Brazil’s Opposition Party Split on Decision to Support New Interim Government

Top Story — Looking ahead to a 2018 presidential run, Brazil’s largest opposition party is split on the degree to which they will support a provisional government in the likely case that President Dilma Rousseff is impeached through a Senate vote on May 12.

Senior members of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) said Monday that while it would back former Vice President Michel Temer’s interim government, the party is divided on the decision of joining his cabinet, Reuters reported.

The maneuvering comes just two weeks after Brazil’s lower house of Congress voted to impeach the president, casting Rousseff into a fight to stay in office that led her to make a speech at the UN General Assembly in New York last Friday, where she described her opponents as “coup mongers.”

Temer’s March 29 split from the government coalition had been the loudest death knell for Rousseff’s presidency up until the fateful vote a few weeks later. He is currently working with his Brazilian Democratic Movement Party to prepare to assume the presidency in May as Rousseff will be suspended from her office if the Senate deals the final blow with an impeachment vote.

In light of Brazil’s worst economic recession since the 1930s, business leaders are pressuring PSDB to fall in line with Temer in order to restore investment credibility and quell the crisis. Former central bank governor and PSDB member Henrique Meirelles is likely to be offered the position as Temer’s finance minister in the interim cabinet; more top posts are expected to be offered to other PSDB members.

Yet PSDB leaders are wary of their top members accepting cabinet positions like this one, as party leader Aécio Neves, who is expected to run in the 2018 elections, said last week. Still, the party walks a fine line, because if they do not fully join the Temer government and the interim president manages to pull Brazil out of the recession, PSDB could lose in the next election. The party plans to meet on May 3 to make a final decision on their position towards a likely Temer presidency.

The PSDB holds leverage over Temer in another way; the party has led efforts to annul Rousseff’s presidency through a case in the Supreme Electoral Tribunal based on allegations of illicit campaign financing. If that case succeeded, Temer, as Rousseff’s running mate in 2014, would be forced out of office as well.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

In Mexico, reactions to the release of a final third-party report on the 2014 disappearance of 43 students from Guerrero state have been widely negative. Family members of the students slammed the government, accusing the authorities not just of bungling the case but of misleading them and even planting evidence.

An op-ed in The New York Times by former Mexico correspondent Ginger Thompson compares the fallout of the case of the 43 disappeared students to hand-wringing among Mexican elites over the candidacy of Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, concluding that the disappearance is a worse blow to Mexico’s image, and a self-inflicted one.

A separate analysis by the Times suggests the party of President Enrique Peña Nieto is likely to weather the fallout from the case despite its impact on Peña Nieto’s approval ratings, based on the fact that his party, the PRI, performed well in midterm elections last year and is likely to do the same in upcoming gubernatorial elections, polls suggest.

A large database of Mexican voter records was discovered by a U.S. security researcher to be entirely accessible to the public on the internet, raising questions about the Mexican National Electoral Institute’s security.

In Acapulco, one of the world’s deadliest cities, local Mexican police headquarters in a beachside tourist area and a hotel across town were simultaneously attacked by a group of armed men, causing the city, which is still a large tourist attraction, to temporarily go into lockdown.

Caribbean

The U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell will visit Puerto Rico to review measures to control the Zika virus, which is expected to begin spreading in the United States in June. Nonetheless, members of the U.S. Congress are unlikely to grant the full $1.9 billion requested by the Obama administration for anti-Zika efforts.

Central America

El Salvador’s prosecutor for human rights, David Morales, said Monday that in at least two cases in 2015, police officers and soldiers executed gang members, then altered the crime scenes to look like shootouts, a claim the country’s defense minister said was being investigating by authorities.

Panama’s Finance Minister Dulcidio de la Guardia squared off with his French counterpart in Paris on Monday in a meeting that was called after the latter’s government threatened Panama with sanctions following the revelations of the Panama Papers.

Andes

Venezuela’s Supreme Court on Monday said it will not allow an opposition-written constitutional amendment cutting the presidential term from six to four years, highlighting the pro-government court’s status as a check on the opposition’s majority in the legislature, and presaging further difficulty in efforts to remove President Nicolás Maduro from office.

Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos on Monday announced a new cabinet on consolidating an anticipated FARC peace deal, as well as combating a slump in Santos’ approval ratings amid a slowdown in the oil-dependent economy.

Southern Cone

The New York Times looks into the diplomatic process behind Argentina’s settlement with its hedge-fund creditors under first-year President Mauricio Macri, who promised to pay the so-called “vulture funds” after years of refusal under former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

Speaking at the international mining-industry fair Expomin, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet cautioned that the country —the world’s largest copper producer— should prepare for a “post-copper economy” in order to free itself from the cycle of commodities booms and busts.

Reuters reports on the increased efforts of Brazil’s environmental agency Ibama to crack down on illegal gold mining in the Amazon, which leads to deforestation and pollutes the environment with large quantities of mercury used in the mining process.

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Brazil’s Rousseff Speaks of Injustice in First Public Address After Impeachment Vote

BRASÍLIA — Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff expressed indignation and disappointment during a national address on Monday, her first since Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies voted to impeach her minutes before midnight on Sunday.

“My dreams, and my rights, underwent torture,” a weary and downcast Rousseff said about the vote. By invoking torture, Rousseff explicitly referenced the torture she underwent in the 1970s, as a political prisoner during Brazil’s military dictatorship.

The impeachment petition against Rousseff stemmed from charges that she cooked the government books to conceal a significant budgetary deficit. In doing so, Reuters reports, she made Brazil’s budget appear healthier than it was during her re-election campaign.

On Monday, Rousseff recognized that her government intentionally delayed repayments to state lenders, but said that past presidents also engaged in the act known as fiscal backpedaling without being subjected to an impeachment process.

“My conscience is clear,” Rousseff said. “Did I commit these acts? Yes. But I did not commit them illegally. I have been treated in a way that others have not.”

