The orphans of Odebrecht

The first night in jail was probably not too uncomfortable for Ecuador’s once-powerful vice president Jorge Glas. But this wasn´t where he was supposed to end up after president Lenin Moreno moved into Carondelet palace in May. Like Moreno himself, the impact of the region-wide Odebrecht corruption scandal that landed Glas behind bars was underestimated from the start.

An Ecuadorean court yesterday granted a request by the attorney general’s office to detain Glas for alleged bribery and conspiracy, accusations that have already tainted senior politicians from Brasilia to Bogotá after the contractor signed a 2016 international plea deal over its elaborate bribery scheme. The region´s new heroes are state prosecutors like Brazil´s Rodrigo Janot, Ecuador´s Diana Salazar and Venezuela´s Luisa Ortega.

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Venezuela´s last chirp?

One wonders if Venezuela’s energy minister Nelson Martinez has packed extra underwear on his new tour of Opec and non-Opec oil producers. The streets of Caracas are ablaze with protests, and Opec’s traditional price hawk has become a crippled bird.

It is a rich irony that the accelerating downfall of Venezuela´s once-thriving oil industry isn´t enough to realize the country´s ambitious oil price aspirations. The Orinoco oil belt is still mostly an undeveloped wasteland, and grand schemes for offshore gas have given way to gruesome images of spiraling canisters of tear gas.

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Will Brazil’s vice beget virtue?

We’re learning day by day that the wrecking ball of corruption piloted by Odebrecht and other Brazilian contractors swung far and wide across Latin America in the 2000s. Projects to build pipelines, highways and other strategic infrastructure are stalled, and senior politicians are quivering.

Latin American prosecutors gathered in Brasilia yesterday to coordinate their investigative efforts. Spurred by Brazil’s Car Wash probe of state-controlled Petrobras and Odebrecht’s December 2016 international plea deal, the prosecutors want to find out who took bribes, and how much of the loot from overpriced projects their governments might recover.

The rot may have gone straight to the top. Peru is after former president Alejandro Toledo. Colombia, Panama and Chile are scrutinizing how their sitting presidents financed their electoral campaigns.  Continue reading