Ex-Vice President of Odebrecht Found Dead in Rio Apartment

Former vice president of the Brazil-based construction conglomerate, Henrique Valladares was one of the main informants of the company’s corruption scandal.

A former top Odebrecht executive was found dead in his Rio de Janeiro apartment Tuesday night after cutting a deal with state prosecutors to provide confessions and accomplices of the company’s systemic corruption to buy out politicians in return for public works projects.

The ex-vice president of the Brazil-based multinational construction conglomerate, Henrique Valladares, was one of the main informants of the company’s corruption scandals that amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars in kickbacks to high-ranking elected officials in several Latin American countries. He signed with the state prosecutor's office to confess his and the company’s wrong doings, in exchange for a reduced sentence. He was found dead at his residence in Rio de Janeiro Tuesday night by relatives.

Medical officials performed an autopsy on the body of Valladares, but failed to establish his mode of death, which was pronounced as "indeterminate." According to the police, his body is now with family members.

Valladares was one of the main executives, among about 100, to collaborate with the Brazilian judicial department. Their agreement meant the former top business partner would provide critical information about the multitude of bribes paid to Brazilian officials in exchange for their unfairly contracting Odebrecht.  and in several Latin American and African countries, including Colombia, Peru, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.

Among other confessions, Valladares said he approved the illegal contribution of 50 million Brazilian reais (about US$12.5 million) in foreign accounts to then Senator Aecio Neves, who was defeated by Dilma Rousseff in the second round of the 2014 presidential elections.

The deceased VP also accused the former Minister of Mines and Energy, Edison Lobao, of accepting bribes in exchange for public contracts in the energy sector. According to Valladares, Lobao demanded a bribe from the company to construct the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant.

He also confessed that Odebrecht paid off Indigenous and unions in the region to refrain from protesting power plants in the Amazon.

So far, it’s known that the construction company also paid out millions of dollars in Peru, Colombia, Dominican Republic, and Panama, as well as to officials in African countries. State prosecutors in Peru recently tallied that Odebrecht allegedly gave out over US$60 million in bribes to Peruvian officials, including four former presidents.

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Lula da Silva accuses his jailers of lying to the Brazilian people

In his first exclusive interview since he was imprisoned 526 days ago, former Brazilian president Inacio Lula da Silva talks about prison, Latin America’s future and Lava Jato Operation.

“I’m turning 73 years old but I’ve got the energy of a 20-year-old boy”, said the former Brazilian president during his first interview to an Argentinian daily since he was imprisoned April 7, 2018.  Sitting behind a small desk and guarded by a police officer, he confessed he has planned to live 120 years, therefore, he needs a lot of strength because otherwise “life would be boring.”

The interview took place in Curitiba’s prison, in Parana where he is held in solitary confinement 22 of the 24 hours of a day.  “The day I stop believing in justice, I wonder what I am going to do.  Not because a judge has been a scoundrel, you can’t judge the whole system because of that mistake. The problem is that I hope, with peace, that Supreme Court takes a decision. I’ve got the Habeas Corpus which is due to be submitted to vote” soon, Lula said answering questions about teh progress of his case.

His defense team hopes with optimism that in the coming months Lula could be released or at least he be granted house arrest.  

During the interview Lula, talked about several aspects of current Latin American reality.  He thanked Argentinian presidential candidate Alberto Fernandez for paying him a visit and advised him to rule for “the poor” and never lie to them.

“I could have left Brazil but I’m still here because I have for witnesses of my truth: myself, God, the judge and the prosecutors.  I proved my innocence.  In fact, I already did.  What I want is them to prove the opposite.  I want and continue to wait for them to show I’m guilty," the former president told reporters from Pagina12.

"I’m waiting to see the record of an embezzled dollar by me.  The only crime I’ve ever committed was showing Brazilian elite that is possible that the common people eat beef; travel to Bariloche, Buenos Aires or Miami; it’s possible for them to have a home, go to the University, have access to culture, entertainment, theaters, cinemas or restaurants.”

During his administration, Lula created over 22 million of jobs, raised minimum salary to 75% and put 52 million hectares in disposition for an agrarian reform.  When asked about the mistakes of Workers Party administrations, Lula went on to point that the PT, compared to traditional right-wing parties, had little time in power and yet managed to achieve much more than the traditional parties of Brazil.

