Impeachment Process of VP Glas Authorized by Ecuador's Assembly

Jorge Glas has been sentenced to six years in prison for corruption linked to the sprawling Odebrecht case in what his supporters are calling a 'political witch-hunt.'

A body within the Ecuadorian National Assembly has given the greenlight for an impeachment trial to take place against former Vice-President Jorge Glas after he was sentenced to six years in prison for corruption.

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Four of the seven lawmakers that make up the Legislative Administration Council voted in favor late Tuesday of the motion to authorize the prosecution commission within parliament to begin the impeachment process against Glas. 

The news comes just days after the Constitutional Court unanimously endorsed the launch of impeachment proceedings against the suspended official. The council had previously failed to pass the motion three times becausee of a lack of support in the top court. 

Glas, who was also the vice-president under former president Rafael Correa, now has five days to present his defence against the impeachment to the assembly. He can delegate a lawmaker to carry out his defence, which is likely to be the case given that he is already being held in preventive detention.

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Roberto Gomez, from the right-wing opposition CREO movement leading the case against Glas, also has five days to present his own arguments for impeachment, which will be analyzed to consider whether it meets the parameters established in the constitution.

Glas has been in detention since October, when charges were brought against him over receiving bribes from Brazilian construction company Odebrecht in return for awarding the scandal-ridden firm lucrative state contracts.

RELATED: Correa: Lenin Moreno is a 'Wolf in Sheep's Clothing' who was 'With the Opposition

Glas was elected vice-president in the second electoral round last April, with President Lenin Moreno as leader of the left-wing Alianza Pais. He served as vice president since 2013 under Correa, who has been critical of the trial against his ally, accusing the courts of many irregularities and saying that Glas is "innocent."

Lenin ran his presidential campaign under the leftist agenda of his predecessor but has largely broken from Correa and worked to appease right-wing political and economic actors in the country.

Correa and his supporters have accused the new president of “betraying” the ideals of the ruling party AP, which was founded by Correa more than a decade ago and argue that prosecuting Glas is a entirely political.

Odebrecht allegedly paid US$33.5 million in bribes to secure contracts in Ecuador. The opposition says that Correa's government was slow to investigate, although he rejects that.

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In Latest Scandal, Brazilian President Temer Accused of Buying Votes to Block Impeachment

Temer is accused of buying support to block the trial against him for corruption that could lead to his suspension or impeachment.

Brazilian President Michel Temer is facing accusations that he bribed lawmakers to assure their support ahead of his possible trial for corruption, a decision which is currently in the hands of the Lower House of Congress.

RELATED: Brazil's Temer Won't Resign and Says Nothing Will Destroy Him

Lawmakers from the leftist Worker's Party, or PT, will deliver the formal accusation to the Attorney General's office on Wednesday.

Paulo Pimenta, Wadih Damous and Paulo Teixeira allege the appointed president used his position and power to secure support against the corruption charges presented by Attorney General Rodrigo Janot to the Supreme Court, which is now being evaluated by the Lower House.

This week Temer received at least 30 lawmakers in the Planalto Palace in Brasilia according to the official agenda.Among them were 11 members of the Constitution and Justice Commission of the Lower House, who will decide if the charges against the president will proceed or not, according to Brasil 247

Temer's lawyer Antonio Claudio Mariz de Oliveira is expected to present part of his defense to the commission on Wednesday. For the accusation to be admitted it needs to have the vote of 34 of the 66 members of the commission.

RELATED: Second General Strike against President Temer's Reforms

After this, it will have up to five sessions to debate and vote on the final report by the commission speaker, Sergio Zveiter, who also belongs to Temer's ruling PMDB party.

The report will then be submitted to the Lower House for a vote, that needs the approval of 341 of the 513 lawmakers to be accepted.

Temer and his aide Rodrigo Rocha Loures are accused of receiving and approving bribes in the largest corruption investigation in the country known as Operation Car Wash.

