, pub-6663105814926378, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0 Around The World Brussels Damning corruption report 4289

Around The World Brussels Damning corruption report

Damning corruption report: Corruption of “breathtaking” proportions is costing member states of the European Union more than $160 billion a year, according to a new report by the European Commission. The report said poor controls on public sector contracts and immunity for politicians foster corruption, which most EU citizens surveyed said had worsened in their countries in the past three years. Three out of five respondents in Spain and Greece and more than half of those in Croatia and Romania said they encountered corruption daily. In many countries, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said, “genuine political will to eradicate corruption often appears to be missing.”

San Salvador, El Salvador
Left nears victory: Salvador Sánchez Cerén, who commanded Marxist guerrillas during the country’s bloody civil war, secured 49 percent of the vote in this week’s presidential election, giving his left-leaning Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front party an edge heading into the March 9 runoff. Sánchez will face Norman Quijano, a former mayor of San Salvador, who drew 39 percent of the vote with a plan to deploy the army to crack down on powerful street gangs. Costa Ricans also went to the polls over the weekend. Luis Guillermo Solís of the progressive Citizen Action Party surprised many voters and the ruling National Liberation Party when he came from a distant fourth to win 31 percent of the vote and become the favorite in an April runoff.

Humaita, Brazil
Tribesmen arrested: Five members of an indigenous Amazonian tribe were arrested last week and accused of murdering three government contractors in a revenge killing related to a dispute over land use. The three contractors, who went missing on Dec. 16, were last seen on a road that crossed the Tenharim tribe’s land reserve. Tribe members are alleged to have killed the men in retaliation for the death of indigenous leader Ivan Tenharim two weeks earlier; police say he died in a motorcycle accident, but tribe members suspect he was assassinated. The Tenharim tribe has clashed with townspeople for years over the tribe’s practice of setting up roadblocks and demanding money from drivers crossing its lands.

Buenos Aires
Rocketing prices: The collapse of the Argentine peso has led to sharp price increases and bare store shelves across the country in recent weeks, and many Argentines are growing frustrated over President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s refusal to address the crisis head-on. The peso fell by 19 percent in January, with economists saying Fernández’s generous social spending has eroded the country’s hard currency reserves. The once-popular president has been curiously absent from the public eye, leaving economic policy to a new team of inexperienced officials. Fernández had surgery in October to remove a blood clot in her brain, apparently caused when she hit her head leaving the presidential jet.

Kiev, Ukraine
Curbing the president: Emboldened by expressions of support from Western governments, Ukraine’s political opposition pushed this week for a return to the country’s former constitution, which would curb the powers of embattled President Viktor Yanukovych. As the U.S. and Europe were reportedly working on a financial aid package that would ease Ukraine’s risk of default, Yanukovych returned to work this week after taking a sick leave that many saw as a delaying tactic. The president accepted a $15 billion loan from Russia last year after canceling plans for deepening trade relations with the European Union, kicking off protests that left seven people dead. Moscow suspended its aid last week to express its displeasure after Yanukovych agreed to some of the opposition’s demands.

Mandela’s will revealed: A public reading of former South African President Nelson Mandela’s will this week revealed that he left his $4.1 million estate to family members, former staff, schools, and the ruling African National Congress. Mandela, who died in December at age 95, left four properties to his third wife, Graça Machel, and approximately $300,000 to each of his six children. Most of his 30 grandchildren and great-grandchildren each received $10,000. Mandela also directed that between 10 and 30 percent of royalties from his books and other writings be donated to the African National Congress to further “policies and principles of reconciliation amongst the people of South Africa.”

school shooting kills two: A teacher and a policeman were killed by a high school student this week in what Russians called the country’s first-ever “American-style” school shooting. Sergei Gordeyev, 15, was armed with a small-caliber rifle and a shotgun when he entered his school in the capital and killed a 37-year-old teacher. He then shot two policemen as they arrived on the scene, killing one and wounding the other, and held a class of 29 students hostage until his father persuaded him to surrender. Investigators described Gordeyev as a straight-A student who had no known disputes with the murdered teacher. School shootings are exceedingly rare in Russia. “I can barely remember something like this ever happening,” said politician Valery Ryazansky. “We’re not America.”

Karzai’s Taliban talks: Afghan President Hamid Karzai reportedly had secret contact with Taliban representatives in recent months in an attempt to forge a peace agreement without the involvement of his American and Western allies. Reports of the clandestine meetings help to explain why Karzai has repeatedly strained relations with the U.S. as his time in office comes to an end this spring, refusing to sign a long-term security agreement with Washington and backing efforts to release imprisoned Taliban militants who the U.S. says are a security risk. Karzai’s contacts with the Taliban, which reportedly began in November, have since fizzled with few signs of progress. The campaign to succeed Karzai as president officially launched last weekend, with 11 candidates vying to win the April 5 election.

Aleppo, Syria
Too tough for al Qaida: Al Qaida’s leadership officially cut ties this week with a hard-line jihadist group fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Rifts between al Qaida and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) first emerged last year when ISIS’s Iraqi leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, disobeyed orders from al Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to leave the Syrian fighting to the local al Qaida franchise, the Al Nusra Front. “ISIS is now officially the biggest and baddest global jihadi group on the planet,” said William McCants of the Brookings Institution. “Nothing says ‘hard-core’ like being cast out by al Qaida.”

Tension after polls: At least seven people were wounded by gunfire this week in clashes between government supporters and anti-government protesters. The protesters disrupted weekend national elections by blocking the delivery of ballots to polling places in an effort to topple Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The opposition is demanding extensive political reforms, including the replacement of the current government. They claim Yingluck’s administration is illegally run from abroad by her billionaire brother, business tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra, who served as prime minister before he was ousted in a military coup in 2006.

Ebon Atoll, Marshall Islands
Adrift at sea: A man claiming to be a fisherman from El Salvador washed ashore on a remote atoll of the Marshall Islands last week, saying he’d been lost at sea for 13 months. José Salvador Alvarenga said he lived on fish, seabirds, turtle blood, and his own urine to survive the roughly 6,700-mile journey across the open ocean. He claims he set off from Mexico in December 2012 with a teenage companion for what was supposed to be a one-day expedition catching sharks. The men were caught in a storm and eventually lost their boat’s engines. Four weeks into the ordeal, Alvarenga said, his companion died of hunger and thirst. Officials remain skeptical of the tale because of Alvarenga’s well-fed appearance, but people who say they’re his relatives in Maryland said the man appears to be their long-lost brother, who was last known to be fishing in Mexico.

Mount Sinabung, Indonesia
Deadly eruption: At least 16 people were killed last week after a major eruption of Mount Sinabung on the island of Sumatra sent lava and rocks rolling down its slopes. Sinabung has been erupting sporadically for months, but its activity had slowed in recent weeks, prompting officials to allow thousands of evacuated residents to return to their homes. Local reports showed panicked residents running from giant gray clouds erupting from the 8,530-foothigh volcano as the landscape was blanketed in ash.

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