Rousseff’s opponents have said that her predecessors never engaged in backpedaling on this scale, and that the act caused the government’s borrowing costs to rise, due to a loss of confidence among investors. Fiscal backpedaling, her opponents said, constituted an impeachable offense.

But Rousseff has not been charged in the wider Operation Carwash probe, which has uncovered a multi-billion-dollar kickback scheme at Petrobras, Brazil’s partially state-run oil behemoth. The probe has ensnared leading figures in her Workers’ Party, some of Brazil’s top industrialists and several of the politicians currently seeking her ouster.

Among those implicated in the Petrobras scheme are House Speaker Eduardo Cunha, who spearheaded the long-running impeachment effort in Congress, and Vice President Michel Temer, whom Rousseff accused of orchestrating her downfall.

“I do not face a single charge of misappropriating public funds. I find it an injustice that those who possess bank accounts abroad have presided over this process,” Rousseff said, taking a stab at Cunha. The house speaker faces a corruption probe over allegedly receiving a $5 million bribe and hiding the money in a Swiss bank account.

“I cannot understand how a Congress filled with people like Cunha, who faces a litany of charges, can lead a campaign against the president,” said Márcia Quadrado, 52, a Workers’ Party supporter who attended a pro-government demonstration in Brasília that occurred concurrently with the impeachment vote. “This Congress does not represent me.”

Quadrado was one of tens of thousands of Brazilians who took to the streets throughout the country to both protest and champion the impeachment vote. Some 79,000 people congregated in the capital’s Monumental Axis, according to estimates by the Military Police, with 26,000 supporting the president and 53,000 cheering on her opponents. Fearing clashes between both sides, authorities in Brasília had earlier in the week erected a 1km-long steel wall to separate pro- and anti-government demonstrators.

The vice president, like Rousseff, faces an impeachment petition for fiscal backpedaling. Earlier in April, a Supreme Court minister chastised Cunha for launching the impeachment petition against Rousseff, his sworn arch-enemy, in the same month in which he shelved a petition against Temer over the same crime. Cunha and Temer are party allies.

Rousseff said that she found it appalling that a vice president would conspire against the president. Temer has flagrantly angled for the top job in the past several weeks despite his own impeachment petition making its way through Brazil’s courts. He is the leader of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, whose split from the government coalition on March 29 comprised the strongest sign at the time that Rousseff would not survive an impeachment vote in Congress. Prior to the split, Temer had assembled a team of economists critical of Rousseff’s policies to advise him in the event that he became president, Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo reported. And six days before the impeachment vote, he released a 12-minute audio clip of himself practicing the acceptance speech he planned to give after Rousseff lost a crucial early decision. (He says he released the audio by mistake.)

“Nobody that displays this kind of behavior deserves respect,” Rousseff said on Monday. “Society does not like traitors.”

A total of 367 congressmen on Sunday voted to oust the president, compared to 137 who rejected the impeachment petition. (There were seven abstentions.) The impeachment effort required two-thirds of the 513 votes to pass. It reached the targeted number with less than an hour left before midnight.

“It is my honor that destiny has chosen me to deliver a rally cry of hope to millions of Brazilians,” said Congressman Bruno Araújo, before delivering the crucial 342th anti-Rousseff vote that officially impeached her. Araújo, like many who voted on Sunday, faces charges of corruption.

The effort to impeach Rousseff now moves to the Senate, which will decide on whether to put her on trial. On Monday, Cunha hand-delivered the successful impeachment vote to Senate leader Renan Calheiros.

If the Senate votes to instate a trial, Rousseff will be forced to step down for up to 180 days until her fate is determined. Temer then becomes interim president.

Temer is not popular among voters. A poll in March by Datafolha found that a staggering one percent of Brazilians would vote for him if he ran for president.

“This is the first step,” said Yuri Carraro, 27, one of the thousands of demonstrators supporting the impeachment process, “but it’s not the solution. Temer is crooked; the PMDB is crooked. What I hope for is political reform and a new election, so that people can choose new leaders.”

An earlier version of this article appeared in the Latin America News Dispatch.

Brazil Congressional Committee Votes to Proceed with Rousseff Impeachment

Top Story — The Brazilian congressional committee set up to determine whether President Dilma Rousseff should face impeachment proceedings decided on Monday to uphold the impeachment process by 38 to 27 votes, further increasing the chances of Rousseff’s ouster.

Monday’s decision brought to an end the first part of the impeachment process, which will now be put to a vote in Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies. If Rousseff fails to secure the support of two-thirds of the 513 deputies, the process moves to a trial in the Senate. The Chamber of Deputies is expected to vote on the 17 or 18 of April.

Rousseff is accused of violating fiscal laws to conceal significant holes in the government budget ahead of her 2014 re-election. Her supporters point out that previous leaders have perpetrated equivalent acts of budgetary window-dressing, and that attempting to impeach Rousseff over this alleged deed is tantamount to a “coup.”

Vice President Michel Temer also faces impeachment proceedings over the same allegations. On Monday, however, Temer accidentally made public the speech he had planned to give once the congressional committee voted to uphold Rousseff’s impeachment process, thus putting him closer to becoming president.

“Many have asked me to address the nation,” Temer said in the recording, which his cabinet confirmed was sent out by mistake to some of his cell phone contacts. “I am doing so now with plenty of modesty, caution and moderation.”

While Monday’s vote deals a blow to the embattled president, Rousseff’s impeachment is far from guaranteed. Her opponents are unsure whether they will be able to secure the 172 votes needed in the upcoming Chamber of Deputies hearing. The impeachment will then have to be approved by the Senate in two separate motions.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

The Mexican central bank will move $13.6 billion to the Finance Ministry to purchase federal debt and stabilize the budget—actions experts say are a response to decreasing oil prices and their negative effects to the country’s state-run oil company PEMEX.

U.S. officials have requested the extradition of a Mexican woman on the FBI’s most wanted list who is accused of orchestrating the Dallas County murder of her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend.

