Rio De Janeiro, Nov 2 (AP/UNB) — The Brazilian judge at the center of one of the largest corruption investigations in history said Thursday he would become justice minister in the government of President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, a decision that will be hailed by Brazilians eager for a crackdown on graft but also add to deep polarization after a bruising presidential campaign.
Moro is wildly popular among conservatives and loathed by many on the left, so his decision to join the incoming administration will feed the suspicion of many Brazilians that the judge was politically biased in jailing ex-President Luiz Inacio da Silva, a conviction that forced the poll-leading leftist out of the presidential race.
Moro met with Bolsonaro at the president-elect's home in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday. Upon emerging, Moro did not speak to reporters but soon put out a statement confirming he had accepted an offer to lead both the justice and public security ministries, which will be combined in Bolsonaro's government.
Moro said it would be hard to give up being a federal judge after 22 years, but he saw an opportunity to "implement a strong agenda of anti-corruption and anti-organized crime" in his new role.
"In practice, this will mean consolidating the advancements against crime and corruption the last years and remove any risks of going backward," he wrote.
He added that the sprawling "Car Wash" investigation would continue in the hands of local judges in the southern city of Curitiba, where Moro lives and many of the cases have been tried. He also said he would provide more details on his new role next week.
Launched in 2014, the "Car Wash" probe uncovered elaborate schemes in which construction companies received bloated contracts and then kicked back billions of dollars in bribes to politicians and other government officials over more than a decade.
The level of corruption was breathtaking for Brazilians long inured to graft, and the scandal has reverberated across several Latin American countries where Odebrecht, one of the companies at the center of the scandal, did business.
The investigation has led to the jailing of many of the country's biggest names. That list includes da Silva, convicted by Moro of corruption for trading favors with construction company Grupo OAS for the promise of a beachfront apartment. Da Silva began serving a 12-year sentence in April.
The cases made Moro a wildly popular figure with Brazilians exhausted by numerous stories of politicians plundering government coffers; Earlier this year, he tracked highly in presidential polls even though the judge, quiet and wonky, never expressed interest in running.
However, many of his tactics have been highly controversial, such as the use of extended pre-trial detentions and plea bargains, both aimed at getting high-profile suspects to talk.
On social media Thursday, many Brazilians shared a 2016 story in daily Estadao, which quoted Moro saying he had no political ambitions.
"No, never. Never," he said when asked about running for office or getting into politics. "I am a man of the justice system."
Moro has been accused of being partisan, with supporters of da Silva and the left-leaning Workers' Party claiming Moro was at the center of a conspiracy to keep da Silva, who Brazilians call Lula, from running for president this year. Even after being jailed, da Silva led preference polls. In September, his candidacy was barred.
"Moro will become Bolsonaro's minister after having a decisive role in his election (victory) by impeding Lula from running," tweeted Gleisi Hoffman, chairwoman of da Silva's Workers' Party, adding: "He helped elect. Now he'll help govern."
In reality, Moro has convicted politicians from across the political spectrum. But he has also made decisions that many interpret as biased, such as releasing wiretapped conversations between da Silva and then President Dilma Rousseff in 2016.
For Bolsonaro, a former army captain who ran on promises to crack down on graft and rising crime, landing Moro is a huge boon. Moro, who studied law in Brazil and did a special program at Harvard University, has received numerous awards and honorary degrees related to his work. He frequently speaks in the United States and other countries, and is arguably the world's most famous anti-corruption crusader.
Bolsonaro told reporters outside his home late Thursday that Moro had asked for "total liberty" to operate, and he would have it.
Still, the decision comes with huge risks, both for Moro personally — he now will become "political" as part of an administration — and the future of the "Car Wash" investigations.
Members of the "Car Wash" task force have said much work remains, but it's hard to imagine any judge having the gravitas of Moro, who rose to fame because of his ability to sort through complicated white-collar crimes and write decisions that are rarely overturned.
In leading the combined ministries of justice and public security, Moro will be ultimately responsible for areas that include intractable problems, such as security. Last year, nearly 64,000 people were killed in Brazil, a record for the country that has long been the world leader in annual homicides.
Moro will oersee the federal police, highway police, the penitentiary system, immigration and several other agencies that in total encompass thousands of employees.
"Moro is making a complicated bet" in taking on a political role, said Mauricio Santoro, a political science professor at the State University of Rio de Janeiro. "Every government in the world has corruption. How will Moro deal with that? What will he do?"
Sao Paulo, Oct 31 (AP/UNB) — The judge at the center of Brazil's sprawling investigation into kickbacks to politicians said Tuesday he would consider joining the Cabinet of President-elect Jair Bolsonaro if invited.
Bolsonaro, a far-right former army captain who will take office Jan. 1, said during an interview after his Sunday election that he would ask federal judge Sergio Moro to be his justice minister or fill a future vacancy on the supreme court.
