Caribbean News Round-up

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Brazil police seeking to question ex-president Lula

Lula
Ex -President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

[BBC] – Brazilian police have sought permission from the Supreme Court to question ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva over the Petrobras corruption scandal.

Police say there is no proof Mr Lula was involved but want to determine if he obtained advantages for himself or his party under the scheme. Mr Lula has said he is yet to receive any requests from police.

Prosecutors allege firms paid corrupt officials to secure lucrative contracts with the state-owned oil giant. The scandal is the largest in Brazil’s history, with top politicians accused of taking bribes.
Among those arrested in connection are Mr Lula’s former chief of staff Joss Dirceu and the Workers’ Party treasurer Joao Vaccari.

But Mr Lula’s successor as Brazilian leader, Dilma Rousseff, who chaired Petrobras when much of the corruption is believed to have taken place, has been cleared of involvement. The request to question Mr Lula was first reported by the weekly newsmagazine Epoca. The court is yet to respond.

If the request is approved by the courts, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will have to go down to a police station to give his version of facts. He is a towering love-him-or-hate-him figure in Brazilian politics.

His opponents say he is in many ways responsible for the country’s current recession and for some of the corruption scandals that have emerged in the past years.

But his supporters believe he is the only politician from the Workers’ Party who stands any chance to keep the left in power in Latin America’s largest country, and that this is why he is being drawn into the investigations.
Presidential showdown in Guatemala

Jimmy Morales
Jimmy Morales

[Aljazerra] – It has been a remarkable week of rapid change in Guatemala. The people in the Central American republic witnessed the resignation of President Otto Perez Molina, only to see him appear in court facing corruption charges before being taken into custody.

In the following presidential election, TV comedian Jimmy Morales faced off against several candidates also accused of corruption. All this was accompanied by cheers from the protest movement that has finally pushed this country to face up to years of government mismanagement.

Tens of thousands od people had for the past five months taken to the streets in peaceful demonstrations and now they have got what they were calling for.

Former President Otto Perez Molina is in court over his alleged involvement in a massive corruption scandal, dubbed “La Linea” or “The Line”, in which importers gave bribes to avoid paying customs charges.

The inquiry continues until the judge decides whether a full trial should go ahead. Perez claims to be innocent. The new interim President, Alejandro Maldonado also backs the charges. He was the vice president who took office only in May when his predecessor resigned after accusations that she too was involved in “La Linea”.

He will hold office for 133 days until a new president is chosen in run-off elections later this fall. Corruption charges are certainly not new in Guatemala, nor in Central and Latin America as a whole. But because the popular uprising had such a dramatic effect, leaders and people in many countries in the region are paying attention.

Maldonado called on protesters to remain vigilant and not to stop. “This is an opportunity,” he said. “They cannot relax.” Talk to Al Jazeera sat down with President Alejandro Maldonado to discuss politics, protests, corruption and impunity in Guatemala.

We also spoke to one of the leaders of the protest movement, Gabriel Wer from “Justice Now”, about the impact of the peaceful protests and his hopes for the future of Guatemala.
Rowley appoints 23-member Cabinet

Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Keith Rowley speaking to the media.
Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Keith Rowley speaking to the media.

[Trinidad Express] – In keeping with his pre-election undertaking, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday completed the swearing in of a 23-member Cabinet, smaller than the 33-member Cabinet of the previous Kamla Persad-Bissessar-led administration.

Rowley had consistently criticised the size of the previous Cabinet as being too large and costly for this country. Of the 23 MPs, 18 are in the Cabinet. There are eight women in the Cabinet.

Brian Lara serves as Special Envoy Cricketer icon Brian Lara, who attended both swearing-in ceremonies, was yesterday tapped for an important diplomatic assignment. A release from the Office of the Prime Minister last night stated Lara will travel to Dominica on Monday to meet with that country’s Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit.

“Lara, in the capacity of special envoy, will hold discussions with Prime Minister Skerrit to determine how Trinidad and Tobago may further assist its Caricom neighbour in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Erika, which devastated the island on August 27, killing over 20 persons,” the release stated.

Twin of Twins crime plan booted?

The Twins
Twin of Twins and Minister Bunting

[Jamaica Observer] – Dancehall duo Twin of Twins say they are disappointed that, nearly a year after sharing their suggestions on reducing inner-city crime with Minister of National Security Peter Bunting, those ideas are yet to be implemented.

“We requested a meeting with the minister and he accepted. We were honoured and extended our appreciation that he took the time out to listen to our suggestions and initiatives. However, a year later, we are still waiting on a follow-up call,” Curly Lox (given name Patrick Gaynor) told the Jamaica Observer.

According to the entertainer, the meeting with Bunting took place at his Oxford Road headquarters in St Andrew and four other members of the minister’s team were also present. Curly Lox said the duo requested the meeting as they were concerned about an uptick in crime at the time.

“We placed our initiatives on the table … they (the Government) cannot deal with it alone, we are from that (inner-city) culture so we know what going on,” he said.

According to recent statistics, more than 800 persons have been murdered since the start of the year. This marks a 20 per cent spike over the corresponding period last year. Curly Lox said reducing crime is not a quick-fix approach.

“The direct issue of crime dwells on whether criminals who gain from people’s ignorance are willing to put aside their role as puppet masters,” he said.  The dancehall artiste said entertainers had a critical role to play in the process with the “promotion of positive music”.

He said a revamp of the current crime-fighting approach is needed in short order and all social strata of society should be involved. “Get rid of the classism and unite so that we can bring back our country,” he said.

“We do not condone anything illegal, but them arrest a man who was making Clarks recently. Instead of just charging him, why not put his talent to use. He could lend his talent to the police force and make shoes for them,” he continued. Curly Lox said broad-brushing inner-city people as criminals is a huge problem as it robs them of employment opportunities.

“A person from the ghetto may not necessarily be educated but he/she may be talented. We need the scholars, too, as they are educated and know about finances and other elements. So why not join forces. Give them a chance and employ them and you will see their true potential.

“Why do you think they fight dancehall? It’s because they didn’t create it, it was made in the inner city,” he said.

He is also urging political parties to unite as there are times when a great idea is shunned when it is not coming from those in power. “Our leaders need to be realistic and listen, especially to the youth,” he said.

Patrick and Paul (Tu Lox) Gaynor are members of the dancehall duo Twin of Twins. They hail from the gritty community of Maxfield Avenue in Kingston. They have established themselves in the dancehall with their biting social commentaries, including their popular Stir It Up series.

Several efforts made to contact Minister Bunting for a comment were unsuccessful.

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