts of the deadly macroeconomic reforms adopted by the military Junta.
I was teaching at the University of Cordoba during the initial wave of assassinations which also targeted progressive grassroots members of the Catholic clergy.
The Northern industrial city of Cordoba was the center of the resistance movement. I witnessed how the Catholic hierarchy actively and routinely supported the military junta, creating an atmosphere of intimidation and fear throughout the country. The general feeling at the time was that Argentinians had been betrayed by the upper echelons of the Catholic Church.
Three years earlier, at the time of Chile’s September 11, 1973 military coup, leading to the overthrow of the Popular Unity government of Salvador Allende, I was Visiting Professor at the Institute of Economics, Catholic University of Chile, Santiago de Chile.
In the immediate wake of the coup in Chile, I witnessed how the Cardinal of Santiago, Raul Silva Henriquez –acting on behalf of the Catholic Church– courageously confronted the military dictatorship of general Augusto Pinochet.
The original source of this article is Global Research
Family members wait outside the Air Force Base for the arrival of their relatives, who were deported from the United States, in Guatemala City, June 20, 2018. Luis Soto | AP
Unmentioned in America’s immigration debate is the role that both Democratic and Republican administrations have played in creating the volatile situations that force Hondurans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans and other Latino refugees to flee in the first place.
TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS — Late on the evening of June 28, 2009, two days before voters were scheduled to go to the polls to vote on a referendum amending the Honduran Constitution, army officers forced President Manuel Zelaya — wearing only his pajamas and slippers — to board a military airplane for Costa Rica. Three months later, after the deposed president had returned surreptitiously to this capital city and holed up in the Brazilian embassy, police opened fire on thousands of his supporters who had assembled outside the mission to demand the cancellation of the November presidential elections.
A teacher and union activist, Agustina Flores had gone to fetch coffee when the shooting began. Just as she returned, she was cornered by police officers who punched and beat her with batons, then took her and hundreds of others to a nearby soccer field that had been converted into a makeshift jail. Flores told the Guardian newspaper in 2016:
The police and soldiers were firing rubber and live bullets into the crowd, beating women and the elderly. One [tear gas] grenade exploded near me; after that I blacked out.”
Continuing, she said:
They hit my face, neck and body. We were trying to defend the constitution and the democratic process.”
But the tens of thousands of Hondurans who poured into the streets in support of Zelaya quickly discovered that they had powerful political enemies both at home and abroad. Rather than condemn the coup, President Obama’s then-Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, refused to even use the term and instead pressured Honduras’ neighbors to recognize the new government and proceed with the scheduled elections. The ensuing legitimization of the coup government ushered in an era of state repression, violence, and pro-business policies that have delivered at the United States’ doorstep a flood of asylum-seekers from this impoverished Central American country, which was the murder capital of the world as recently as 2011.
In her autobiography Hard Choices, Clinton wrote:
We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot and give the Honduran people a chance to choose their own future”
In a 2014 interview, the indigenous-rights and environmental activist Berta Caceres described Clinton’s diplomacy in Honduras as a kind of “counterinsurgency” intended to aid and abet “international capital” in its efforts to extract resources from an adversarial population. Said Caceres:
We warned that this would be very dangerous. The elections took place under intense militarism and enormous fraud.”
A man, flanked by police, holds a placard showing an image of slain activist Berta Caceres, during a protest demanding justice for her murder, outside the Prosector’s Office in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, March 2, 2018. Fernando Antonio | AP
Describing the impact of the government’s crackdown on dissident, she said in another interview:
Every day, people are killed.”
Caceres was herself murdered only days later, gunned down by a team of assassins with ties to a hydroelectric dam opposed by the country’s indigenous community.
Alex Main, an expert on U.S. policy in Central America at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, told The Nation magazine:
With the coup, Clinton had a real opportunity to do the right thing and shift U.S. policy to respect democratic processes. But she completely messed it up, and we’re seeing the consequences of it now.”
Fleeing to the country that ruined their countries
As of late, the Washington press corps and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have, understandably, expressed their unique loathing of the Trump White House’s mistreatment of undocumented Central American immigrants filing for political asylum in the U.S. But what typically goes unmentioned in the public debate is the role that both Democratic and Republican administrations have played in creating the volatile situations on the ground that force Hondurans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans and other Latino refugees to flee in the first place.
It’s important to contextualize the Americas historically as a battle between the mostly European settlers who own the New World and the mostly indigenous and black workers who built it. Destabilizing Central America allows multinationals to continue to exploit labor and resources, and dates back to the CIA’s 1954 plot to overthrow the democratically elected government of Guatemala’s Socialist President Jacobo Arbenz, whose plan to redistribute land to the country’s landless peasant farmers threatened the massive holdings of the United Fruit Company, the predecessor of Chiquita Brands. The coup eventually triggered a civil war between leftist rebels and the U.S.-backed military, led by avid anti-Communist generals.
In an attempt to pressure Guatemala’s government to cease its human-rights abuses, President Jimmy Carter banned all Defense Department sales of military equipment to Guatemala in 1978, followed by a ban of commercial sales in 1980. Shipments previously approved continued, however, and so did the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, disproportionately members of the indigenous Mayan tribe. Ronald Reagan lifted the sanctions in 1981; the war escalated and, by the time it ended 15 years later, nearly 200,000 Guatemalans had been killed.
