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Balance of Power: A Lesson in Draining the Swamp

Latin America is showing the world how to drain the swamp.

The most iconic Brazilian politician of modern times, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was last week sentenced to almost 10 years in prison for taking kickbacks. One day later, a former Peruvian president was jailed in a money-laundering probe. Current or former heads of state are also being investigated, sued or jailed in Argentina, Panama and Guatemala.

It’s all part of a new anti-corruption movement sweeping a region long accustomed to the rich and powerful acting with impunity. Better-educated populations have had enough of scandal. And better-trained investigators are emboldening the courts.

The contrast with the early months of the Trump administration is stark. The president came to power promising to end self-dealing in a city that was originally built on a swamp. Instead he enraged critics by installing family members in the White House, and opponents accuse him of using the job to help his businesses.

For Latin America, convicting politicians may prove easier than jailing them. But with Brazil’s current president, Michel Temer, facing corruption charges of his own, the region is showing that even the elite must face the rule of law eventually.

Demonstrators in Brazil after a report of the alleged taping of President Michel Temer endorsing bribes to the former House Speaker on May 18, 2017. 
Photographer: Dado Galdieri/Bloomberg

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Brexit Secretary David Davis on the right and Barnier second left.
Photographer: THIERRY CHARLIER/AFP

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And finally ... A woman who dared to walk around a village in Saudi Arabia in a miniskirt and crop top is the talk of the kingdom, after she posted it all on Snapchat. Depending on whom you ask, she should either be arrested, hailed for her bravery or just left alone. The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice is investigating. The debate shines a spotlight on the tensions dividing Saudi Arabia in the age of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, whose reforms require rethinking the ultraconservative social and economic order.

“Boldly dressed, the model ‘Khuloud’ walks in the Nufood desert and Ushaigher, stirring controversy.”

— With assistance by Vivian Nereim, and Andrew Langley

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