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WikiLeaks’ Assange defies Ecuadorian warnings, will publish any evidence of corruption

Responding to comments from newly elected Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno warning Julian Assange not to ‘interfere’ in South American politics, WikiLeaks’ founder said Ecuador can be “confident” that any evidence of corruption will still be published.

Speaking at a ceremony at the Cochasqui archeological site in the Northern Andes on Thursday, President Moreno “respectfully” called on Assange “not to interfere in Ecuadorian politics, nor in the politics of its allies.”

@JulianAssange Ecuadorians can be confident that if WikiLeaks receives evidence of corruption in Ecuador it will be published.

@JulianAssange In any instance where there is a genuine legal barrier to me being the publisher I will recuse myself and my replacement will publish.

“His status does not allow him to talk about the politics of any country, let alone ours,” he said, according to CapitalNews.

In response, Assange, who is still under virtual house arrest inside Ecuador’s London embassy, sent out a series of tweets that seemed to imply he would fulfill his duty as a journalist to work in the “public interest,” regardless of the embassy’s hospitality.

He added that if there are any legal barriers to him publishing, he will find alternatives to assure that the material reaches the public.

Despite the warning, Moreno, who took office on Wednesday, also said his country “will ensure” Britain “allows the transfer of Mr. Assange to Ecuador or to the country in which he wishes to reside.”

Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy since 2012 in order to avoid being extradited to Sweden to face sex offence allegations.

 
© Stefan Wermuth

 

Although Swedish prosecutors dropped the case last week, British police say Assange could still be arrested for breaching bail conditions, which has forced him to remain in the embassy.

If arrested, Assange fears he will be extradited to the US for leaking classified material.

Appearing on the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy last Friday, Assange said there is still much to do before he can walk free.

“We have today won an important victory, but the road is far from over. The proper war is just commencing.

“The claim that the UK has the right to arrest me for seeking asylum in a case where there have been no charges is simply untenable,” Assange remarked.

“My legal staff have contacted the UK authorities and we hope to engage in a dialogue about what is the best way forward,” he noted.

Assange has also pledged that WikiLeaks will carry on publishing material in the US, and even “accelerate” this process.

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Odebrecht Buenos Aires Offices Raided in Corruption Probe

Around US$35 million in bribes were given in Argentina by the Brazilian company at the center of a multinational corruption scandal.

The depths of the multinational corruption scandal involving Brazil's largest construction company Odebrecht continued to expand as the company's Buenos Aires offices were raided on Wednesday by Argentine federal agents, Argentinian newspaper La Nacion reported.

RELATED: Brazil Arrests Temer Aide, Other Former Politicians in World Cup Fraud Probe

Federal judge, Sebastian Casanello, ordered the raid as part of an investigation into bribes that were allegedly given in order to obtain construction contracts for a water treatment plant during the administration of former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

Within minutes of the raid, Odebrecht released a statement in which they they reaffirmed their position in “collaborating with the law,” La Nacion reported.

The company alleged last year that it had paid more than US$785 million since 2001 to achieve public contracts in at least a dozen countries, and has also financed armed groups for security. According to testimony by the former head of the company Marcelo Odebrecht, around US$35 million in bribes were given in Argentina.

Odebrecht has been at the center of one of the largest corruption scandals in the region's history, since an investigation that began in 2014 quickly mushroomed to encompass current presidents, former presidents, and officials in multiple countries.

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President Mauricio Macri's administration has repeatedly promised to take a tough stance on corruption. Former president Cristina Fernandez is currently under investigation for alleged corruption, which she denies, and which some have called an “attack from the justice system and the media.”

Macri's tough on corruption and “zero poverty” campaign promises have proven hypocritical since he came to power in 2015.

Macri has been widely criticized and protested for his involvement in corruption scandals such as the Panama Papers, ongoing Odebrecht scandals, and scandals involving Avianca airline and Argentine mail company Correo Argentino.