An Ixil Mayan woman cleans a coffin holding the remains of a civil war victim prior to a mass burial in Santa Avelina, Guatemala, Nov. 30, 2017. After seven years of work by forensic anthropologists, including DNA tests to locate relatives, the remains of 172 indigenous Ixil Mayans killed during the civil war between 1978 and 1982 were buried in the western mountains of Guatemala. Moises Castillo | AP
U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat from El Paso, Texas, told the Huffington Post:
It set a pattern. You look at the decades following [the coup], and the military strongmen, and the juntas, and the mass killings, and it’s no wonder Guatemala is in such terrible shape today.”
Fearing the spread of communism, Carter also supported the decades-long war against El Salvador’s leftists guerillas, known by the Spanish acronym FMLN, which cost an estimated 75,000 lives, ruined the country’s infrastructure, and displaced one-fifth of the population.
Experts note that Nicaraguans are not among the hordes of Central Americans trying to enter the U.S. today — at least not in any significant numbers — and attribute their absence to the success of the leftist Sandinista movement in combating U.S. efforts to install a puppet regime. The country is beginning to experience some political unrest today but, for the most part, President Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista movement — which took power in 1979 and managed to hold off the U.S.-backed Contras at the polls for a decade, before regaining power — remains alive and well.
President Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista movement — which took power in 1979 and managed to hold off the U.S.-backed Contras at the polls for a decade, before regaining power — remains alive and well.
Greg Grandin, a professor of Latin American history at New York University, told the Huffington Post:
You see the direct effects of these Cold War policies. Nicaragua doesn’t really have a gang problem, and researchers have traced this back to the 1980s and U.S. Cold War policy.”
Just on basic humanitarian grounds we should do the right thing by these kids and accept them as refugees — or the legal term is ‘asylum seekers’ — but we also own this problem, we have culpability in it, whether it’s our involvement with thuggish governments there in the past, or whether it’s the fact we are the world’s largest consumer of illegal drugs that are transited through these countries, or whether it’s the war on drugs that we’ve foisted upon these countries.
All of those things contribute to the destabilization, the insecurity, the failed governance, the lack of civil-society development. So, one, we should help now that we’ve done so much to create this situation and, two, we should work constructively with regional partners to rebuild these societies to the best that we can.”
Jon Jeter is a published book author and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist with more than 20 years of journalistic experience. He is a former Washington Post bureau chief and award-winning foreign correspondent on two continents, as well as a former radio and television producer for Chicago Public Media’s “This American Life.”
Emerging market economies are heading for an economic implosion. From South America to South Asia conditions are deteriorating rapidly and heading for an even more severe economic crisis in which many are already mired. At the head of this list is Brazil and Argentina. Others increasingly fragile, however, include Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia, and even India, which has covered up its weak economic condition, and massive non-performing bank loan problem, by manipulating its GDP to falsely exaggerate its growth rate.
Business pundits, and even some commentators on the ‘left’, argue that emerging market economies, of which all the above are key members, now account for more than half of the world’s GDP. This suggests their vulnerability to US and G7 economies is less than it has been in the past. The so-called advanced economies–i.e. the USA, Japan, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy (the ‘G7–are increasingly irrelevant. But global GDP numbers are manipulated everywhere to show a stronger growth than actually has been occurring. Overnight, economies like India double their GDP numbers by redefining categories that compose their Gross Domestic Product, GDP, by manipulating price estimations that boost real GDP and by introducing statistical assumptions in their estimation of growth that are gross misrepresentations. GDP is thus not a good indicator of the condition of their economies. Even so, global GDP itself is now slowing this past year, as global trade also slows (even before USA precipitated ‘trade wars’ take effect). But this idea of declining vulnerability of economies like Brazil and Argentina is incorrect.
GDP numbers obscure the still significant vulnerability of emerging market economies (EMEs) to the advanced economies and their policy actions, especially the USA. This is true for even the largest EME’s like Brazil, Argentina, Turkey, Indonesia, India and others. More symptomatic economic indicators of the growing crisis in EMEs are their currency declines, money capital outflows, rising domestic interest rates, and rising import cost inflation.
USA Levers of Economic Power: Currency, Credit Access & Central Bank Rates
While the EME’s share of global GDP has risen in recent decades, the world economy is nevertheless still largely manipulated by the USA and other G7 economies. That manipulation is exercised by the USA in particular by several means: through its dominant currency, the US dollar; by control of the flow of much of global credit (and debt) by US banks and US shadow banks through capital markets; and by the influence of the US central bank, the Federal Reserve, over US interest rates and, in turn, rates by other central banks and banks elsewhere.
Recessions and crises in the EMEs are largely the consequence of USA policy shifts involving US interest rates, US dollar appreciation or depreciation, global crude oil price speculation that follow the dollar, or lending by US banks and US shadow banks (i.e. investment banks, hedge funds, private equity firms, etc.,) in what are called ‘capital (corporate debt) markets’ that function as alternative sources of credit from traditional bank loans.