"We sent more students to universities in 13 years than they did in a century.  If I had to do self-criticism, I would ask myself: Why didn’t I do more?  Why didn’t I increase people’s salary more?  Why didn’t I generate more jobs or sent more students to university?  That’s the critique I would do.”

Lula went on to speak about the Lava Jato corruption case in Brazil.  “The problem with Operation Lava Jato is that it stopped being a corruption investigation to become a political party. There is a pact between media and Operation Lava Jato. All the lies of Lava Jato are published as truth by the Brazilian press."

He went on to question why the big Brazilian media organizations did not cover the Intercept reports on his case.  "Well, for traditional Brazilian press there is no Intercept (…) The media does not want to get rid of Lava Jato because when Lula gets his freedom back, a big part of it will lose its credibility.”

Finally, with the eyes set on the future, Lula said his role now is to contribute to forming young people with more energy and willing to make a change.  “Brazil has a lot of good people. There are several interesting governors, new people in politics.  I hope Brazil doesn’t need me anymore.  I hope we have new figures, new women, new men so we can participate in an electoral process”.

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Death toll in Brazil hospital fire rises to 10

The death toll in a hospital fire that forced the evacuation of patients in Rio de Janeiro has risen to at least 10, Brazilian firefighters said Friday.

Four firefighters were hospitalized after battling the overnight blaze at Badim Hospital and about 90 patients were transferred to at least seven other hospitals, according to the fire department.

Television images showed medical workers tending to patients sitting in wheelchairs with IV poles beside them in the street, some on sheets and mattresses. Elderly and intensive care patients were among those rescued.

Staffers in surgical masks wheeled medical equipment in the road as smoke billowed from the building after fire broke out Thursday night.

Marcelo Crivella, the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, visited the hospital on Friday morning and declared an official mourning period of three days.

Authorities are investigating the cause of the fire. A social worker and other Badim Hospital staff are assisting relatives of patients, the hospital said Friday.

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Brazilian president wants to privatize strategic economic sectors

Brasilia, September 10 (RHC)-- Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is getting ready to implement an ambitious process of privatization of state-owned assets related to energy production, port infrastructures, gas extraction and natural resources. 

Brazilian independent outlets are warning that the Bolsonaro administration operates on three simultaneous fronts to destroy the Brazilian State: the privatization of state-owned companies, the cutting of social policies and spending and the depletion of institutions focused on knowledge production and planning.  

Observers say that among the most "desirable" economic activities for privatization are those in the electricity, oil and gas sectors.  Regarding the sale of Brazilian electricity companies, it is known that a possible buyer would be State Grid, a Chinese company which is the largest energy distributor in its country.

“One of its possible acquisitions could be the Minas Gerais Energy Company, which Governor Romeu Zema intends to sell despite it has recorded its best half-yearly balance,” Brasil de Fato reported.

Three other companies from China and one from Italy are also interested in the Brazilian sources of energy.  In oil-related assets, the main interested party is Equinor, a Norwegian company which already operates in Brazil.

"Bolsonaro has ways to stop fuel price hikes but what he is doing is privatizing Petrobras more and more, which will make cooking fuel, diesel and gas even more expensive. Stop privatizing Petrobras!"  The statement reads: "Gas is expensive because Bolsonaro wants it to be expensive."

To take a first "small" step towards privatizations, the far-right Brazilian president published a resolution earlier this week that allows private participation in Lenguas Maranhenses, Jericoacoara and Iguazu, three national parks which are part of the "National Program of Desestatization "(PND).

Privatization projects promoted by Bolsonaro are expressions of old-fashioned neoliberalism. From the beginning of the 21st century, the “reestatization” of the electricity sector is being imposed worldwide, part of a growing policy trend towards the repositioning of state-owned enterprises and utilities.

“What is being defended is basically the shrinking of the private sector,” the president of the Perseu Abramo Foundation, Marcio Pochmann, argued and explained that the 2008 financial crisis showed that the source of the management problem in capitalists economies lies in the private sector rather than in the public one, as opposed to to the current Bolsonaro plan.

"At this stage of capitalism, the country that does not control the largest company has no possibilities to control investment decisions in its national space," he said and recalled that while 1 out of 20 of the world's largest companies were state-owned in 2005, ten years later that share jumped to 1 in 4.