In a statement, Moro said he would be "honored" by such an invitation, and added that it "would be the object of careful discussion and reflection."
Moro leads the "Operation Car Wash" corruption probe, which was launched in 2014 and has led to the jailing of many business executives and politicians, including former President Luiz Inacio da Silva of the left-leaning Workers' Party. His supporters have accused the judge of bias against their leaders.
Bolsonaro ran on an anti-corruption, pro-gun and tough-on-crime platform.
In the interview with TV Record, he noted he held off on mentioning a role for Moro during the presidential race.
"If I had said that during the campaign that would be opportunistic," he said. "But now I can say I want to (invite Moro). Not only to the supreme court, but maybe to the justice ministry. I want to talk to him. For sure he will be a person of extreme importance."
Rosangela Wolff Moro, a lawyer married to the judge, has repeatedly suggested in her Instagram profile that she supported Bolsonaro against left-leaning Fernando Haddad, who was named the Workers' Party candidate after da Silva was barred by electoral authorities over his imprisonment.
Bolsonaro appeared in public Tuesday for the first time as president-elect. He visited a church led by ultraconservative pastor Silas Malafaia and spoke briefly to the faithful on stage.
"I am sure that I am not the most capable, but God capacitates the chosen ones," he said.
Bolsonaro's future chief-of-staff, Onyx Lorenzoni, said earlier that several current Cabinet positions will be merged into a single economy ministry, which will be led by economist Paulo Guedes.
"The minister of industry and commerce will be with economy. So, the minister of economy will include (fusion of) the finance, the planning and the industry and commerce ministry," Lorenzoni said.
Brazil's national industry confederation criticized the idea.
"We need a minister with a specific role, not linked to the economy ministry, which worries more about revenues and public finances," it said.
Most Brazilian business leaders endorsed Bolsonaro's candidacy.
The incoming administration also plans to merge the agriculture and environment ministries, a move that some farmers and many environmentalists oppose.
The nonprofit group Observatorio do Clima said the move aims to end any environmental regulation.
"Bolsonarism is showing his face: an ideological regime of violence and looting of natural resources, bending to the oldest forces of the producing sector," its statement said. "This undermines the competitivity of Brazilian agribusiness, which depends on strong environmental governance, and makes Brazil a pariah in the international scene."
Also on Tuesday, a few thousand people rallied in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro to protest against the president-elect.
Mexico, Oct 29 (AP/UNB) — Several thousand Central American migrants planned to resume their trek through southern Mexico before dawn Monday, while authorities in that country and Guatemala tried to sort out the killing of a migrant at a border crossing.
On Sunday, while the band of migrants was resting and reorganizing in Tepanatepec, several hundred in another group more broke through border barriers in the Guatemala town of Tecun Uman just as members of the caravan did more than a week earlier. Those migrants clashed with Mexican authorities determined not to let the caravan grow or be repeated.
The new group, whose members called themselves a second caravan, gathered on the international bridge leading from Tecun Uman to Mexico. Guatemalan firefighters confirmed that a 26-year-old Honduran was killed from a rubber bullet hitting his head.
At a news conference late Sunday, Mexican Interior Secretary Alfonso Navarrete Prida denied that his country's forces were responsible.
He said that Mexican federal police and immigration agents were attacked with rocks, glass bottles and fireworks when migrants broke through a gate on the Mexican side of the border, but that none of the officers were armed with firearms or anything that could fire rubber bullets. Navarrete said some of the attackers carried guns and firebombs.
"Mexico does not criminalize undocumented immigration," he said.
Also on Sunday, about 300 Salvadorans departed from San Salvador hoping to make their way to the U.S. as a group.
Meanwhile, some of the migrants in the initial caravan, now estimated at 4,000 people, rested Sunday in the shade of tarps strung across the town plaza or picked up trash in Tapanatepec, population 7,500. Others soaked themselves in the nearby Novillero river.
Tensions from a long trek through searing heat with tenuous supplies of food and other goods spilled over Saturday night when a dispute in a food line devolved into a beating. Many in the caravan have been on the road for more than two weeks, since the group first formed in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
Raul Medina Melendez, security chief for the tiny municipality in Oaxaca state, said the town was distributing sandwiches and water to migrants camped in the central square Saturday night when a man with a megaphone asked people to wait their turn.
Some hurled insults at the man with the megaphone, then they attacked him, Medina said. Police rescued the man as he was being beaten and took him to a hospital for treatment, though his condition was not immediately clear.
On Sunday, several in the caravan took to microphones to denounce the attack.
"Is that the way we're going to always behave?" a woman from Honduras asked.
Others complained of trekkers smoking marijuana or warned that images of litter and uneaten food made them appear disrespectful.
The group planned to set out early Monday for Niltepec, 54 kilometers (33 miles) to the northwest in Oaxaca state.