In 2017 all these US policy levers began to shift to the disadvantage of emerging markets. That shift is accelerating in 2018. The result has been ‘made in the USA’ deepening recessions in the EMEs, collapse of their currencies, capital outflow from EMEs back to the USA and G7, accelerating EME domestic inflation, and increasing political unrest and instability.
Therefore, not GDP, but a more telling initial indicator of the growing fragility in emerging economies is the recent freefall of their currencies in relation to the US dollar, Euros, and Japanese Yen, as well as the capital flight from these countries that occurs in tandem with the collapse of their currencies. These in turn become the key drivers of EME domestic recession, mass unemployment, inflation, goods shortages, and growing political instability.
And at the head of the list of economies with currency instability today in South America are Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela. But the same process is emerging rapidly elsewhere in the EMEs, in Turkey, Indonesia. Malaysia, and perhaps next even India. But no region of the global economy more strongly reflects the crisis today than Brazil and Argentina.
Destabilizing Argentina and Brazil
Argentina’s currency, the Peso, has fallen around 25% since the beginning of 2018. Turkey, Brazil and others are also falling at double digit rates in recent months. With the collapse of their currency, the value of investments held by capitalists in these countries–foreign and domestic alike–also fall in value. To protect the value of investors’ assets from collapsing with their currency (i.e. stocks, bonds, real estate, foreign currency holdings, derivatives, etc.) their governments (legislatures and central banks) respond by raising interest rates in their own economies, in the desperate attempt to stem the capital outflow set off by currency collapse. Investors’ investment values are propped up by raising domestic interest rates. But the the contradiction is that higher interest rates depress the real economy, throwing it into recession; or if recession already exists, into yet deeper recession and even depression. But investors don’t care about recession; they care foremost about protecting the value of their investments. Thus the pro-business, pro-investor EME governments opt for higher rates and accept mass unemployment as a cost.
EME currency collapse has another economic consequence. Since most of these countries import much of their basic goods (food, medical supplies, oil, raw materials for manufacturing, consumer goods, etc.), the collapsing currencies also raise inflation on these goods due to rising import costs. Thus stagnating and then declining real economy and mass unemployment is accompanied by rising prices. More workers are laid off because of the slowing economy, while the prices they must pay for basic goods and services simultaneously rise as well.
Argentina and Brazil are especially exposed to this scenario of US rising interest rates and dollar that precipitates collapse of their currencies, capital flight, rate hikes, mass unemployment and inflation.
Since the 2008 global crash they have borrowed heavily–especially in US dollars. The massive trillions of dollars of debt they accumulated since 2008 must be repaid in dollars. To get dollars they must export and sell more goods. But the slowing of global trade and other developments in China, Europe and China has reduced their ability to export more. They can’t raise sufficient dollars with which to pay their US dollar denominated debt (to US banks and shadow banks). In order to continue to pay their foreign debt principal and interest coming due (to US and G7 bankers) they are forced to borrow dollars from the International Monetary Fund, IMF–another key economic institution controlled by the US and G7.
Argentina recently borrowed another $50 billion from the IMF–to pay its debt to USA and G7 bankers. However, this doesn’t solve its problem. It only shifts debt payments from private bankers to the the IMF. The IMF never ‘bails out’ countries; it always bails out bankers that have loaned to these countries when the latter cannot make payments to their bankers (and bond investors, etc.).
While Argentina has turned to the IMF to temporarily buy time as its crisis deepens, Brazil has gone another route to deal with its ‘made in the USA’ crisis that has been ripening since 2015. It has borrowed even more from US bankers. And it has chosen to raise its interest rates to astronomical levels, in the vain hope of propping up the value of its currency will stem its capital outflow (and encourage continuing capital inflow to Brazil from USA and G7 investors as well).
Brazil’s central bank interest rate is currently around 40%–up from around 14% just a few years ago. That means businesses or consumers have to pay 40% on any loan or debt their incur to stay in business or maintain consumption levels. Interest rates that high virtually shut down wide areas of an economy. And that’s what’s been happening in Brazil. Mass unemployment has followed. As has accelerating inflation and cost of living as Brazil’s currency, the Real, has collapsed in relation to the dollar. Understandably, political unrest follows as jobless grows and prices for basic goods accelerate. That too is now underway.
Brazil’s crisis began in 2015. At that time its central bank interest rates were, as noted, around 14%. Since 2015 they have risen to the 40%. More than half of that acceleration has occurred in just the past year, and especially in 2018. But those 40% rates, and the unemployment and inflation, are the result currency collapse and capital flight–which in turn is a process that has its origins in the USA and rising US interest rates and dollar appreciation.
The error of the Brazilian Workers Party while still in government, led by Lula and then Rouseff, was to allow Brazil’s central bank to steadily raise interest rates since 2015 to current levels. Central banks are always controlled by the private bankers. And private bankers in EMEs like Brazil are dominated by US bankers and investors. And EME central bankers are in turn controlled by their domestic banking interests. Furthermore, capitalists everywhere have cleverly engineered their central bank institutions to ensure the central banks are shielded from popular national legislatures, just in case popular democratic movements (like the Workers Party) democratically assume power over national governments. Political power remains shielded from economic power. Capitalists have many ways to sabotage democratically elected governments. Central bank interest rates are but one tool.
