|Guatemalan Pres. Otto Pérez in court.|
Guatemala's remarkable turn of events is a victory for civil society and its power to hold leaders accountable. And so is the investigation into a huge kickback scheme in Brazil's Petrobras state oil company, which now has that nation's president on the ropes.
Nevertheless, across Latin America, consolidation of power by many presidents is endangering systems of checks and balances, making leaders invulnerable to accusations of corruption and giving them authoritarian powers.
The most glaring example is Venezuela, whose pseudosocialist government just carried out a show
|Imprisoned Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.|
'The sentence of 13 years and 9 months in prison against a Venezuelan opposition leader with no credible evidence against him shows the complete lack of judicial independence and impartiality in Venezuela,' wrote Amnesty International.
Reeling from a shrinking economy, the world's highest inflation rate and soaring crime, while facing parliamentary elections in December, Venezuelan Pres. Nicolas Maduro is trying to muzzle the press and imprison opponents.
Maduro has also tried to scapegoat Colombian immigrants as the cause of his nation's profound problems, deporting hundreds of Colombians in brutal conditions.
Meanwhile, other, more competent Latin leaders have used their success to consolidate power. Ecuadorian Pres. Rafael Correa has used economic pressure, lawsuits and anti-free speech laws to intimidate and close critical media.
In Bolivia, Pres. Evo Morales controls more than two-thirds of Congress and plans to use this power to pass a bill enabling him to run for a fourth-consecutive term.
And in Nicaragua the Supreme Court ruled that Pres. Daniel Ortega, a one-time leftist guerrilla leader, could run for a third consecutive term even tho the Constitution clearly states that neither the sitting president nor someone who has held that office for two terms can run again.
Sadly, it's inconceivable that in any of these nations, the president would be prosecuted for corruption, no matter how shameless. And, most likely, the media would not even report such corruption.
|Ernesto Samper survided |
a huge scandal.
And how about Colombia? The history isn't encouraging.
President Ernesto Samper's (1994-8), was the last presidency threatened by scandal. Despite
overwhelming evidence of drug cartel money in his campaign, he pleaded ignorance and survived a political trial in Congress and finished out his term. (The U.S. appeared to consider him guilty and took away his visa.) Samper now heads the leftist Unasur organization of Latin American nations.
|Scandal couldn't touch Alvaro Uribe.|
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours