US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has finally announced that the House is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry after reports surfaced that Donald Trump called on a foreign power to intervene in the upcoming election. Trump placed a hold on $391 million in aid to Ukraine just over a week before a July phone call in which he apparently urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden—the son of former US Vice President Joe Biden, Trump's likely opponent in next year's race. The transcript of that call (not, apparently, verbatim) was released by the White House Sept. 25. Trump of course called the impeachment inquiry "the single greatest witch-hunt in American history," and tweeted that the inquiry is PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT (all caps). (Jurist)
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern for a law approved in Nicaragua July 16, ostensibly aimed at money-laundering, arms-trafficking and terrorism. The statement warned that the definition of "terrorism" under the law is dangerously "vague," and that it could be used to suppress opposition. Speaking in Geneva, OHCHR representative Rupert Colville said the law was passed by a National Assembly "almost completely controlled" by the ruling Sandinista party. The law defines as "terrorism" any damage to public or private property, or the killing or injury of anyone not directly participating in a "situation of armed conflict," punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Additionally, anyone found guilty of directly or indirectly financing or aiding so-called "terrorist operations" can also face up to 20 years in prison. The law was introduced in April, just as Nicaragua's political crisis was breaking out. On July 5, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein stated that the "violence and repression seen in Nicaragua since the protests began in April are the product of a systematic erosion of human rights over the past years..." (InSight Crime, July 25; Noticiias ONU, July 17; OHCHR, July 5)
Javier Duarte, the fugitive ex-governor of Mexico's Veracruz state, was detained in Guatemala on April 15 in a joint operation by Interpol and Guatemalan police. He's now awaiting extradition back to Mexico, where he is wanted on charges of money laundering and protecting organized crime. Duarte was governor of Veracruz from 2010 until he stepped down last October, shortly before the end of his term. He was doing so in order to face the allegations against him—but then he disappeared and went on the lam.
Guy Philippe, a former paramilitary boss and coup leader who was elected to Haiti's Senate in November, was arrested by the DEA on Jan. 5—days before he would have been sworn into office and obtained immunity. Philippe had been wanted by the US since 2005 on charges of conspiracy to import cocaine and money laundering. He was popped by Haitian police and turned over to DEA agents immediately after appearing on a radio show in Port-au-Prince, and promptly flown to the Miami to stand trial. On Jan. 13, he pleaded not guilty to all charges in US Court for the Southern District of Florida, asserting both that the case against him is politically motivated and that he already has immunity as an elected official.
The contentious presidential race in Peru is being shaken by accusations implicating far-right front-runner Keiko Fujimori in a massive money laundering operation. On May 15, Univision reported that the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is investigating Joaquín Ramírez Gamarra, a congress member and chairman of Fujimori's Popular Force party, for allegedly laundering $15 million for the campaign. Peruvian pilot and DEA informant Jesús Vásquez claimed that he secretly recorded Ramírez boasting that he had laundered the money for Fujimori via a chain of gas stations. Vásquez said he had turned the recordings over to the DEA, but quoted from them in the broadcast. DEA spokeswoman Anne Judith Lambert confirmed to Univision on camera that there was an open investigation, although the agency released a brief statement after the broadcast saying: "Keiko Fujimori is not currently, nor has been previously, under investigation by DEA." Fujimori also denied the claim, and suggested it was part of a "dirty war" led by her opponent, Pedro Pablo Kuczynksi. Ramírez, who is being investigated by Peruvian athorities for money-laundering, issued his own denial, and said that he would press charges against Vásquez for extortion. (InSight Crime, Peru Reports, La República, May 17; Publimetro Peru, May 16)
Ge Yongxi, a civil rights defense lawyer, was detained and released April 15 by Chinese authorities for posts on social media that "poked fun" at President Xi Jinping in relation to the Panama Papers. The president's brother-in-law, Deng Jiagui, was named—along with a handful of elite Chinese citizens—in the data leak from a Panamanian law firm that exposed offshore accounts held by prominent politicians and others across the globe. Information about the Panama Papers has been censored across China with websites in that country "forbidden" from publishing material about the subject. Ge was also detained 10 months ago and questioned by authorities for being involved in a lawyers' rights movement.
Some 50,000 Peruvians filled Lima's Plaza San Martín to recall the April 5, 1992 "autogolpe" (suspension of civil government) by then-president Alberto Fujimori—and to repudiate the presidential ambitions of his daughter Keiko Fujimori, front-runner with the election just five days away. (La República) The mobilization came just as candidate Fujimori (of the right-wing Fuerza Popular party) and three of her rivals have been implicated in the "Panama Papers" revelations. Prime Minister Pedro Cateriano announced via Twitter that the revelations must be investigated promptly. The 11 million documents leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca name political figures from around the world as hiding assets in offshore accounts. Peruvian public-interest media outlet Ojo Publico was a key conduit for the leak. (PeruThisWeek, Andina)
In Brazil's biggest protests since the end of the military dictatorship in 1985, thousands have poured into the streets in cities cities across the country to denounce President Dilma Rousseff's appointment of her predecessor and political mentor, Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva, as chief of staff. Days of nationwide demonstrations reached a climax as Lula was sworn in on March 17. In Brasilia, riot police fired pepper spray to disperse protesters who massed outside the presidential palace, chanting "Dilma out!" Demonstrators say Rousseff transparently appointed Lula in order to give him immunity as he comes under investigation in a corruption scandal at the state oil company Petrobras.