The Political Strategy Element
The Workers Party in Brazil should therefore have democratized (nationalized in the public interest and fundamentally restructured) the Brazilian central bank back in 2015-16, by opening its decision making process to include democratic forces and representatives. (For my view of how central banks can, and must, be democratized see the concluding chapter to my book, ‘Central Bankers at the End of Their Ropes’, Clarity Press, 2017).
In Argentina, the Kirchner government for years refused to repay the US hedge funds their billions of dollars in claims from the earlier debt crisis engineered by them. What it should have done was to pay the hedge funds in special issued and printed Argentine pesos, instead of dollars, and told them to get lost, they’ve been paid. Instead it fought them in global courts dominated by the US and G7.
As the Brazilian economy began to weaken after 2016, and conditions worsen, the USA, allied with domestic Brazil capitalists and pro-Business politicians in Brazil, developed a political strategy to accompany the US interest rate-dollar policies designed to undermine Brazil’s currency and destabilize its economy. This was the so-called ‘political corruption’ offensive, engineered in the USA and implemented in coordination with Brazilian business interests and pro-business political parties. By painting Workers Party leaders–Rouseff and then Lula himself–as corrupt, they drove them from office (or in the case of Lula jailed him to prevent him from running). An unapologetic pro-Business/pro-USA Temer government was put in place. A similar ‘political’ strategy was implemented against the Kirchner government in Argentina, to drive it from office and replace it with the current pro-business Macri government. Temer in Brazil and Macri in Argentina are mirror images of the USA-G7 economic-political strategy to remove populist governments in South America and replace them with pro-USA, pro investor governments.
The Special Case of Venezuela: When All Else Fails… Military Action
Destroy the currency is always at the forefront of USA imperialist strategy to drive out populist, democratic governments and re-install pro-Business, pro-US investor governments. USA policy toward Venezuela today is not dissimilar, and represents an extreme version of what has been rolled out in Brazil and Argentina. The USA embarked several years ago to destroy Venezuela’s currency, shut off access to US dollars with which to purchase needed food, medical and other imports, while launching another version of ‘government leaders are corrupt’ political-public opinion offensive. It has supported and financed domestic political opposition forces and parties to the Maduro government. Now it is talking about the final extreme alternative of military intervention. It is lining up other right wing governments in Latin America to take the lead in intervention if necessary. But the USA will plan, direct and finance the costs of military intervention using its proxies, if it comes to that. Recent elections in Venezuela that returned the Maduro government to office have signaled to Washington that the Brazil-Argentina strategy might not work in Venezuela. Thus the consideration of more direct military intervention is now on Washington’s agenda. Trump has as much as said so publicly.
But the USA’s strategies of economic destabilization by, initially, raising interest rates to generate capital flight and currency collapse, to have central banks escalate domestic interest rates in the countries to precipitate mass unemployment and recession, to cause accelerating import goods inflation of critical items–and to engage in ‘leaders are corrupt’ political offensives to depose democratically elected popular governments–may not prove successful in the longer term.
Resistance is Not Futile
Already democratic movements, unions, strike actions, mass demonstrations are emerging in Brazil and Argentina. And Venezuela holds out despite the desperate destruction of its economy by USA-business interests. Elections are set soon in Brazil. The results will be critical. What the USA-Temer government’s next moves might be are critical. How Brazil goes, so too will go Argentina, giving rise to further popular demonstrations and strikes should elections in Brazil throw out the Temer government. And should both countries restore democratic governments, USA policy toward direct intervention in Venezuela will stall temporarily.
But whatever the political outcomes, the more fundamental economic forces will still prevail: South American popular governments must find a way to prevent their central banks from acting ‘independently’ on behalf of pro-business, pro-US investors, interests; they must find a way to stabilize their currencies not based on the US dollar; and they must not fall into the debt trap offered by the IMF. Until these levers of US-G7 economic power and hegemony are eliminated, emerging market economics like Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela will always be susceptible and at the mercy of USA economic hegemony.
Jack Rasmus is author of the recently published ‘Central Bankers at the End of Their Ropes: Monetary Policy and the Coming Depression’, Clarity Press, August 2017; ‘Looting Greece: A New Financial Imperialism Emerges’, Clarity Press, October 2016; and ‘Systemic Fragility in the Global Economy’, Clarity Press, January 2016. His website is: http://www.kyklosproductions.com and twitter handle, @drjackrasmus. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.
The original source of this article is Global Research
When you think of the most dangerous, violent cities in the world, do you picture slums in Third World countries with vicious drug cartels or arrogant warlords? Maybe the kind of violence where enemies are decapitated and whole families are murdered seem like things that happen far away in some terrifying, exotic locale.
Some of this is true – but FIVE of the world’s most violent cities are right here on the American mainland and another is in an American territory. The list was created by researchers of anti-violence think-tank Seguridad, Justicia Y Paz (Security, Justice, and Peace), who made their rankings based on statistics of homicides per 100,000 residents.
The vast majority of the cities on the list were in Central and South America. Interestingly, the violence in Venezuela appears to have dropped in violence this year, but not because it’s suddenly become a mecca of safety. The official situation there has devolved so much that they simply can’t track all the homicides.
