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Blurring the lines between justice and politics in Latin America

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FROM THE viewpoint of Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s president-elect, it was an inspired appointment. On November 1st he announced that Sérgio Moro, the most prominent judge in the long-running corruption investigation known as Lava Jato (Car Wash), had agreed to serve as his justice and security minister. “His anti-corruption, anti-organised-crime agenda, as well as his respect for the constitution and the laws, will set our course,” Mr Bolsonaro tweeted. But there is a snag in Mr Moro’s appointment. It appears to confirm the claims of the left-wing Workers’ Party (PT) that the judge’s motive earlier this year for jailing its leader and putative presidential candidate, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was more political than judicial.

Whether or not that is true, Mr Moro’s new job (which he will take up on January 1st) is only the most dramatic example of an increasingly activist judiciary playing a more political role in Latin America. In Peru on October 31st, Judge Richard Concepción sent Keiko Fujimori, the leader of the opposition, to jail for three years without charge while he investigates claims that she received $1m for her presidential campaign in 2011 from Odebrecht, a Brazilian construction company. Her supporters say the judge is in cahoots with the government.

Many see such cases as an overdue clean-up of Latin American political life by newly emboldened judges and prosecutors. The powerful, be they politicians or businessmen, historically had little to fear from a biddable judiciary. Citizens now know much more about corruption and are much less tolerant of it. Anger at the PT and its attempt to game the political system through graft was a big factor in the unlikely victory of Mr Bolsonaro, a far-right former army captain. Tarred in the minds of many Peruvians because her father ruled as an autocrat, Ms Fujimori has played a destructive role in the country’s politics, organising the censure by congress of competent ministers.

Yet there are risks. José Domingo Pérez, the prosecutor in Ms Fujimori’s case, claims that she headed a “criminal organisation” within Popular Force (FP), her party, which “laundered” the Odebrecht money by registering fake donations. If true, this was a breach of political financing rules. But was it a crime? There is no evidence that Ms Fujimori, who lost in 2011 and 2016, offered padded contracts to Odebrecht. Mr Pérez claimed that if free she might destroy evidence (though she had not done so previously).

When Miguel Torres, an FP congressman, complained that “they have taken away [Ms Fujimori’s] right to an impartial judge, due process and the presumption of innocence”, he had a point. Happiest about all this will be Alejandro Toledo, a former Peruvian president, who is accused of taking $20m in bribes (which he denies). His lawyers have new arguments to resist his extradition from the United States.

As for Mr Moro, some of his judicial acts now look questionable. Lula was leading the opinion polls when he was jailed. The sentence—of more than nine years for receiving a flat worth $600,000—looked disproportionate. Days before the election, Mr Moro released plea-bargaining testimony from Antonio Palocci, a former PT minister, which incriminated the party. It now transpires that Mr Moro was already talking to Mr Bolsonaro’s people. All this undermines trust.

Mr Moro said his appointment “means consolidating the progress against crime and corruption of recent years and preventing risks of backsliding”. That is possible. He may also restrain Mr Bolsonaro in his policy of egging on police to shoot criminals.

But Mr Moro had insisted that he would never enter politics. How his breaking of that pledge comes to be viewed depends not just on how successful he is in his new role, but also on whether judges and prosecutors pursue wrongdoers in parties allied with the government as vigorously as he did Lula.

Whereas corruption remains largely unpunished in places like Mexico and Argentina, Brazil and Peru have gone furthest in investigating the sprawling Odebrecht scandal. There are some safeguards in both countries. Lula’s conviction was upheld by an appeal court (which increased his sentence), and his case will reach the supreme court. Peru’s constitutional tribunal this year freed Ollanta Humala, yet another former president, and his wife from what it said were “arbitrary detentions” without charge by Mr Concepción. Holding the powerful to account is a step forward, but justice must be seen to be fair.

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Tory remainers 'getting cold feet' about Brexit deal rebellion

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  1. Tory remainers ‘getting cold feet’ about Brexit deal rebellion  The Guardian
  2. Politics Briefing: May takes draft Brexit deal to cabinet  The Globe and Mail
  3. Brexit: Mixed political reaction to Brexit text  BBC News
  4. Full coverage



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On Politics: Democrats Continue to Gain as More Midterm Races Are Finalized

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On Politics: Democrats Continue to Gain as More Midterm Races Are Finalized

Good Wednesday morning. Here are some of the stories making news in Washington and politics today.

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What seemed like a mixed midterm result for the G.O.P. has turned more grim as Democrats continue to pick up seats in the House and narrow the Republican hold on the Senate. Read about the stronger Democratic gains.

President Trump is considering firing Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of Homeland Security who has long been a target of the president’s displeasure, according to three people close to him. Read about the staff shake-up.

There were conflicting reports on Tuesday on whether Mira Ricardel, a deputy national security adviser, had been fired. But there is no question that the first lady, Melania Trump, no longer wants her at the White House.

Mr. Trump issued a blistering personal attack against President Emmanuel Macron of France, and sought to defend his decision not to visit a cemetery of American soldiers while in France because of rain. Read more on his comments.

With a recount underway in the Florida governor’s race, Andrew Gillum, the Democratic nominee, is back on the campaign trail a week after conceding the election. Though the outcome is unlikely to change, Mr. Gillum has made it clear he is not going away.

Representative Kyrsten Sinema’s victory marked the first time a Democrat has been elected to the Senate from Arizona since 1988. Read more about Ms. Sinema, and here are six takeaways from her historic race.

On an otherwise bleak election night for North Dakota Democrats, Ruth Buffalo became the first Native American Democrat elected to the state legislature, unseating the architect of the very law tribes had feared would disenfranchise them.

As freshman orientation for new members of Congress began, Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez led activists in a protest in Nancy Pelosi’s office. The move is an early notice to Democratic leaders that the new House may be divided.

Despite a dismal election last week, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California looks set to become House minority leader. Read more about Mr. McCarthy — and his chances of securing the new role.

For weeks before the midterms, Mr. Trump warned ominously about the threat from a caravan of migrants streaming toward the United States border. But only a week after the election, he has dropped the issue almost entirely.

An independent bipartisan commission concluded in a sharply critical report that strained forces and budget shortfalls have cast doubt on the Pentagon’s strategy to confront global threats, in a challenge to Mr. Trump’s commitment to support a strong military.

Mr. Trump’s trade war is stoking an internal fight among his top economic advisers, with officials sparring over the White House’s approach to dealing with China and other trading partners. Here’s more on the feuding.

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Today’s On Politics briefing was compiled by Margaret Kramer in New York.

Check back later for On Politics With Lisa Lerer, a nightly newsletter exploring the people, issues and ideas reshaping the political world.

Is there anything you think we’re missing? Anything you want to see more of? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com.

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Brexit deal: Tory ministers meet to decide fate of agreement – Politics live

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  1. Brexit deal: Tory ministers meet to decide fate of agreement – Politics live  The Guardian
  2. This is a Brexit deal that delivers! May breaks EU deadlock as Cabinet summoned TODAY  Express.co.uk
  3. Brexit: UK and EU ‘agree text’ of draft withdrawal agreement  BBC News
  4. Full coverage



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