Photos: Bloomberg, Getty; photo illustration: Tom Hall/Bloomberg
Balance of Power: A Lesson in Draining the SwampBy and
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.
Republicans blink on Obamacare | Defections by two more U.S. Senate Republicans sank Trump’s bid to replace Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law without Democratic votes, clouding the White House’s broader economic agenda and sending the dollar to a 10-month low. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell now plans a straight repeal vote next week — a proposal almost sure to fail.
Divided White House recertifies Iran deal | The Trump administration’s recertification of the Iran nuclear deal was in doubt for a while yesterday afternoon, Bloomberg View’s Eli Lake reports. Just as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was preparing to inform Congress, Trump delayed and demanded more information from aides who have been split on the matter, with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and senior strategist Steve Bannon pressing for a harder line and Tillerson and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster arguing for certifying compliance.
Trump’s Nafta wishlist | Reducing trade deficits tops the U.S.'s list of objectives in talks to revamp the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement. While the 17-page wishlist turns Trump’s “fair trade” campaign rhetoric into policy, it risks complicating negotiations with Canada and Mexico, who face their own domestic pressure to resist U.S. demands.
Who’s ready for Brexit? | U.K. and EU negotiators came face to face for another round of talks in Brussels yesterday. But one side seemed distinctly better prepared. The EU team led by Michel Barnier sat with a stack of documents in front of them. The U.K. by contrast brought literally nothing to the table. The image played into perceptions the Brits are being outclassed by seasoned technocrats well-versed in the small print of power.
Trump weighs in on Venezuela | Trump slammed President Nicolas Maduro as a “bad leader who dreams of becoming a dictator,” just 12 days before Venezuela elects a constituent assembly to give Maduro greater powers. His warning of “strong and swift economic actions” could embolden an opposition planning a 24-hour general strike on Thursday.
Poland blurs church and state | Poland’s government is steering the country back to its religious roots after spending its first year in office installing loyalists in state companies, the media and courts, Bloomberg’s Warsaw bureau reports. Priests are being handed unprecedented influence over politics through consulting roles. The shift received U.S. support during Trump's visit this month, when he said “the people of Europe still cry out, ‘We want God.”
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.
— With assistance by Vivian Nereim, and Andrew Langley