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Ecuadorian VP Faces Bribery Charges

Ecuadorian Vice President Jorge Glas is the latest prominent Latin American politician to be jailed after allegations of corruption were made public. Evidence suggests connections between Glas and Odebrecht, a Brazilian conglomerate previously involved in corruption and bribery schemes in at least a dozen Latin American countries.

Credit: New York Times

Credit: New York Times

Glas was suspended in August of his duties as Vice President under President Lenín Moreno due to reports claiming Glas received upwards of $16 million USD in bribes from Odebrecht. It was only last week that the Attorney General enacted a petition for Glas’ arrest, which resulted in the emergence of fissures within Alianza PAÍS, the incumbent leftist party of former president Rafael Correa.

As of October 3, Glas is being held in pretrial detention. He is being investigated for accepting bribes from Odebrecht in return for public works contracts. Odebrecht admitted to paying $33 million to various Ecuadorian officials, of which $16 million are believed to have been accepted by Glas in order to guarantee contracts for the construction of roads, tunnels and other key infrastructure projects. However, as of yet there is no official proof linking Glas to the alleged bribes.

The night before his arrest Glas tweeted, “I abide UNDER PROTEST to this infamous attack against me, I still have faith that justice will be imposed, before which I will prove my innocence,” citing the arrest as politically-motivated.

After accepting his arrest, Glas explained in a video statement: “Innocent people have no reason to flee. I am going to continue fighting from wherever they take me for the truth and for justice.” Glas’ tweet might have been aimed at other politicians, namely Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo who fled the country in 2017, upon information that he accepted millions of dollars in bribes from Odebrecht.

Odebrecht is not shy to admit that they spearheaded nearly $800 million in bribes just from 2001 to 2016. While Odebrecht’s most scandalous corruption cases have been limited to Brazil and the Dominican Republic, they have a track record of bribing a plethora of noteworthy individuals across Latin America. President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia received a campaign donation from Odebrecht knowingly in exchange for building contracts. Additionally, the former President Alejandro Toledo of Peru was charged with accepting bribes from Odebrecht and has since gone missing.

Credit: BBC

Credit: BBC

In Brazil former President Lula da Silva and former President Dilma Rouseff both face corruption charges concerning illicit deals made with Odebrecht. The Brazilian company has admitted to bribing officials in other countries such as: Mexico, Venezuela, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Panama, and Argentina.

In one of the largest anti-corruption cases to date, Odebrecht was fined $2.6 billion by U.S., Brazilian, and Swiss authorities as their operations extended far beyond South America. Odebrecht’s former chief executive, Marcelo Odebrecht, is currently serving a sentence of nineteen years, while over seventy of Odebrecht executives have signed plea deals.  

Various Latin American politicians, from government officials to heads of state, are under investigation. This revival of state-led prosecutions and criminalization proceedings seems to be a  revived attempt by newly empowered political movements to combat corruption in Latin America.

Due to the fact that the World Bank considers corruption to be the largest impediment to achieving economic and social development, it is paramount that all cases of corruption be dealt with aggressively and most importantly transparently if Latin America is to progress as a global economic powerhouse in the 21st century.