News headlines for “Causes of Poverty”, page 2

Corruption Brings Down an Empire: Odebrecht in Brazil

Thursday, February 16, 2017

RIO DE JANEIRO, Feb 16 (IPS) - People in Brazil have been overwhelmed by the flood of news stories about the huge web of corruption woven by the country's biggest construction company, Odebrecht, which is active in dozens of fields and countries.

The business empire built by three generations of the Odebrecht family is falling apart after three years of investigation by the Lava Jato (car wash) operation launched by the Federal Public Prosecutor's office in Brazil, which is investigating the corruption that diverted millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for major public works contracts from the state-run oil giant Petrobras.

Marcelo Odebrecht, who headed the company from 2008 to 2015, was arrested in June 2015 and was initially sentenced to 19 years in prison.

In October he and the company reached plea bargain deals to cooperate with the investigation. A total of 77 former and present Odebrecht executives provided over 900 sworn statements to Lava Jato prosecutors, causing a political earthquake in Brazil and throughout Latin America.

In December, the U.S. Justice Department revealed that Odebrecht allegedly spent 1.04 billion dollars in bribes to politicians and government officials in ten Latin American and two African countries, including Brazil, which accounted for 57.7 per cent of the total.

The United States is carrying out its own investigation, which could end in criminal convictions, since several Odebrecht subsidiaries, such as the petrochemical company Braskem, operate there, and their shares are traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

That is also happening in the case of Petrobras, implicated in the corruption scandal and under investigation at the initiative of shareholders in the U.S.

The U.S. and Switzerland, where banks were allegedly used to funnel bribes or launder money, signed cooperation agreements with legal authorities in Brazil, as part of the ongoing offensive against corruption in Latin America's giant.

The impacts are overwhelming. In Brazil, the revelations about Odebrecht are expected to provoke a tsunami in the political system. Two hundred parliamentarians and government officials may have received bribes, including senior members of the current administration and legislature.

The business group had created a specialised bribe department. According to U.S. justice authorities, every dollar "invested" in bribes produced 12 dollars in contracts.

That estimate is based on more than 100 projects carried out or in progress in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Venezuela, plus Angola and Mozambique in Africa.

Part of the Caracas valley seen from the San Agustín Metrocable, one of the many works assigned to Odebrecht in Venezuela during the government of Hugo Chávez (1999-2013), when the Brazilian company became the biggest construction firm in the country. Credit: Raúl Límaco/IPS

The arrest warrant issued by a court in Peru against former Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006), who has been living in the United States, and allegations implicating current Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela, are just the tip of the iceberg.

What was revealed by Odebrecht executives and former executives, as well as former directors of different departments, such as external affairs, infrastructure, industrial engineering or logistics, has not yet been made public.

New figures involving alleged bribes are expected to come out over the next few months, added to those already disclosed in the United States, including 599 million dollars distributed in Brazil, 98 million in Venezuela, 92 million in the Dominican Republic, 59 million in Panama and 50 million in Angola.

In Peru the total revealed so far is "only" 29 million dollars since 2005. The sum is small, considering that for the Southern Peru pipeline - still under construction – alone, the projected investments amount to seven billion dollars. The Peruvian government has decided to terminate the contract with Odebrecht for the project.

Besides Odebrecht, the Inter-Oceanic Highway, which runs across southern Peru from the Brazilian border to Pacific Ocean ports, is being built by three other Brazilian construction firms - Camargo Correa, Andrade Gutierrez and Queiroz Galvão – which are also under investigation for suspicion of corruption.

During the presidency of Alan Garcia (2006-2011), Peru and Brazil signed an agreement for the construction of five large hydropower plants in Peru, which was cancelled by his successor, Ollanta Humala (2011-2016), who, however, is suspected of receiving three million dollars from Brazil for his election campaign.

Odebrecht, which has a concession to manage Chaglla, the third biggest hydroelectric plant in Peru, with a capacity of 462 MW, was to be the main construction company in charge of building the new plants.

Authorities Urged to Disclose Anti-Money Laundering Efforts

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

ROME / BERLIN, Feb 15 (IPS) - Bank regulators need to publish much more information about whether banks are doing what's required by law to stop money laundering, says a major international anti-corruption watchdog.

Worst Drought in Decades Drives Food Price Spike in East Africa

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

ROME, Feb 15 (IPS) - The most severe drought in decades, which has struck parts of Ethiopia and is exacerbated by a particularly strong El Niño effect, has led to successive failed harvests and widespread livestock deaths in some areas, and humanitarian needs have tripled since the beginning of 2015, the United Nations warns.

Togo to Lead the Fight against Rural Poverty

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

ROME, Feb 15 (IPS) - Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo, former Prime Minister of Togo, has been appointed as the sixth President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a specialised UN agency and international financial institution that invests in eradicating rural poverty in developing countries around the world.

St Valentine’s Day: Celebrating Healthy Relationships; Challenging Violence

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

LA PAZ, Bolivia, Feb 14 (IPS) - Today, many couples, in many countries will be celebrating Saint Valentine's Day – or ‘El día de los enamorados' (‘Day of Lovers') in some Latin American countries. Whilst a chance to celebrate the spectrum of healthy loving relationships; it is also an important opportunity to highlight a crisis affecting women and girls in every corner of the world - 30% of women will experience physical or sexual violence perpetrated by a current or former partner or husband.

Mistrust Hindering Global Solutions, says Secretary General

Monday, February 13, 2017

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 13 (IPS) - The global lack of confidence and trust is undermining the ability to solve the world's complex problems, said UN Secretary-General during an international conference.

Dubai Ruler Warns Against Economic Isolation at Summit Meeting

Monday, February 13, 2017

ROME, Feb 13 (IPS) - Speaking at the opening of the two-day World Government Summit in Dubai, Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said economic openness is a ground reality.

Ravaging Drought Deepens in Kenya

Monday, February 13, 2017

NAIROBI, Feb 13 (IPS) - Experts warn that Kenya is in the grip of the worst drought in recent history as government estimates show the number of people who are acutely food insecure has risen to 2.7 million, up from two million in January.

ICT Signals the Cradle of Radio’s Rebirth

Monday, February 13, 2017

NAIROBI, Feb 13 (IPS) - Over the last few decades, radio has played an important role in the realm of development. It has enabled the distribution of information on new policies, technology, products, and ideas with the potential of stimulating growth and development, largely in rural Africa.

Latin America in the Vanguard of Global Fight Against Hunger

Sunday, February 12, 2017

SANTIAGO/RIO DE JANEIRO, Feb 12 (IPS) - A model for fighting against hunger and malnutrition with a global reach which has been successful within and outside the region has spread worldwide, first from Brazil and then from Latin America, notes a distinction given to the current Director-General of FAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation), José Graziano da Silva.

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