But back to America
We pride ourselves on our first world status and civilized societies, and yet four of our cities ended up on the list of the most dangerous and violent locales on the planet.
#13 St. Louis
#32 San Juan
#41 New Orleans
How did these cities make the list?
St. Louis, Missouri: Since the Ferguson riots, the entire state of Missouri has seen a sharp increase in violence. This has culminated in the city of St. Louis, which had a 2017 murder rate of 65.83 per hundred thousand people. There are thousands of violent crimes each year in the city, which only has a population of about 320,000 people.
Baltimore, Maryland: The city of Baltimore has an astounding murder rate of 55.48 people per hundred thousand. Last year’s murder rate was nearly as high as the year that the riots erupted over the killing of Freddie Gray by city police officers. There’s a murder nearly every day of the year in Baltimore and the police force there is widely considered to be one of the most corrupt – if not the most corrupt – in the nation.
San Juan, Puerto Rico: Many will think that San Juan earned its place on the list due to the devastation wrought by two back to back hurricanes, but it was already bad for years before. DHS ties this to drug trafficking. The island territory had begun to see signs of improvement in 2015 after a massive spike in 2011 that brought murders to an all-time high. The homicide numbers didn’t immediately escalate after Hurricane Maria, but as the unrelenting darkness continued, violent crime began to increase until it reached 48.70 murders per hundred thousand residents.
New Orleans, Louisiana: Murders in New Orleans, Louisiana fell last year but armed robberies and non-fatal shootings have risen by a whopping 30% since 2010. The city is renowned for its food, music, and festivals, making it a popular destination for tourists. Yet, the 40.10 murders per hundred thousand people rank The Big Easy as more dangerous than some of the most notorious cities in Brazil and Columbia.
Detroit, Michigan: Detroit is the fourth American city to be featured on the list of places you’re most likely to be murdered. With a homicide rate of 39.69 per one hundred thousand people, Detroit was the 42 most dangerous city in the world according to these statistics. The city used to be an American hub of industry, but when the automotive manufacturers left, it fell into disrepair and poverty. Residents have a whopping unemployment rate of almost 11%, the population has plummeted, and since it is one of the poorest cities in the nation, perhaps the residents who remain simply can’t afford to get out.
For those who are interested in preparedness, the collapse of these cities is something to watch. Note how the increase of violence in many cases ties in with a lack of confidence in local law enforcement officers. A failing economy is another factor, as increased desperation leads to increased crime.
What other cities made the list?
Here’s the list of the 50 most violent cities in the world in its entirety:
Los Cabos, Mexico
La Paz, Mexico
Vitória da Conquista, Brazil
St. Louis, Missouri, USA
Cape Town, South Africa
San Salvador, El Salvador
Feira de Santana, Brazil
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Guatemala City, Guatemala
San Pedro Sula, Honduras
João Pessoa, Brazil
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Distrito Central, Honduras
Porto Alegre. Brazil
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Detroit, Michican, USA
Durban, South Africa
Campos dos Goytacazes, Brazil
Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa
Campina Grande, Brazil
Seguridad, Justicia Y Paz blames much of the violence on drug cartel turf wars, economic crises, and violence perpetrated by gangs like MS-13.
Do you have any doubt that violence will be abundant when the SHTF?
Please feel free to share any information from this site in part or in full, leaving all links intact, giving credit to the author and including a link to this website and the following bio. Daisy is a coffee-swigging, gun-toting, homeschooling blogger who writes about current events, preparedness, frugality, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, The Organic Prepper. Daisy is the publisher of The Cheapskate’s Guide to the Galaxy, a monthly frugality newsletter, and she curates all the most important news links on her aggregate site, PreppersDailyNews.com. She is the best-selling author of 4 books and lives in the mountains of Virginia with her two daughters and an ever-growing menagerie. You can find Daisy on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.
Operation Car Wash began in March 2014 at a petrol and car wash complex in Brasilia, Brazil’s capital, and it was initially thought to be routine.
The Federal Police team had the location under surveillance believing that it was the centre of a money -laundering operation run by Alberto Youseff, a former convicted criminal known as the “doleiro de doleiros” – the money launderer of money launderers.
When it was discovered in one of Youssef’s intercepted emails that he was paying for a Land Rover for an executive of Petrobras, Brazil’s national oil company, it immediately raised suspicions.
The executive turned out to be Paulo Roberto Costa, the man in charge of refining and supply. Costa became the main target in the first phase of the Car Wash investigation and was arrested.
Deltan Dallagnol, the lead Federal Prosecutor for the case, says that investigators uncovered “evidence of money laundering” totalling some 26 million Brazilian reals ($8m). Criminal charges were brought against Costa, who negotiated a plea bargain with authorities.
“That allowed for an exponential expansion of the investigation,” Dallagnol says. “It was the big bang of the Car Wash Operation.”
Never before did Brazil export corruption like it did in the Car Wash case.
Costa admitted that the Land Rover was just one of many bribes he received to issue contracts to construction companies, and told law enforcement officials participating in a task force set up to pursue the case that the bribing scheme was much larger than anything they imagined.