Passions were stoked as residents of Miami Beach, Florida, and surrounding areas, many of them Cuban-born, voiced their opinions during a town hall meeting to discuss the possibility of the town hosting a Cuban consulate. Both the mayor and commissioner of Miami Beach said they were open to the idea during a March trip to the island country.

Caribbean

With major defaults on the horizon, Puerto Rico proposed a new debt restructuring deal that would see the island pay $1.85 billion a year — up from the $1.7 billion agreed upon in earlier deals. Experts say Puerto Rico will appeal to the U.S. Congress, who are to decide on possible debt solutions ahead of a May 1 repayment deadline .

Central America

Investigators from Panama’s intellectual property prosecutor’s office visited the offices of the Mossack Fonseca law firm, whose leaked documents comprise the “Panama Papers,” to assess claims made by the firm that the leak was the product of hackers.

A group of journalists and free speech activists placed coffins outside the Honduran attorney general’s office in protest of the largely unsolved deaths of 22 journalists who been killed in the country since 2014.

Andes

Venezuela’s Supreme Court has declared an amnesty law for imprisoned opposition leaders unconstitutional, a move criticized by the United Nations. The Supreme Court decision widens the divide between President Nicolás Maduro and the National Assembly lead by the opposition, many of whom came to power promising to fight for the release of what they call political prisoners.

As Peru prepares for its run-off presidential elections scheduled for June, investors have increased their activity in the Peruvian market in anticipation of a potential win by Wall Street-favored conservative Pedro Pablo Kuczynsk.

Venezuelan individuals associated with the ongoing investigation surrounding the leaks of the Panama Papers will have their assets frozen, announced Luisa Ortega, the country’s chief prosecutor.

Southern Cone

According to government officials, Argentina is planning to invest $5 billion in renewable energies by 2018, a plan that aims to reduce the country’s energy deficit.

After many prominent Chilean politicians faced accusations of campaign fraud, President Michelle Bachelet approved two bills that aim to limit campaign spending, establish gender quotas for party lists and ensure that companies can’t form political parties.

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Brazilian Judge Rules Vice President Must Face Impeachment, Complicating Succession Plans

Top Story — A Brazilian Supreme Court justice on Tuesday ordered Congress to initiate impeachment proceedings against Vice President Michel Temer, complicating efforts by Temer’s party to install him in the presidency after impeaching President Dilma Rousseff.

The order, by Judge Marco Aurelio Mello, came on the same day that Temer stepped down as head of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB). Rousseff’s opponents in Congress, many of whom backed a Temer presidency, must now re-calculate their vote against the president, considering her second-in-command is now accused of the same crime as Rousseff.

Rousseff and Temer stand accused of manipulating the government’s books to conceal a large budget deficit ahead of the president’s 2014 re-election. Mariel Márley Marra, the lawyer who authored the impeachment petition against Temer, told the BBC on Tuesday that the president and vice president should be judged in tandem.

The speaker of the house, Eduardo Cunha, also of the PMDB, launched impeachment proceedings against his political nemesis Rousseff in December, the same month in which he shelved a petition to impeach his ally, Temer, on the same grounds. Mello, the judge, said on Tuesday that Cunha lacked the authority to set aside such a petition, and that the decision to reject or go forth with it could only be made by a congressional committee.

Cunha said he will appeal Mello’s ruling. An analyst who spoke to Reuters, however, said the ruling is unlikely to be overturned. For his part, Mello said Cunha will be considered criminally responsible should he fail to immediately act on the Supreme Court order.

Temer, meanwhile, stepped down on Tuesday as the leader of PMDB to distance himself from the party’s attempts to de-legitimize an administration that he remains a part of. Temer’s announcement came one week after PMDB, Brazil’s largest party, abandoned Rousseff’s governing coalition. At the time, the split appeared to deal a fatal blow to the president.

The impeachment committee’s vote on whether Rousseff perpetrated an impeachable crime is scheduled for April 11.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

Ford Motor company announced on Tuesday plans to build a $1.6 billion factory in Mexico’s state of San Luis Potosí, which would shift small-car production outside of the United States and create 2,800 jobs. U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called the decision an “absolute disgrace,” citing it as a reason to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trump sent The Washington Post a two-page memo outlining how he plans to force Mexico to pay for his proposed 1,000-mile border fence by threatening to change a law that would cut off remittances to the country. U.S. President Barack Obama called Trump’s proposal “half-baked notion” that would hurt Mexico’s economy and in turn spur more migration to the United States.

The harsh rhetoric by Trump and other Republican candidates concerning Mexico may have influenced a decision by Mexico’s Foreign Ministry to nominate a new ambassador to the United States, the current consul general in Los Angeles, just six months after the confirmation of his predecessor.

Mexico’s military said Tuesday that soldiers destroyed nearly an acre of opium poppies growing just 60 miles south of the U.S. border in Baja California, much further north than usual and an apparent sign of expanding heroin production by drug cartels.

Forty-three U.S. Republican senators signed a new Supreme Court brief that accuses Obama of overstepping his powers when he passed his executive action on immigration reform last year, but a notable 11 Republican senators did not sign the document.

Caribbean

The head of Haiti’s electoral council said Tuesday that the group faces numerous challenges that must be resolved before they can issue a new electoral calendar, casting further doubt on the possibility of the tentative April 24 election date.

Meanwhile, a leaked report from the United Nations reveals the organization had uncovered serious sanitation failures in its Haiti peacekeeping mission, including lack of toilets and sewage dumped in the open, just a month after the country suffered a deadly cholera outbreak for which the U.N. has steadfastly refused to compensate victims.

Puerto Rico’s Senate authorized a declaration of emergency and a moratorium on new debt early Tuesday morning, a move that show the U.S. territory’s resistance to a restructuring deal that calls for close federal oversight.

