Operation Car Wash has claimed another president. Last week, former Brazilian President Michel Temer was arrested and charged with ten counts of corruption, five of which were allegedly committed while he was president. Prosecutors have accused him of running a “criminal group” during the construction of a nuclear power plant south of Rio de Janeiro. Nine other people, including a former minister of mines and energy during Temer’s presidency, have also been arrested.
The five-year corruption probe has resulted in the imprisonment of former President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva and the arrest of dozens of top executives and politicians in Brazil. But it doesn’t end there. The revelation that construction giant Odebrecht had paid off heads of state, politicians, political parties, and top executives to secure lucrative deals across 12 countries has turned Operation Car Wash into the largest bribery case in Latin America.
But as the wave of corruption probes and investigations continue across the region, the political elite are pushing back. In Guatemala, a judge issued an arrest warrant for current presidential candidate and former attorney general, Thelma Aldana. Aldana has previously worked alongside the CICIG on several high-profile cases against the political elite in Guatemala and has staked her campaign on tackling corruption if she wins the presidency. She has long faced claims of wrongdoing, mostly by her political opponents, but this latest move is seen as an attempt to ensure she doesn’t win and therefore doesn’t disrupt “the status quo of elite corruption.”
As we note in our High Level Working Group paper on corruption, “corruption is the Achilles heel of most democracies in the Americas. In its many variations, from bribery and petty crime to grand corruption schemes, it represents a complex challenge for our hemisphere.”