Corruption in the supply division he oversaw, Costa said, “was the tip of the iceberg”.
Bruno Brandao, the head of Transparency International in Brazil, says, “Never before did Brazil export corruption like it did in the Car Wash case.”
He adds that the problem of corruption in Brazil is systemic, and that in the Car Wash scandal, “the mechanism of corruption was traditional – overcharging of contracts and the setup of company cartels. What is new is the scale, the amounts of money and number of people involved – officials and companies. The dimensions of this case are what makes it extraordinary.”
Federal police inspector Felipe Hayashi, who heads the Financial Crimes Unit of the Car Wash taskforce, says the investigation “reached people of the highest rank and level of responsibility. That’s something that has never happened before.”
Investigators learned that there was a cartel of companies that dealt with Petrobras. According to a secret agreement that existed for more than 10 years, the cartel would nominate one of its members to be awarded each Petrobras contract – for refineries, oil rigs, and other multimillion-dollar projects.
“We secured documents that laid out the operation of the cartel in terms of championship rules for different sports,” says Dallagnol. “There were 16 championship players and their objective was to ‘maximise’ prizes in national and international markets alike. Obviously, these companies would never openly admit cartel arrangements in a clear way, so they tried to disguise them as championship rules for different sports.”
The cartel rules resulted in steep overpayments for the work done. Petrobras executives were bribed to go along, and the cost of the bribe built into the contract. In fact, the scheme stretched far beyond Petrobras to contracts for stadiums for the 2014 World Cup, the 2016 Rio Olympics and other major infrastructure projects throughout the country.
Brazil’s Car Wash scandal turned into the largest corruption case in Latin America’s history, involving some of the region’s most prominent public figures. [Getty Images]
The Odebrecht bribery machine
On June 19, 2015, the taskforce moved against the cartel players.
“It was time to take a step which had never been taken before in history; when big businessmen were finally reached, people who had been considered princes of enterprises in Brazil,” says Dallagnol.
Twelve top-level executives were arrested, among them Marcelo Odebrecht, CEO of the company that bears his name. Odebrecht is the largest construction company in Latin America. Its bribing operation typified that of cartel members and was the most extensive in the region.
Marcel Odebrecht was held without bail, and less than a year after his detention he was sentenced to 19 years in prison for corruption, money laundering and criminal association.
For decades and decades, in Brazil, you had to apply grease for everything. If a citizen wanted to obtain an ID, he certainly would have to pay something to a public agent to expedite the process.
Sergio Foguel, member of the Odebrecht Board of Directors
We headed to Salvador in northeast Brazil to get the Odebrecht Company’s response to the scandal.
The business was founded in 1944 by Marcelo Odebrecht’s grandfather, and the city is still its headquarters. Sergio Foguel, a long-time member of the Odebrecht Board of Directors, agreed to talk to us.
Despite the conviction of its CEO, the company still operates in more than 20 countries around the world and had revenues of about $26bn last year.
“There is no excuse to justify those acts of misconduct,” Foguel says. “But for decades and decades, in Brazil, you had to apply grease for everything. If a citizen wanted to obtain an ID, he certainly would have to pay something to a public agent to expedite the process”.
Our reporter, Gustavo Gorriti, wanted to know why the company had consistently denied any wrongdoing for months and months during the investigation.
“Despite all our strength as a company, we carried out acts within our organisation that today would be completely inadmissible,” Foguel says. “There was a collective blindness. Initially, corruption was tolerated and later, it expanded in an incredible way.”
A plea bargain by Odebrecht employees in the Lava Jato (Car Wash) corruption scandal led to testimony ensnaring nine ministers in President Michel Temer’s cabinet under investigation [Mario Tama/Getty]
‘Plug and play. It was serial corruption’
According to authorities, Odebrecht had a division of “Structured Operations” that ran an intricate off-the-books accounting system and a bank to bribe not only company executives, but also politicians.
This started to become clear when Marcelo Odebrecht began talking in hopes of reducing his 19-year sentence.
In testimony to prosecutors captured on audiotape, Odebrecht admitted that his company bribed politicians from all the major Brazilian parties in exchange for appointing Petrobras executives at the public company. Dozens of congressmen, senators and ministers have so far been implicated in the scandal.
Odebrecht’s testimony dealt a body blow to the Workers’ Party of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and his successor Dilma Rousseff.
Amid a deep political crisis, Dilma Rousseff was impeached in August 2016. Two weeks later, Lula was formally charged with corruption in connection with the Car Wash scandal.
While Brazil’s elites were being held to account, investigators were also making steady progress on the international front with the help of the US Department of Justice. The country is one of the world’s main destinies for financial transactions.
“This provides the United States jurisdiction over a good deal of money laundering crimes that happen around the world,” Dallagnol says. “The US acted in a very efficient way, identifying accounts kept in their country to launder money and delivering documents very quickly.
In December 2016, Odebrecht pleaded guilty to American charges that it provided almost $800m in bribes for more than 100 projects in 12 countries. It agreed to pay a $3.5bn fine and disclose details of its corrupt activities in Latin America and Africa.
According to Brandao, “Odebrecht, at least in the 12 countries it operated, had the same system, the same mechanism – plug and play. It was serial corruption.”