Central America

Nicaragua is facing an increasingly severe water supply crisis due to a three-year drought, coupled with deforestation, which has led the country to lose 60 percent of its surface water sources and caused at least 100 rivers to dry up, a leading activist and former environment minister told Inter Press Service.

Honduras’ President Juan Orlando Hernandez said he will suspend several top police officials after investigators found evidence they conspired in the assassination of a leading anti-drug prosecutor in 2009, highlighting persistent links between the security forces and organized crime.

NPR provides an overview of the international fallout from the release of the Panama Papers, including Tuesday’s resignation of Iceland’s Prime Minister following mass protests and Panama’s continued efforts to combat its reputation as a tax haven.

Andes

In Peru, Tuesday marked the 24th anniversary of now-imprisoned former President Alberto Fujimori’s dissolution of congress, an anniversary that drew large crowds throughout the country marching in memory of past human rights abuses only five days before presidential elections in which Fujimori’s daughter, Keiko Fujimori, is favored, but not by enough to avoid a runoff.

Eliecer García Torrealba, Interpol’s top detective in Venezuela, was arrested over his alleged involvement in shipping over 300 kilograms of cocaine from Venezuela to the Dominican Republic, after authorities intercepted a drug-laden plane he is accused of letting take off.

Southern Cone

The Argentine real estate developer Lázaro Báez was arrested Tuesday on money laundering charges in a case that could implicate former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, a close associate of Báez.

Gonzalo Delaveu, the head of the Chilean branch of the anti-corruption group Transparency International, resigned after being connected to five offshore companies exposed in the Panama Papers, a coincidence some observers have described as ironic.

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Brazil’s Attorney General Calls Impeachment Proceedings Unconstitutional

Top Story — During a blistering speech on Monday that laid out Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s defense against a potential ouster, the country’s attorney general denounced the impeachment proceedings underway as being unconstitutional and fueled by a desire for revenge.

José Eduardo Cardozo, speaking before the congressional impeachment committee, said that Brazil’s constitution allows impeachment only for grave crimes committed by a sitting president, and that the charges against Rousseff do not meet the constitutional criteria.

During his speech, Cardozo singled out lower house Speaker Eduardo Cunha for opprobrium, calling his decision to initiate the proceedings “retaliation against the head-of-state” after Rousseff didn’t provide him with the necessary votes that would allow him to avoid his own set of corruption charges. Cunha is currently under investigation for allegedly taking nearly $40 million in bribes and for stashing undeclared assets in Swiss bank accounts.

Rousseff stands accused of breaking fiscal rules in order to conceal budgetary shortfalls ahead of her 2014 re-election. Rousseff’s opponents, including those who authored the impeachment petition, said that the fiscal backpedaling constituted a serious crime, perpetrated with the malicious intent of artificially inflating the country’s fiscal standing.

Calls for Rousseff’s impeachment have intensified as the country plunges deeper into an economic recession, and as her party reels from a massive, but unrelated, corruption scheme uncovered at partially nationalized oil firm Petrobras. Brazil is additionally in the grips of an unprecedented epidemic of birth defects believed to be linked to a mosquito-borne virus, all while struggling to prepare for the upcoming Olympics.

The congressional committee is expected to vote on Rousseff’s impeachment as early as mid-April. Should Rousseff fail to obtain 172 out of 513 votes, the proceedings move to a trial in the Senate. The president will then be suspended, for a maximum of 180 days, pending a verdict in the Senate. During this period, Vice President Michel Temer would serve as interim head of state.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

A Guardian report details the increased persecution of indigenous Mexican migrant farmers at the hands of the country’s National Immigration Institute, an agency tasked with apprehending Central American migrants that The Guardian reports is deporting indigenous Mexicans after they unwittingly and often forcibly sign statements saying they are from Central American countries.

Pollution in Mexico City rose to unsafe levels the day before a controversial new program goes into effect that will keep one-fifth of all cars in the city off roads.

A BBC news report reflects on the cultural impact of Donald Trump’s political ascendency on Mexicans.

Caribbean

U.S. hedge funds who hold a large share of Puerto Rico’s national debt have sued the territory’s Government Development Bank for allowing governmental agencies to withdraw money from the insolvent government funds, moves that the plaintiffs claim will ensure that the bank will be unable to restructure its debts.

The New York Times opinion pages takes a look at U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic Wally Brewster and his husband Bob Satawake, whose gay marriage has sparked a conversation that has emboldened the country’s burgeoning gay rights movement and infuriated the powerful local Catholic Church.

Central America

The Associated Press reports on the two lawyers who compose the Mossack-Fonseca law firm whose documents were featured in the Panama Papers leaks that detailed how the firm established a host of shell companies and offshore accounts for the world’s wealthy.

Meanwhile, Panamanians involved in the case have rejected the newfound media scrutiny on their country’s finance industry despite President Juan Carlos Varela’s commitment to cooperate fully with investigations.

Andes

Ecuador has initiated its controversial oil drilling operations at the edges of the Yasuni National Park, which is suspected of harboring large oil reserves but also contains one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on earth.

The strong performance of Peruvian leftist congresswoman Verónika Mendoza, who moved into second place ahead of the country’s April 10 presidential elections, has sparked a selloff in Peruvian assets and fear for the value of the sol as foreign investors anticipate a less-friendly government, Bloomberg reports.

The BBC reports on community councils across Venezuela, which supporters see as a form of grassroots democracy and detractors consider to be operating on their own terms, far away from any regulation or state control.

The Colombian navy seized over one ton of cocaine in a search of a semi-submerged vessel and a nearby hiding place used by drug traffickers in the southwest province of Nariño, although the authorities were not able to make any arrests.

Southern Cone

After yesterday’s big reveal of the leaked Panama Papers, which implicated, among others, Argentine President Mauricio Macri in the global offshore financial industry, Macri has denied any wrongdoing in his connection to an offshore company in the Bahamas.

The Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca, which is at the center of the Panama Papers leaks, was accused by Brazilian prosecutors of a corruption scheme involving the Brazilian oil giant Petrobras back in January.

The New York Times’ Simon Romero has interviewed Brazilian Senator Delcídio do Amaral, whose testimony after being arrested on corruption charges has “betrayed his former comrades and brought the government of President Dilma Rousseff ever closer to collapse.”

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Brazilian Party to Split from Government Coalition, Increasing Likelihood of Rousseff’s Impeachment

Top Story — The Brazilian Democratic Movement Party is expected to officially split from President Dilma Rousseff’s governing coalition on Tuesday, dealing a possibly fatal blow to her presidency.

PMDB officials have said that 70 to 80 percent of its voting members will formally decide to break with the Workers’ Party, Reuters reported. The move will free PMDB party members to vote for Rousseff’s ouster and will strip the president of 69 out of 513 votes in the lower house of Congress, where the first phase of an inevitable impeachment process will take place. On Monday night, Brazil’s tourism minister handed Rousseff his resignation letter, becoming the first PMDB member to officially exit the coalition government.

The coalition’s split will comprise the strongest indication yet that Rousseff is unlikely to survive impeachment proceedings. The expected dissolution could see Rousseff suspended from office by Congress while the Senate makes the final vote on her impeachment. Her suspension could come as early as May, according to Reuters, at which point the leader of the PMDB, Vice President Michel Temer, would take over.

On Monday, the Brazilian Bar Association filed an impeachment petition against Rousseff, charging the president with fiscal backpedaling, obstruction of justice and with according tax-exempt status to soccer governing body FIFA during the 2014 World Cup. The bar association petition joins a dozen others waiting to be reviewed by one of Rousseff’s most vociferous critics, lower house Speaker Eduardo Cunha—himself the subject of an ongoing corruption investigation.

Rousseff has seen her approval ratings plummet as she struggles to contain a worsening economic recession and the fallout from a massive corruption probe that has tarnished leading figures in her Workers’ Party, including her presidential predecessor and mentor, the once-extraordinarily popular Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The former Brazilian president left office in 2010 with an 80 percent approval rating, according to polling firm Ibope, but accusations that he knew about the multi-billion dollar kickback scheme involving the state-run oil company Petrobras and several of Brazil’s leading construction firms have tarnished his reputation.

On March 3, Brazilian Federal Police detained the former president for questioning over a separate investigation into his alleged trading of political favors for personal construction projects. Rousseff’s decision to nominate Silva as minister, on March 17, was perceived by Workers’ Party critics as an attempt to shield Silva from the probe by providing him with the legal protection awarded to senior officials. Brazil’s Supreme Court is expected to rule later this week on whether Silva can become a minister.

Brazilians have taken to the streets on an almost daily basis to both support and protest the current government. Few Brazilians, however, support a potential Temer presidency, despite Rousseff’s free-falling approval ratings and the Workers’ Party’s crumbling reputation. Like many of Rousseff’s rivals — including those who make up the impeachment committee — the vice president faces charges of corruption over his alleged involvement in an illegal ethanol-buying scheme. If a general election were to take place today, polling firm Datafolha found that only one percent of Brazilians would vote for Temer — a man once compared by an opponent to “a butler from a horror movie.”

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

A police chief and six other officers were arrested in the Mexican state of Veracruz for their alleged connection to the disappearances of three people last seen being detained by law enforcement on March 19.

The Mexican government has fined the Mexico branch of Spanish construction giant OHL $4.1 million for inadequate financial reporting, the latest in a series of corruption allegations made against the company.

Caribbean

Former Cuban President Fidel Castro published a near 1,600 word letter in the official Communist Party newspaper, Granma, criticizing U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent visit to the island, outlining previous aggressions by the United States against Cuba and reminding Cubans that “we do not need the empire to give us anything.”

A U.S. federal judge ruled Monday that a modified tangible-property tax levied against retailer Walmart by the Puerto Rican government is invalid. The tax, placed on the island territory’s largest employer, was designed to generate much-needed income for a government attempting to pay creditors and restructure its debt.

Central America

Former Honduran President Rafael Callejas plead guilty in U.S. federal court to conspiracy to commit racketeering and wire fraud charges after admitting to receiving and distributing bribes in exchange for awarding lucrative broadcasting contracts during his tenure as the head of the Honduran football federation.

El Salvador’s national police commissioner announced that they will not negotiate with violent gangs following the dissemination of video in which masked men claiming to represent the country’s three largest gangs agreed to stop crime-related killings in the country in exchange for an end to an anticipated government crackdown.

A California U.S. Coast Guard crew released a video on Monday revealing a March 3 seizure of a semi-submersible vessel off the Pacific coast of Panama containing more than $200 million in cocaine, the fifth interception of a submarine-like boat since June 2015.

Andes

On the same day that Human Rights Watch warned of impunity for Colombian army soldiers accused of orchestrating “false positives” killings of civilians in the war against the FARC, an army general turned himself in Monday upon hearing of new homicide charges against him in connection with the practice.

The Caracas-based Telesur media network has lost the financial support of Argentina, no longer an ideological patron since the end of the presidency of the leftist Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

Southern Cone

Argentina’s government gained additional leverage on Monday in its longstanding dispute with the United Kingdom over the Falkland islands, after the U.N. ruled to expand its maritime territory to include the islands and beyond.

A dispute over water is brewing between Bolivia and Chile, after the latter said on Monday it will countersue over the status of the border Silala river, access to which the landlocked Bolivia is seeking in a suit in the International Court of Justice.

Israel backed down from a diplomatic feud with Brazil on Monday, quietly withdrawing its proposal of a West Bank settler as ambassador to the South American nation, which protested his appointment on human rights grounds.

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Prosecutors Call for Arrest of Brazil Ex-President Lula

Top Story — Prosecutors in the Brazilian state of São Paulo lodged an official request on Thursday for the arrest of ex-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, arguing that the move will keep him from meddling with an investigation.