RELATED: OAS Debates Venezuela, Not a Word About Brazil

Recent reports indicated that Macri himself recieved US$500,000 from the scandal ridden Odebrecht during his 2015 electoral campaign.

His term has also seen a massive rise in poverty due to neoliberal austerity measures.

Similarly, in Brazil, right-wing President Michel Temer faces massive protests and calls for impeachment and resignation in the face of ongoing corruption scandals involving him and his cabinet.

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Allies Call for Zuma to Step Down

Former high commissioners, ministers and many respected anti-apartheid activists also told the media that the ANC should do "the honorable thing and recall the president."

Congress of South African Trade Unions' (Cosatu) Secretary General Bheki Ntshalintshali is calling for South African President Jacob Zuma to step down. The trades union executive member said Zuma is no longer the "right person" to lead the country.

RELATED: South Africa's Zuma Considers Stepping Down Early

The Cosatu is reportedly made up of 1.8 million members and is a key part of the governing alliance. It forms part of what is called the Tripartite Alliance along with the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP). Ntshalintshali has managed to elicit the support of the anti-apartheid struggle veterans, who are urging the ANC to recall the president.

Pressure has been mounting against Zuma since his major cabinet reshuffle, which included the dismissal of highly respected Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa chimed in, calling the sacking of Gordhan "totally unacceptable." The changes made to the cabinet has put a strain on the economy, leading to the country's credit rating being cut to junk status by S&P Global. Former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe also added that it is difficult for Zuma to command respect after the constitutional court found him in breach of the law.

RELATED: South African MPs Protest President Zuma, Brawl Erupts

Ntshalintshali told a media briefing that the union's decision was triggered by Zuma's failure to consult it before making changes to his cabinet. He termed the president's leadership as "inattentive, negligent... and disruptive." He added that the organization was not concerned about Gordhan's sacking because he was, like his predecessors, "not a friend of the workers." Ntshalintshali also criticized the ratings agency S&P's decision to downgrade South Africa to junk status, saying the union views it as political interference.

Former high commissioners, ministers and many respected anti-apartheid activists also told the media that the ANC should do "the honorable thing and recall the president", especially after the party's integrity commission advised that he should resign.

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba has been working to reassure South Africans about the state of the economy. He told the media that the downgrade to junk status was a setback, but that people should not be despondent. "I'm not saying it's easy to get out of a rating downgrade, yet I remain confident," he added. Gigaba said he plans to meet with ratings agencies Fitch and Moody's.

Zuma is due to step down in 2019 at the end of his second five-year term as president.

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Romania confidence vote falls but more protests planned

The Romanian government has survived a no-confidence vote, called after mass protests forced it to scrap a decree that would have weakened anti-corruption measures.

Lawmakers from the three-party ruling coalition abstained, denying opponents the 50% support needed to pass the vote.

More protests are planned this weekend.

The decree has been scrapped, but protesters say the government has proved itself untrustworthy.

They also fear that new legislation, promised by the prime minister when he abolished the decree, might contain some of the same elements in a different form.

Read more:

Was government U-turn strategic retreat or surrender?

Protesters not backing down after decree repeal

Protesters light up huge rally with phone torches

The decree would have decriminalised abuse of power offences where sums of less than €44,000 (£38,000; $47,500) were involved.

That was seen by many as an attempt by the government to let off many of its own officials caught in an anti-corruption drive. The government had argued that the changes were needed to reduce prison overcrowding and align certain laws with the constitution.

On Tuesday, President Klaus Iohannis accused the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) of plunging the country into crisis with its "strange kamikaze strategy" only two months after convincingly winning national elections.

Mr Iohannis, who is a member of the opposition centre-right National Liberal Party, told a joint session of parliament that it was too early to hold snap elections.

But he called on the government to come up with solutions. Social Democratic legislators staged a walk-out.

The Constitutional Court is due to rule this week on whether decree number 13, the legal measure which provoked mass demonstrations, broke the constitution or not.

