Around The World Madrid Corruption crackdown

Corruption crackdown: Fifty-one officials, including senior members of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s ruling People’s Party, were arrested across Spain this week on corruption charges—just hours after Rajoy had sought to downplay the scale of graft in the country. The prime minister started the week by dismissing opinion polls that showed mounting concern over corruption, arguing that “a few small incidents” shouldn’t besmirch Spain’s image. Less than 24 hours later, police arrested dozens of government officials, bureaucrats, and business leaders as part of an investigation into a “network of corruption” that involved $315 million worth of fees allegedly paid to win government contracts. Rajoy apologized for the scandal, saying he understood people’s “frustration.”

Cocula, Mexico
Hunt for the bodies: Mexican investigators were scouring a garbage dump this week in their search for 43 students who have been missing since September and are thought to have been executed by a drug gang. Officials confirmed that they had found human remains at a site outside the town of Cocula but did not specify the number of bodies. The students, who are from a college known for radical activism, were rounded up by corrupt police in Iguala—a town 30 minutes away from Cocula—following a demonstration and allegedly handed over to a cartel. At least 56 people have been arrested in connection with the students’ disappearance, including local police officers and gang members.

Caracas, Venezuela
Police ‘purge’: Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has promised to launch a “purge” of the country’s corrupt police force after two officers were incriminated in the gruesome murder of a pro-government politician. Robert Serra, 27, a rising star in the ruling United Socialist Party, and his partner, Maria Herrera, were found stabbed to death in their home in early October. In a televised speech this week, Maduro claimed he had evidence that policemen working with Colombian paramilitaries had carried out the killings, and that other officers were in the pay of criminal gangs. “We need a revolution of the police force,” he said. “I will carry it out without delay, without excuses.”

Brasília, Brazil
Rousseff re-elected: Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff won a second four-year term this week, following one of the closest and most divisive elections in generations. The left-wing leader took 51.6 percent of the vote to beat her center-right challenger, Aécio Neves. Rousseff, whose Workers’ Party has been in power since 2003, has faced mass protests over widespread corruption and poor services, and her interventionist economic policies have been blamed for tipping the country into recession. But she remains popular among the millions of poor Brazilians who have benefited from her welfare programs. In a conciliatory victory speech, Rousseff promised to be “a much better president than I have been until now.”

Kiev, Ukraine
Looking West: Pro-European parties won a sweeping victory in Ukraine’s parliamentary elections this week and quickly began work on forming a coalition dedicated to fulfilling electoral promises of stronger ties with the West. In a rebuke of Moscow, not a single candidate from the pro-Russian Communist Party was elected—the first time since 1917 that communists would not be present in Ukraine’s legislature. “For that I congratulate you,” said President Petro Poroshenko. No voting took place in large parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk or Luhansk regions, which are mostly controlled by pro-Russian separatists. Those eastern regions will hold their own election on Nov. 2—a vote that will not be recognized by Kiev.

Kayes, Mali
Ebola spreads: Mali has become the sixth West African country to confirm a case of Ebola, following the death of a 2-year-old girl last week. The girl and her grandmother traveled more than 600 miles by bus from Guinea to Mali’s capital, Bamako, and on to the western town of Kayes—raising fears that she may have infected people across the country. Some 60 people who had first- or secondhand contact with the girl, including her grandmother, have been quarantined in Kayes. The global number of confirmed cases in the world’s worst outbreak of Ebola now stands at 13,700, with at least 5,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. Nearly all the deaths have occurred in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.

Kobani, Syria
Reinforcements arrive: Turkey began allowing Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga to cross into Syria and travel to Kobani this week, providing much-needed reinforcement for the Kurdish fighters defending the strategic border town from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The jihadist group has been laying siege to Kobani for more than a month, and weeks of U.S.-led airstrikes have failed to dislodge the militants. Following violent protests by Turkish Kurds over Turkey’s refusal to help Kobani, Ankara last week agreed to open the border to Iraqi Kurdish fighters. At least 150 peshmerga have now moved into Syria, and a 40-vehicle convoy carrying more soldiers and heavy weapons is making its way from Iraqi Kurdistan to Kobani via Turkey.

Wagga, Nigeria
More girls seized: Boko Haram militants abducted 60 women and girls from the villages of Wagga and Gwarta in Nigeria’s northeast last week, raising serious doubts about the Nigerian government’s recent claim that it had agreed to a truce with the Islamist insurgents. Residents of Wagga said armed militants went door to door looking for young women and girls and kidnapped 40 of them. “They left 1,500 naira”— about $9—“and some kola nuts in each home where they seized a woman, apparently as a bride price,” said a village elder. In the neighboring village of Gwarta, another 20 female victims were snatched. Both villages are close to the town of Chibok, where Boko Haram kidnapped nearly 300 girls in April.

Mass execution: China executed about 2,400 people last year, according to a study by a human rights group—more than three times the rest of the world combined. Because China does not release official figures on capital punishment, the San Francisco–based Dui Hua Foundation based its estimate on press reports and sources within the judiciary. The group said the number of executions had fallen annually since 2002, when 12,000 prisoners were put to death. But it predicted that downward trend would halt this year, because of the widespread use of the death penalty in Xinjiang, a restive region in China’s northwest, and in a nationwide corruption crackdown.

Gwangju, South Korea
Death penalty for ferry captain? South Korean prosecutors this week announced that they would seek the death penalty for the captain of the capsized Sewol ferry and life sentences for three other crew members. At least 294 people, including hundreds of high school students on a field trip, died when the ferry went down in April. Prosecutors charged the captain and the three crew members with murder, alleging they told passengers to stay on board the sinking vessel and failed to deploy life rafts or hand out life vests. Capt. Lee Joon-seok was in his underwear when he was rescued from the water near the stricken ship and said he had been changing clothes when the ferry made a sharp turn and capsized. The death penalty has not been carried out in South Korea in 17 years.

ISIS missile threat: The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has acquired advanced surface-to-air-missile systems that could pose a serious threat to aircraft flown by the U.S. and its coalition allies. A recently released propaganda video from the jihadist group shows a militant blasting an Iraqi army helicopter out of the sky with a shoulder-fired missile launcher. The missile system is believed to be a Chinese-made FN-6, which experts suspect might have been supplied to Syrian rebels by Qatar or Saudi Arabia. ISIS claims to have shot down several other Iraqi aircraft this year and has published a guide on how to destroy a U.S. Apache attack helicopter. It advises militants to fire missile launchers with “strong confidence in God and composure.”

Brisbane, Australia
Sex sting: A computergenerated image of a 9-year-old Filipino girl that was created by a Dutch charity to ensnare online pedophiles has secured her first known conviction. Scott Robert Hansen, 35, a registered sex offender, pleaded guilty to child sex offenses at a Brisbane court last week and was sentenced to two years in prison. The charity, Terre des Hommes, had recorded Hansen engaged in a sex act while talking to “Sweetie,” who he believed to be real. Terre des Hommes said it has passed the names of 1,000 men who interacted with Sweetie on to Interpol.

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