Silva has been charged with money laundering, grand larceny and misrepresentation of assets in relation to a luxury beachfront property that, according to prosecutors’ charges, he secretly owns. The call for an arrest comes at the end of a week-long period that also saw the former president forcibly questioned and detained by Federal Police for four hours.

The near-daily developments surrounding Silva, popularly known by his nickname Lula, have gripped the South American nation. Brazilians are now divided between those who continue to stand behind one of the most popular presidents in Brazilian history, and those who see the crumbling of his public image as long overdue.

Revelations of a multi-billion dollar kickback scheme at state oil firm Petrobras have ensnared several high-ranking officials in the Workers’ Party, which has been in power for 13 years and was co-founded by Silva. The former president’s association with construction executives also implicated in the scheme has tarnished his image as an anti-elite, according to The New York Times.

Concerns among legislators about the expanding corruption scandal threaten to hasten the dissolution of the coalition aligned with Silva’s successor and mentee President Dilma Rousseff, Reuters reported Thursday, further destabilizing Rousseff’s protection from congressional impeachment proceedings this year. The PMDB party, led by Rousseff’s Vice President Michel Temer, will reportedly move on Saturday to allow its members more autonomy to vote in favor of Rousseff’s ouster.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

Five Mexican marines have been arrested in connection with the 2013 disappearance of a man whose body was later found with bullet wounds, according to a statement from Amnesty International.

Mexico’s economy remains open to globalization despite the closing-off of other states, according to The Economist, citing a World Bank study which calculates that Mexico, with 44 trade deals, has one of the most open economies in the world.

The number of children and families caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border dropped again in February, following a 65 percent dip in January, though concerns remain that numbers will rise again in anticipation of the U.S. presidential elections.

Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said in a debate that she would not deport any undocumented immigrants from the United States except for violent criminals and terrorists, a break from U.S. President Barack Obama’s immigration policy that could greatly increase the number of people allowed to stay in the country and a move praised by immigration rights groups.

Caribbean

Over 50 major members of the U.S. publishing industry are petitioning the White House and Congress to address the Cuba embargo’s impact on books and other educational materials, calling it “counter to American ideals of free expression” and arguing that books can facilitate social change.

Puerto Rico’s embattled power utility cut off the electricity at a hospital in the southern town of Guayama with nearly $4 million in unpaid bills as part of the agency’s effort to collect money amid the territory’s economic crisis.

Central America

Over 200 human rights groups and United Nations experts are urging the Honduran government to provide security for a key witness who was injured in the attack that killed indigenous activist Berta Cáceres earlier this month .

Andes

The Organization of American States said that they will monitor Peru’s upcoming election after former candidate Julio Guzmán solicited international support to overturn the electoral council’s decision to disqualify him based on a procedural technicality, a move which strongly improved the prospects for front-runner Keiko Fujimori.

Venezuelan opposition lawmakers passed on Thursday the first stage of a bill to enable a presidential recall against President Nicolás Maduro, a decision his ruling socialist party derided as an attempted coup.

Southern Cone

The Brazilian health ministry has committed $2.8 million to combat the Zika Virus, funding a top biomedical institute Fiocruz that will work in partnership with U.S. National Institute of Health to develop a vaccine and research the disease.

The Chilean fishing industry has lost $800 million from the 23 million farmed salmon killed by a coastal algae bloom, an environmental phenomenon that scientists attribute to higher seawater temperatures from El Niño and climate change.

The Uruguayan ministry of the interior said Thursday that the Islamic convert who fatally stabbed a Jewish man did not have any connection to Islamic radical networks online.

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Former Brazilian President Silva Charged by São Paulo Prosecutors

Top Story — Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was indicted on Wednesday for grand larceny and money laundering, among other crimes, over his alleged relationship with a construction firm that saw him trade government contracts for personal favors.

The firm, OAS, has been implicated in the corruption scheme unfolding at state oil giant Petrobras. The charges against Silva place additional pressure on the once-mightily popular leader, less than one week after he was detained for questioning by federal police over his role in the Petrobras scheme, and four days ahead of nationwide anti-Workers’ Party demonstrations scheduled for this Sunday.

A judge will still need to accept the charges filed on Wednesday, however, before Silva officially becomes a defendant in the sweeping federal probe.

The charges against Silva stem from renovations made to a weekend home in the Brazilian countryside and a beachfront triplex apartment in the popular resort town of Guarujá. Prosecutors contend that Silva secretly co-owns both properties, and that renovations were made to them in exchange for political favors (link in Portuguese). The beachfront property is listed under construction firm OAS.

The former president has denied the accusations, saying that he had only ever been to the apartment on two occasions, and that the country house is owned by friends who have let him stay there in the past. An expert consulted by The Associated Press said that no documentation has yet been found linking the beachfront property to Silva, but that the probe into the country house may turn up evidence of money laundering.

Silva left office in 2010 with record-high approval ratings. But the revelations of an expansive graft scheme at Petrobras, as well as a deepening economic recession, has led to a plunge in his once-unmatched popularity. His Workers’ Party successor, current President Dilma Rousseff, is experiencing historically low approval ratings and faces calls for her impeachment.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox said in reaction to Donald Trump’s election gains that the presidential hopeful’s victory would result in a trade disaster between the two nations, citing Trump’s stated objective to impose tariffs on goods imported from Mexico.

Mexico’s interior ministry assured the public that a stolen canister of radioactive waste that disappeared over a week ago has been found and remains sealed, the third incident of radioactive theft reported since late 2013.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund sued the University System of Georgia in a federal suit Wednesday for denying in-state tuition to two college students who entered the United States illegally as children but have temporary legal status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Caribbean

A federal judge in Puerto Rico has ruled against same-sex marriage, deeming the U.S. territory exempt from the Supreme Court’s decision to allow the practice anywhere in the United States and blocking an initiative to forbid enforcement of Puerto Rico’s ban against it.