According to Brasil de Fato, 7 out of 10 Brazilians are currently against privatization. So far, however, “there is no organized or massive movement in the country to oppose this privatization agenda,” stated federal lawmaker Glauber Braga (Psol-RJ).

Edited by Ed Newman
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Brazilians celebrate Amazon Rainforest Day with protests

Brasilia, September 5 (RHC)-- On September 5th, known as Amazon Rainforest Day, social and environmental movements, trade unions, religious groups, human rights activists, gender rights activists, professors and students are holding protests in several Brazilian cities ​​​​in rejection of President Jair Bolsonaro's policies which encourage the conversion of the rainforests into agricultural lands.

“Not only has the fire destroyed the Amazon. What destroyed our Amazonian forests, rivers and communities are large companies, agribusiness, hydroelectric and timber concessions,” said Moroni Bemuyal Guimaraes, the Movement of People Affected by Barragens (MAB) spokesperson.

“In the state of Amapa, agricultural entrepreneurs are entering with force. Here we have four hydroelectrics that will generate a great havoc, mainly among riparian peoples, fishermen, Afro-descendant populations and indigenous communities.”

So far, the Brazilian local press has confirmed rallies in Belem, Itaituba, Altamira e Maraba (state of Para); Fortaleza, Caucaia and Jaguaribara (state of Ceara) and Manaus, Macapa, Porto Alegre, Porto Velho, Brasilia, Sao Paulo and Eldorado.

Preserving the Amazon should be one of our priorities; more and more, however, we see that the opposite is happening in the Bolsonaro administration. On Saturday 7 we will take to the streets in defense of the Amazon and education. September 5, Amazon Day!

Additionally, on September 7,  Brazil's independence day, students will hold demonstrations to defend the Amazon and public education, both of which are also being threatened by Bolsonaro's privatization program.

Protests called by Brazilian organizations will be accompanied by activities such as conferences, music festivals and parades.  With respect to the ongoing “cycle of exploitation” of Amazonian natural resources, Frede Renero, a MAB activist, said that the commercial use of forests does not usually generate significant revenues for the working people.

"Defending the Amazon is very important considering the previos economic cycles that this region has already lived, which showed that the population lost rights and their living conditions did not improve," Renero said.

"The Amazon should not serve to boost the situation of big bankers, landowners and companies that have been appropriating more and more territory with the intention of getting more money."

At the illegal land markets operating within the southern region of the Amazon, where the so-called 'deforestation arch' is located, “a 2.5-hectare pasture property can be worth up to US$2,430... a rainforest area of the same size, however, is traded for only US$120,” Tatiana Farah holds in an investigation published by BuzzFeed-Brasil on Sep. 2.

“Deforesters want lands. Their business is as follows: they deforest now, wait a while, and sell after forming a farm,” said Adelario Ronnau, who had been living in the Apui municipality, at the state of Amazonas, since 1983.

Edited by Ed Newman
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Anish Bhanwala, Adarsh Singh and Anhad Jawanda Miss Out on Finals in Shooting World Cup

Rio de Janeiro: India missed out on an Olympic quota in the men's 25m rapid fire pistol after the young trio of Anish Bhanwala, Adarsh Singh and Anhad Jawanda failed to enter the finals in the World Cup here.

Anish shot a rapid fire round of 286 to go with his precision round of 291 for a total of 577, landing him an 18th-place finish. Adarsh and Ahnad shot 576 and 573 to end at the 25th and 30th spot, respectively.

Among the six finalists there were two Germans and two Chinese, both of which nations had exhausted their quota of two berths in earlier competitions.

Cuban Pupo Leuris had also secured his Tokyo quota earlier, which enabled Pakistan's Muhammad Khalil Akhtar, who shot 586 for a fifth-spot finish, to claim one of the two available quotas. The second was won by Korean Kim Junhong who finished seventh with a score of 585.

India are the table toppers of the tournament with three gold, three silver and one bronze medal.

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Cuban foreign minister calls for response to Amazon disaster

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez called on Monday for increased awareness of the magnitude of the disaster in the flame-ridden Amazon and urged action.

On Twitter, the Cuban minister stressed that for more than 20 days, 'the flames have consumed the lungs of the planet, everyone's oxygen.'

He added that the consequences will be dire for humanity. Rodriguez also stressed that the Amazon jungle is everyone's heritage.

According to different sources, more than a million indigenous people in the Amazon are endangered by the wildfires, as is the rich biodiversity of that region of the planet.