The decree has already been revoked, but the court's ruling too will affect what the government does next, says the BBC's Nick Thorpe in Bucharest.

The issue has sparked Romania's largest protests since communism fell in 1989.

Lawmakers of the ruling coalition leave the hall as sign of protest against Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, who is addressing both parliament chambers (background, at the tribune) at the parliament headquarters in Bucharest, Romania, 7 February 2017President Iohannis's stark criticism of the government's handling of its first two months in office prompted ruling lawmakers to walk out on Tuesday / EPA

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Dems call for action concerning Trump-Bondi money

A $40 million lawsuit against Trump University is still pending, but Lee County Democrats say more needs to be done.

Several Democrats joined former US Air Force General John Douglass on Thursday, calling for investigators to question Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi for illegal contributions she accepted from Trump's non-profit.

Education is everything to Douglass, especially for returning veterans.

"Access to a good college education should be a fundamental right for all," said Douglass.

So when he heard countless veterans had fallen victim to Trump University, he took it personally.

"When our veterans are being scammed by this and could lose all their money and get nothing for it, it's a real concern," said Douglass.

The $25,000 contribution was made just one month after a lawsuit was filed against Trump University.

"This is black and white, this is pay for play, and this is wrong," said April Freeman, candidate for US House of Representatives.

Earlier this month, Trump was hit with a $2,500 fine by the IRS for making the political contribution from his non-profit, which is against the law.

It left frustrated Democrats wondering what else Trump's yet-to-be-released tax records could reveal.

"Hillary is more than willing to show her tax returns, more than willing to show her medical records, more than willing to be as transparent as she possibly can, and from the other side we get nothing," said Mark Castellano, president of the Teachers Association of Lee County.

Last week, a letter to US Attorney General Loretta Lynch called for a similar investigation into Bondi. The letter was signed by 15 Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee accusing Trump of bribing Bondi.

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Lula Responds to Corruption Allegations

"If my adversaries want to bring me down, they will have to fight me with votes," said the former Brazilian President.

Former Brazilian Presidnet Lula da Silva Thursday forcefully denounced corruption charges against himself and his wife and in a snide reference to the unelected government that had overthrown his successor, he said that "it has been shown that bureaucracy is more powerful than the president of the country."

RELATED: Privatizing the Commons: Brazil to Auction off Infrastructure

Popularly known simply as "Lula" said at a Thursday afternoon press conference that his Worker' Party "government was the most inclusive Brazil has ever seen," and invested heavily in education, and had made every effort to rid the country of longstanding corruption. 

The implication couldn´t be clearer. Rousseff is a woman of color, and she'd been replaced by an unelected administration of white-men, nearly half of whom are under investigation for corruption, public malfeasance, bribe-taking and influence peddling while in office. Rousseff, on the other hand, was impeached for "cooking the books" to make Brazil's financial situation appear better than it was in the runup to her reelection campaign. 

Making refference to Dilma Rousseff's senate impeachement, Lula said that "it has been shown that bureaucracy is more powerful than the President of the country," calling the whole process a "spectale." He also hinted that he will indeed run in the next presidential election. 

"If my adversaries want to bring me down, they will have to fight me with votes."

Lula and his wife, Marisa Leticia Lula da Silva, are formally accused of corruption, fraud and money laundering. Leo Pinheiro, former president of the construction company OAS, and Paulo Gordilho, an engineer at the construction company, are also accused of corruption.

According to allegations from federal police, Lula was the mastermind of the corruption scheme at the state-managed oil company, Petrobras, and directly benefited in the form of a gifted apartment in Guaruja and a farm in Atibaia, both in the state of Sao Paulo.

Supporters argue the actions against Lula are politically motivated and an attempt to prevent him from running as president in the next election in 2018.

Lula  remains a popular figure, and some believe he is the odds-on-favorite to win the next presidential poll. 

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