President Barack Obama will not meet with former Cuban President Fidel Castro during his visit to the island nation later this month, a U.S. national security advisor told Reuters, as the trip seeks to forge stronger future ties between the two countries rather than dwell upon past Cold War tensions.

Meanwhile, Cuban state newspaper Granma has published an editorial in anticipation of the visit, indicating that Cuba will not shift its national policies to facilitate normalized relations with the United States.

Central America

Guatemalan national police have arrested the country’s former congressional leader on charges of bribery and influence trafficking for his alleged attempt to pay off a judge. The arrest is part of a larger corruption case involving the country’s former president and vice president, both of whom are currently imprisoned.

Andes

Peru’s electoral council announced that it will not be allowing Julio Guzman, the main presidential contender to front-runner Keiko Fujimori, to run for office, claiming that his own party broke rules in the process of selecting him as their candidate. Wealthy businessman César Acuña was also barred from running after the electoral court alleged he had handed out cash to potential voters on the campaign trail.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced that the government may not be able to meet an impending deadline for the peace deal with the FARC, set for March 23, due to disputed points within the deal.

Despite progress on the historic peace deal in Colombia, The Guardian reports that left-wing activists continue to be killed across the country, including a string of killings in the past few weeks.

Maximilien Arvelaiz, Venezuela’s charge d’affaires in Washington, has withdrawn from his post and returned to Venezuela after U.S. President Barack Obama renewed a series of sanctions on several Venezuelan officials.

Southern Cone

Argentina has settled with seven additional creditors holding sovereign bond debt by agreeing to pay an additional $190 million, thus bringing a 14-year debt battle closer to a resolution.

Brazil announced that it had lowered the size of a baby’s head circumference required for it to be diagnosed with microcephaly in order to align its norms with the World Health Organization, but the number of cases reported in the country continues to rise. The WHO has said that a vaccine for the virus is still years away.

The Guardian reports on a toxic algal bloom that has killed millions of salmon in Chile, devastating the country’s salmon exporting industry, which is the second largest in the world.

Chilean Gen. Sergio Arellano Stark, infamous for leading a death squad called “Caravan of Death” during the country’s 1973 military coup, died Wednesday at the age of 94. He had been sentenced to 6 years in jail in 2008 for his crimes, but was saved from jail time because he had Alzheimer’s disease.

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Former Chief of Top Brazilian Construction Firm Sentenced to 19 Years in Corruption Case

Top Story — A federal judge in Brazil sentenced the ex-president of Latin America’s largest construction company, Odebrecht, to 19 years and four months in prison on Tuesday for his role in the ongoing corruption scandal surrounding the state-run oil company Petrobras.

Marcelo Odebrecht was arrested last year along with directors from other construction companies being investigated for their possible involvement in the case, but is so far the most prominent executive to be convicted, in a scheme that allegedly involved payment of more than $2 billion in bribes in exchange for Petrobras contracts.

The scandal has engulfed many of Brazil’s most wealthy and powerful. On Friday, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was taken in for questioning by police. His home was raided by authorities in search of evidence for his alleged connection to the scheme, which he denies.

Odebrecht’s lawyer, Nabor Bulhoes, insists on his client’s innocence and said that “none of the documents produced so far links Marcelo Odebrecht to any illicit act being investigated,” and that he will appeal his client’s conviction. Although his sentence was handed down on Tuesday, he has been in prison since June and resigned from his position in December.

Per Brazil’s constitution, Odebrecht will remain incarcerated in a special cell outside of the general prison population, because he is a university graduate.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

A new report by the U.S. State Department suggests some 90 percent of the cocaine brought into the United States travels through Central America and Mexico, a shift away from the Caribbean that the authors attributed to a rise in trafficking in Guatemala and El Salvador.

The daughter of drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán who gave an exclusive interview to the Guardian newspaper last week is now claiming that the paper “libeled” her and told “many lies” when they quoted her discussing an alleged agreement between Mexican government officials and her father to plan his escape and subsequent freedom before betraying him.

A Vice News report details the case of Nestora Salgado, a dual U.S. and Mexican citizen who has spent more than two years in a Mexican prison and who led one of the self-defense militias that grew in Guerrero state during a surge in cartel violence in 2012. Salgado is due to be arraigned on new kidnapping and murdered charges her family has called false.

Caribbean

Obama administration officials are expected to announce increased travel and trade privileges between the United States and Cuba on March 17, including more categories for acceptable travel and relaxed trade and banking rules, just five days before Obama flies to Havana, the first visit by a U.S. president since 1928.

The Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called the spread of the Zika virus in Puerto Rico a “tremendous challenge and crisis” and said the CDC has been working with the Puerto Rican government to protect pregnant women from contracting the disease, which has been linked to birth defects.

Central America

A former participant in the bribery scheme that led to the ouster and subsequent imprisonment of Guatemala’s ex-Vice President Roxana Baldetti and ex-President Otto Pérez Molina has testified that bribe money paid to Baldetti’s private secretary was intended for both leaders.

The Honduran attorney general’s office has reportedly issued an immigration alert against the sole witness to the murder of Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres, preventing him from leaving the country and returning to his native Mexico, and causing an outcry among observers who now fear for his safety.

Andes

Venezuela’s Democratic Unity coalition, the opposition alliance controlling the National Assembly, on Tuesday launched a multi-pronged strategy to oust President Nicolás Maduro, involving street protests, efforts to pass a constitutional amendment and hold a recall referendum. The announcement of the push had been postponed twice in the past week due to infighting among the fractious coalition.

InSight Crime reports on mass displacement due to clashes between drug-trafficking paramilitaries and leftist guerillas in western Colombia, a development that may foreshadow future conflicts once the peace deal between the FARC and the Colombian government goes through.

Ecuadorian authorities have publicly rejected the U.S. State Department’s drug trafficking report on the Andean country, which referred to a significant presence of transnational criminal groups.