From Brazil to Panama: Fake companies and big deals
Odebrecht’s guilty plea in the US set off investigations throughout Latin America. Key to those efforts was deciphering how the money flowed from the company to corrupt officials through countries like Panama that specialise in offshore banking.
Rolando Rodriguez, who heads the investigative unit of the Panamanian newspaper La Prensa, says that “From Panama, money went out to officials from Brazil, officials from Peru and other parts of the world.”
Panama’s police investigators uncovered a Panamanian company tied to Odebrecht called Contructora Internacional del Sur.
“It was a fake company that received money from Odebrecht and sent it out to accounts in different countries, especially Switzerland,” Rodriquez says. “So, the laundering structure was set up using companies, most of them from Panama, as well as bank accounts, most of them from abroad.”
Many of the shell companies used by members of the Brazilian construction cartel to dispense bribes were set up by Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the centre of the Panama Papers leak, which exposed the financial dealings of some of the most powerful and wealthy people in the world.
“Mossack Fonseca is one of the oldest firms that work on setting up shell corporations,” Rodriguez says. “So, by arriving here in Panama you resolve the problem of having to travel to 10 different countries to get 100 corporations.”
Panama was not only a good transit point for corrupt payments. It was also a place to land large construction projects at inflated prices. With projects of some $9bn, Odebrecht is the most important construction company in Panama. Between 2010 and 2014, according to the US Department of Justice, Odebrecht paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes to secure public works contracts. One of the most profitable was building the Coast Highway.
I do harm to a country for $2 or $3bn. I agree to pay $300m, $500m or a billion and, after some time, I walk away free. What a business.
Jose Antonio Dominguez, legislator
“Panama ended up paying a great deal for a project that should have cost much less,” says Jose Antonio Dominguez, a legislator with the country’s governing Panamenista party who has been questioning the pricing of the project for years. “That project, without any change, suddenly was awarded for $189.5m instead of $133.5m. Why that $60m difference? For what?”
In July 2017, Odebrecht reached an agreement with the Panama authorities to pay $220m in fines and provide information about public corruption to settle bribery charges in the country.
“I do harm to a country for $2 or $3bn. I agree to pay $300m, $500m or a billion and, after some time, I walk away free. What a business,” says Dominguez.
A vast web of political and corporate corruption in Peru
Tensions over the way Odebrecht conducted its business are growing throughout Latin America. The latest flashpoint is Peru, where the country’s ruling establishment is reeling from its connections to the company.
Attorney Walter Alban served as the public ombudsman in Peru from 2000 to 2005 during the presidency of Alejandro Toledo, now accused of receiving bribes from Odebrecht.
“It’s been demonstrated that there were transfers through offshore companies and close friends of the former president,” he says.
Odebrecht wanted the lion’s share of a multibillion-dollar highway project connecting the Peruvian coast to Brazil and they got it. Toledo has been charged with accepting a $20m bribe to steer them the business.
Jorge Barata, the head of Odebrecht in Peru, confessed in 2016 that he struck the deal in a meeting at a Copa Cabana hotel in Brazil that Toledo attended. Peruvian prosecutors are trying to extradite Toledo from the US to face bribery charges, which he denies.
Alban says Odebrecht didn’t just pay off individual politicians. The company promoted its interests by gaining influence over the political system itself.
“The scheme Odebrecht had was not only related to bribes to get contracts,” Alban says. “There was also this practice of promoting candidates and financing political parties, and not just one but all that might have a chance of winning.”
In a videotaped confession to prosecutors obtained by Peruvian investigative journalism organisation IDL-Reporteros, Barata admitted to giving $3m to the Nationalist Party to help finance the 2011 presidential campaign of Ollanta Humala. Humala won and served as president from 2011 to 2016.
Corruption is not an issue of right or left, or ideology. But of a confluence of interests.
Walter Alban, lawyer
Barata also claimed his company supported the left-wing Humala not only to promote Odebrecht´s interests in Peru, but to curry favour with Lula’s Workers’ Party in Brazil. “The Workers Party had an interest that all South American presidents share the same political and economic line as the Workers Party. Humala had those characteristics,” Barata says.
According to Alban, Odebrecht had strong links with ex-president Lula’s party in Brazil. It is described as a “geopolitical strategy” he says, indicating that “corruption is not an issue of right or left, or ideology. But of a confluence of interests.”
Both Humala and his wife, Nadine Heredia who was general secretary of the Nationalist Party, are now in prison awaiting trial.
Keiko Fujimori and her Popular Force party are also under investigation for taking money from Odebrecht to fund her 2011 presidential bid. Fujimori says the accusation is false but Marcelo Odebrecht has testified that his company helped finance her campaign.
On February 28, Barata met Peruvian prosecutors and confirmed that the company gave money to support Fujimori in the presidential race – $1.2m.
“There aren’t political parties any more” says Alban, “There are groups that define themselves as political, but strictly speaking, they are supported in all cases by illegal funds”.