The wildfires have raised concern among thousands of Brazilians who have spoken out against President Jair Bolsonaro's inertia on the issue.

For its part, the G7 decided to unblock emergency aid of 20 million euros for the Amazon, mainly to send planes to fight the fires, according to French President Emmanuel Macron.

In addition, the G7 approved a medium-term aid plan for reforestation that will be presented to the UN General Assembly in late September.

It will require the consent of the Brazilian government and joint work with NGOs and local populations.

According to the latest statistics, 79,513 fires have been detected in Brazil since early this year, more than half of them in the Amazon.

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Warplanes Dump Water On Amazon As Brazil Military Begins Fighting Fires

Brasilia/Porto Velho: Brazilian warplanes are dumping water on the burning forest in the Amazon state of Rondonia, responding to a global outcry over the destruction of the world's largest tropical rain forest.

As of Sunday, President Jair Bolsonaro had authorized military operations in seven states to combat raging fires in the Amazon, responding to requests for assistance from their local governments, a spokeswoman for his office said.

Reuters accompanied a firefighting brigade near the state capital of Porto Velho, where there were areas larger than football fields that had been charred, but active fires were contained to small areas of individual trees.

The dozen or so yellow clad firefighters from environmental enforcement agency Ibama easily cleared brush from around a burning stump with a leaf blower, doused it with jets connected to water packs mounted on their backs and covered it in earth.

A video posted by the Defense Ministry on Saturday evening showed a military plane pumping thousands of liters (thousands of gallons) of water out of two giant jets as it passed through clouds of smoke close to the forest canopy.

7uqhvp6oThe Brazilian military has been tasked with fighting wildfires in the Amazon rainforest (Reuters)

The response comes as leaders of countries in the Group of Seven (G7) nations currently meeting in France expressed grave concerns over the fires.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday said the G7 was nearing a deal to provide "technical and financial help" to countries affected by the Amazon fires.

Nearly 80,000 fires have been registered across Brazil through Aug. 24, the highest since at least 2013, according to space research agency INPE.

Bolsonaro announced the military would be sent in on Friday after several days of criticism from the public and world leaders that Brazil's government was not doing anything to fight the fires.

He also said on Twitter he had accepted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's offer of a plane and specialized support for the firefighting operations, following a call between the two leaders.

But outside of Rondonia, the government had yet to provide any operational details for other states. The Defense Ministry said in a briefing on Saturday that 44,000 troops were available in Brazil's northern Amazon region but did not say how many would be used where and what they would do.

Military personnel around Porto Velho appeared to be largely coordinating firefighting efforts, according to a Reuters witness.

Asked for additional details, the Defense Ministry told Reuters in a statement that in all seven states that have asked for help, the military is planning operations to support firefighting initiatives already underway.

Justice Minister Sergio Moro had also authorized a force of military police to assist in fighting the fires, with 30 set to be sent from Brasilia to Porto Velho. The president's office posted to Twitter a photo of police officers on a plane bound for Rondonia set to arrive at noon.

Environment Minister Ricardo Salles posted a video showing a caravan of yellow fire prevention trucks and other government vehicles, saying they were on the ground responding in Rondonia.

Colombian President Ivan Duque said on Sunday he would seek a conservation pact with other Amazonian countries - first in bi-lateral meetings in Peru this week and then at the United Nations General Assembly.

"Colombia wants to lead a pact, a conservation pact, between the countries that have Amazon territory," Duque said after meeting with an indigenous community in the Amazonian city of Leticia in southern Colombia. "We must understand the protection of our Mother Earth and our Amazon is a duty, a moral duty."

The Amazon is the world's largest tropical rain forest and is seen as vital to the fight against climate change because of the vast amounts of carbon dioxide that it absorbs.

The Amazon, which provides 20% of the planet's oxygen, is home to an estimated one million indigenous people from up to 500 tribes as well some three million species of plants and animals, including jaguars, sloths, giant otters, river dolphins, howler monkeys, toucans, reptiles, frogs and insects.

Brazilian climate scientist Carlos Nobre said he worries if 20-25% of the ecosystem is destroyed that the Amazon could reach a tipping point, after which it would enter a self-sustaining period of dieback as the forest converts to savannah. Nobre warned that it is not far off with already 15-17% of the rain forest having been destroyed.

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