Southern Cone

The head of Argentina’s state-run oil company YPF has reportedly been asked to “step down next month as President Mauricio Macri plans to restructure the company, part of his broader agenda of market-friendly economic reforms.

Maria da Penha, a resident of Rio de Janeiro’s Vila Autodromo slum near the city’s Olympic Park, refused to leave her residence until authorities bulldozed her home early Tuesday to make way for the Olympic Games, starting on August 5.

A report by the World Health Organization suggests that the transmission of the Zika virus through sexual contact is more common than originally thought.

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Brazil Divided Over Questioning of Ex-President Silva

Top Story — The questioning by Federal Police of former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Friday morning has split the country along party lines, and become an issue of contention among Brazil’s highest-ranking justice officials.

In an interview with daily newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, Supreme Court Minister Marco Aurélio Mello decried the decision, made by Federal Judge Sergio Moro, to effectively detain Silva for questioning. Mello said that coerced questioning is an appropriate move only when “a citizen shows resistance and doesn’t show up to testify. And Lula was never subpoenaed.”

Moro, the judge overseeing the multi-billion-dollar graft case at partially state-run oil company Petrobrás, said that he chose to employ coercive questioning to avoid any chaos, as occurred in February at a forum where the former president was expected to testify. According to a police report handed over to Moro on Sunday, Silva told officers at the scene that he would only leave his residence in handcuffs.

Silva was taken in for questioning by Federal Police officers from his residence in São Paulo state on Friday morning, as part of a massive graft investigation known colloquially as Operation Car Wash, which has taken down key members of the ruling Workers’ Party. The development immediately mobilized party faithful and opponents, who clashed in front of Silva’s residence and at Congonhas Airport, where the former president was being questioned.

On Thursday, weekly magazine ISTOÉ revealed the contents of a plea deal being negotiated by Workers’ Party Senator Delcídio do Amaral, in which he asserts that Silva knew about the scheme at Petrobrás, and that current President Dilma Rousseff attempted to interfere in the investigation. Rousseff repudiated the accusations, saying that, if they were in fact made as part of a plea deal, they were spurred “by the immoral and petty desire for revenge.” Rousseff expressed “total unconformity” with Silva’s coerced questioning.

Silva, who addressed Workers’ Party members during a rally late on Friday, did not back down from his previously expressed desire to run for president in 2018. “If they are a cent more honest than I,” he said about his accusers, “then I will leave politics.”

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

Opposition politicians in Mexico are urging an investigation into comments made by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s daughter that her father “poured money into politics” and that authorities were involved in his escape from a maximum-security prison last year.

National Geographic photographed the U.S.-Mexico border to reveal what the security between the two countries actually looks like amid ongoing speculation and controversy during the U.S. presidential campaign.

A U.S. federal immigration lawyer argued that toddlers can defend themselves in court, saying in a deposition that he’s taught immigration law to three and four-year-olds, a statement that has generated controversy as increased numbers of young unaccompanied migrants have been facing deportation hearings.

Caribbean

Health officials in Haiti are concerned over a recent outbreak of alcohol poisoning from a popular, locally made moonshine, with two congressmen calling for a special investigative commission.

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio won 71 percent of the vote in Puerto Rico’s Republican primary election Sunday. He was the only candidate to campaign in the U.S. territory, and with his large margin of victory managed to take all 23 available delegates.

The New York Times highlights the strategic maneuvering by both Cuba and the United States involved in President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Cuba due to the high stakes involved in the trip, “which can either be the vindication or the refutation of Obama’s approach in Cuba.”

On Sunday, U.S. electronic music duo Major Lazer performed a free concert for tens of thousands of fans in front of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, making them the first major U.S. artist to perform in Cuba since 1962.

Central America

At least 10 people were shot and killed by five men dressed in police uniforms and wielding AK-47 assault rifles in a billiards hall in the Honduran capital city of Tegucigalpa on Saturday.

Honduras’ ruling party proposed current president Juan Orlando Hernández as their candidate for 2017 presidential elections, a move that will likely reignite an ongoing debate over re-election in the country following the Supreme Court’s decision last April to strike down a law that banned presidents from running for a second term.

Thousands of people attended the funeral of famous Honduran indigenous activist Berta Cáceres, whose murder last week has been internationally condemned.

A remote-controlled bomb exploded on a public bus in San José Pinula, Guatemala, early Sunday, killing at least one person and injuring seven more.

Andes

The Guardian reviews the details of a male prostitution scandal that was allegedly led by senior Colombian police officials, and reportedly saw high-ranking officers and lawmakers pay for sexual services from cadets in the national police academy. The fallout from the scandal has led to the resignation of a senator, an investigation into the chief of police and the forced resignation of the journalist responsible for breaking the story.

A BBC report looks into the debate surrounding a controversial bill in Venezuela that would provide residents of government-funded housing units the deeds to their properties, thus allowing them to sell at market value.

Venezuelan investigators are looking into the disappearance of 28 miners on Friday, who some fear may have been killed by a gang attempting to control a mine near the town of Tumeremo.

Bolivia and Russia’s state-owned atomic energy company have provisionally agreed to build a $300 million nuclear facility on the outskirts of La Paz, a decision that has been met with concern by opposition politicians who fear the negative environmental risks.

Scientists in Colombia have confirmed the first cases of Zika-related birth defects in three children, with researchers expecting a rise in birth defect cases in the coming months. U.S. researchers, though cautioning that their research is not yet definitive, have recently found that the virus kills tissue found in developing brains.

Southern Cone

The New York Times has published an extensive “snapshot” of the growing corruption scandal in Brazil, detailing the biggest events and major players.

Two women were injured in a Buenos Aires shooting that took place during a gathering of the small, leftist New Encounter party, a sign that party officials describe as a “situation of violence in which some feel empowered to react in this way” following the election of conservative politician Mauricio Macri to the presidency.

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