Demonstrators protest for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff and also against corruption being investigated involving resource diversion and money laundering in Petrobras scandal of corruption on March 16, 2016, in Sao Paulo, Brazil [Victor Moriyama/Getty]
A new attitude towards corruption in Latin America
Last December, the Car Wash scandal arrived at the doorstep of Peru’s current president, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. Peru’s congress launched impeachment proceedings against him, alleging his companies received almost $800,000 from Odebrecht while he was serving as a public official.
Kuzcinsky vehemently denies all wrongdoing and narrowly avoided impeachment but prosecutors continue their investigations. In his February meeting with prosecutors, Barata said Odebrecht also contributed to Kuzcinsky’s 2011 presidential campaign.
Peru’s Attorney General Pablo Sanchez is overseeing the investigation of Peru’s high-level officials for dealings with Odebrecht. “We are talking about corruption and a series of very complex crimes that involve several different governments, not just one but at least three,” he says.
When asked why the corruption connected to the Car Wash case went so far in Peru, he says: “Our country is not prepared to face cases of this nature or prevent crime,” Sanchez says. “Our country has trusted too much in the behaviour of state officials and the politicians in our country. So in that way, we haven’t advanced at all, or just very little. What we do now, proper investigations, proper convictions, will help prevent this from happening again in the future.”
Car Wash in Brazil today is no longer just an investigation, nor a process. Lavo Jato today in Brazil is an attitude, an expectation that impunity will start to fade away.
Bruno Brandao, head of Transparency International
Every week seems to bring new developments around the world in connection with the Car Wash scandal.
Governments from Ecuador to Angola are dealing with the repercussions of the case. Meanwhile, back in Brazil, the Supreme Court is considering former President Lula’s appeal of a 12-year sentence he received for corruption. His plans to run for president this October are in danger of being derailed.
“Car Wash in Brazil today is no longer just an investigation, nor a process. Lava Jato today in Brazil is an attitude, an expectation that impunity will start to fade away,” Brandao says.
Alban agrees that a new attitude towards corruption is arising in Latin America. “Democratic societies in which we can say that the problem of corruption is at least controlled,” are those in which the public watches over how public resources are spent and demands “that public authorities be held to account. Because of the Car Wash case that is something that I believe is beginning to happen.”
In this Jan. 15, 2018 photo, a man digs up a clandestine grave in Xalisco, Nayarit state, Mexico. Sniffer dogs led authorities to the grisly discovery of three clandestine graves containing at least 33 bodies in a sugarcane field. Some of the bodies may have been hacked up before being tossed into the pits, and authorities believe they were probably involved in the drug trade. (General Prosecutor of Nayarit via AP)
Mexico posted its highest homicide rate in decades, with the government reporting Sunday there were 29,168 murders in 2017.
The number is the highest since comparable records began being kept in 1997 and is also higher than the peak year of Mexico’s drug war in 2011, when there were 27,213 murders.
The Interior Department, which posted the number, reported the country’s homicide rate was 20.5 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2017, compared to 19.4 in 2011.
But Mexico security analyst Alejandro Hope said Mexico’s murder rate is probably higher than the Interior Department statistics show, because the department does the per 100,000 count based on the number of murder investigations, not the number of victims, and a killing may result in more than one victim. Hope says the real homicide rate is probably around 24 per 100,000.
Despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s tweet last week claiming Mexico is “now rated the number one most dangerous country in the world,” there are several nations in Latin America with higher rates.
Brazil and Colombia had about 27 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, still well below Venezuela’s 57 per 100,000, according to a World Bank report. El Salvador reported a rate of 60.8 for 2017.
In 2016, the most recent year for which figures are available, Canada had 1.68 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants or 611 homicides, according to Statistics Canada, while the United States had 17,250 homicides or 6.8 per 100,000, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Several U.S. cities — including St. Louis, Baltimore, Chicago, New Orleans and Detroit — had higher rates.
As Mexico-US ties sour over the new US administration’s controversial anti-immigration policies, Bolivia urges Mexico to turn to the South American countries rather than Washington, citing capitalism’s demise.
“The neoliberal model has failed and capitalism has failed too,” Bolivian President Evo Morales said on Friday.
Morales further noted that he had taken to Twitter and called on Mexico to unite with the Latin American and Caribbean states.
“I asked our Mexican brothers to look further south and we can all go after our hopes together, with our Latin American and Caribbean identity, we are a great family,” he said.
The Bolivian president further referred to Trump’s recent cancellation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), of which Mexico is a member.
“Imagine those who were in the Pacific alliance who now feel abandoned by the new president of the United States,” he said.
On Monday, Trump scrapped the TPP, a flagship trade agreement among 11 countries in the Pacific rim.
Two days later, the US president signed executive orders directing the construction of a wall along the border with Mexico, boosting border patrol forces and immigration enforcement officers who carry out deportations.
He also confirmed his plans to build the US-Mexico border wall with federal funds and then seek reimbursement from Mexico City.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto condemned Trump’s decision to erect the wall, saying his country would not pay for the project.
Annual bilateral trade between the two neighbor countries is valued at almost $600 billion.
“Our citizens should know the urgent facts…but they don’t because our media serves imperial, not popular interests. They lie, deceive, connive and suppress what everyone needs to know, substituting managed news misinformation and rubbish for hard truths…”—Oliver Stone