Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Argentine VP Under Fire for Alleged Corruption

Argentine Vice President Amado Boudou has come under scrutiny from judicial officials for allegations of influence peddling and money laundering over the past year, but so far managed to stave  off his critics and hold on to his office. Yesterday however, a federal prosecutor asked a judge to open an investigation into illegal enrichment accusations against Boudou, triggering renewed calls for his resignation.

As the Associated Press reports, prosecutors have named as his accomplices Boudou's girlfriend Agustina Kampfer, his friend and business partner Jose Maria Nunez Carmona, and another businessman, Alejandro Vandenbroele, who reportedly served as a proxy for the vice president in a series of shady business deals. Although Boudou denies any connection to Vandenbroele, previous investigations have revealed phone records linking the two, suggesting a potential cover-up.

Boudou, for his part, claims that he is the victim of a character attack by a media “mafia,” led by opposition newspaper Clarin, and has had pressured court officials to replace the main prosecutors in the influence peddling case.

When President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner chose Boudou as her running mate ahead of last October’s elections, his popularity amongst Argentine youth (the AP referred to him as a “hoodie-wearing, Harley-riding rock ‘n roll guitarist”) was seen by many as a sign that he could be a potential heir to the president once her second term ends in 2015. Considering the blowback from this scandal, however, she will likely distance herself from him, perhaps courting Argentine youth instead by moving closer to popular economist Axel Kicillof, a rising star in her administration.

 News Briefs

·         Last Thursday a federal judge ruled against the National Security Archive’s attempts to declassify the fifth and last volume in a CIA history of the Bay of Pigs invasion, reports the Miami Herald. The court found that, because the volume was allegedly a draft and had not been approved by official CIA historians, it was exempt from declassification. The National Security Archive calls this ruling "a regrettable blow to the right-to-know" and has vowed to pressure the Obama administration to back up its stated commitment to transparency by releasing the documents.

·         Yet another journalist has been killed in Mexico. El Universal reports that police have found the dead body of Rene Orta Salgado, who was missing since Saturday, in the trunk of his car in the central state of Cuernavaca, the capital of Morelos. Spanish news agency EFE claims that the country’s national human rights commission has received a total of 580 complaints of violence against journalists since 2005.

·         Meanwhile, in southern Mexico, a Catholic priest who runs a shelter for migrants and has spoken out against abuse and kidnapping has gone into hiding after receiving death threats. According to El Universal, he has left the country.

·         A new poll conducted by the Dallas Morning News’s Spanish language partner Al Dia and El Universal suggests that concerns about insecurity in Mexico have taken a toll on the country’s traditional wariness towards US intervention. More than half of Mexicans –52 percent– said they favored an expanded US role in fighting crime in their country. 28 percent even called for deploying US troops in Mexican soil.

·         Prensa Libre and AP report that Guatemalan officials claim that the United States government is refusing to return a toddler adopted in 2008 to her biological parents in the Central American country. The latter claim that their daughter was abducted in 2006, and because this was before an international treaty on abduction came into effect in January 2008, the US argues it is not bound to return the girl. The child left the country in December 2008, however, casting doubt on these claims.

·         The Brazilian Real has fallen to its lowest point relative to the US dollar in nearly three years, dropping to 1.99 reais to the dollar. The Brazilian Finance Minister has said this will be a boost to Brazilian manufacturers and exporters.

·         The Venezuelan foreign minister has demanded the return of fugitive ex-Supreme Court judge Eladio Aponte, saying that the US is legally mandated to hand him over. In the past month that he has been in the United States, Aponte has made accusations of widespread corruption in Venezuela.

·         Seven members of the FARC have turned themselves in along the Colombia-Ecuador border. According to El Pais, the men handed over 1.2 tons of explosives to military officials.  

·         The Miami Herald looks at the US-Colombia FTA, which officially went into effect today at 1 a.m.

·       Honduras Culture and Politics with a critical look at recent attempts to promote “charter cities” in Honduras. The blog argues that these efforts amount to attacks on Honduran sovereignty, laden with overtones of cultural imperialism. 

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