The caravan still must travel 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) to reach the nearest U.S. border crossing at McAllen, Texas. The trip could be twice as long if the migrants head for the Tijuana-San Diego frontier, as another caravan did earlier this year. Only about 200 in that smaller group made it to the border.
Most of the migrants in the caravan appeared determined to reach the U.S., despite an offer of refuge in Mexico.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto launched a program Friday dubbed "You are home," which promises shelter, medical attention, schooling and jobs to Central Americans who agree to stay in the southern Mexico states of Chiapas or Oaxaca, far from the U.S. border.
Mexico's interior minister said Sunday that temporary identity numbers had been issued to more than 300 migrants, which would allow them to stay and work in Mexico. The ministry said pregnant women, children and the elderly were among those who had joined the program and were now being attended at shelters.
He said 1,895 had applied for refugee status in Mexico.
Sao Paulo, Oct 29 (AP/UNB) — Jair Bolsonaro, a brash far-right congressman who has waxed nostalgic for Brazil's old military dictatorship, won the presidency of Latin America's largest nation Sunday as voters looked past warnings that he would erode democracy and embraced a chance for radical change after years of turmoil.
The former army captain, who cast himself as a political outsider despite a 27-year career in Congress, became the latest world leader to rise to power by mixing tough, often violent talk with hard-right positions. His victory reflected widespread anger at the political class after years of corruption, an economy that has struggled to recover after a punishing recession and a surge in violence.
"I feel in my heart that things will change," Sandra Coccato, a 68-year-old small business owner, said after she voted for Bolsonaro in Sao Paulo. "Lots of bad people are leaving, and lots of new, good people are entering. There's a light at the end of the tunnel."
In Rio de Janeiro, thousands of Bolsonaro supporters gathered on iconic Copacabana Beach, where fireworks went off. In Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city, car horns could be heard honking and crowds celebrated as the results came in. There were also reports of clashes between his backers and opponents in Sao Paulo.
Speaking to supporters from his home in Rio, Bolsonaro recounted how he was stabbed while campaigning last month and almost died.
"I was never alone. I always felt the presence of God and the force of the Brazilian people," he said.
Bolsonaro, who ran on promises to clean up Brazil and bring back "traditional values," said he would respect the constitution and personal liberty.
"That is a promise, not of a party, not the vain word of a man. It's a promise to God," he said, standing next to his wife and many cheering supporters.
Later, he said in a Facebook Live transmission that he had received a call from some world leaders, including U.S. President Donald Trump who wished him good luck.
Addressing supporters in Sao Paulo, his rival, Fernando Haddad of the Workers' Party, did not concede or even mention Bolsonaro by name. Instead, his speech was a promise to resist.
"We have the responsibility to mount an opposition, putting national interests, the interests of the entire Brazilian people, above everything," Haddad said. "Brazil has never needed the exercise of citizenship more than right now."
He later added: "Don't be afraid. We are here. We are together!"
Brazil's top electoral court said Bolsonaro won with just over 55 percent of the vote, compared with just under 45 percent for Haddad.
Bolsonaro went into Sunday the clear front-runner after getting 46 percent of the vote to Haddad's 29 percent in the first round of voting on Oct. 7, when 13 contenders were on the ballot. Opinion polls in recent weeks had him leading by as much as 18 percentage points, but the race tightened in the last few days. Several Brazilian heavyweights came out against him, arguing that he was a direct risk to the world's fourth-largest democracy.
His rise was powered by disgust with the political system. In particular, many Brazilians were furious with the Workers' Party for its role in the graft scheme known as "Carwash." Haddad struggled to build momentum with his promises of a return to the boom times by investing in health and education and reducing poverty.
Along the way, Bolsonaro's candidacy also raised serious concerns that he would roll back civil rights and weaken institutions in what remains a young democracy. He frequently disparaged women, gays and blacks, and said he would name military men to his Cabinet.
Minutes after he was elected, several international human rights groups put out statements demanding that Bolsonaro respect Brazil's democracy.
In a highly unusual moment earlier Sunday, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Jose Dias Toffoli, read out part of the Constitution to reporters after he voted.
"The future president must respect institutions, must respect democracy, the rule of law, the judiciary branch, the national Congress and the legislative branch," Toffoli said in remarks many took to be a rebuke of Bolsonaro and his more extreme positions.
As late as Sunday morning, Haddad was still holding out hope that he could win after receiving several key endorsements late Saturday.
Among them was a popular former Supreme Court justice, Joaquim Barbosa, who tweeted support for Haddad, saying Bolsonaro's candidacy scared him. Likewise, former Attorney General Rodrigo Janot, one of the biggest crusaders against corruption in the Workers' Party in recent years, also endorsed Haddad.
One of the most important endorsements, particularly for young people, came from YouTube personality Felipe Neto, whose channel has nearly 27 million followers.
Neto said he was troubled by Bolsonaro's comments a week ago that "red" leftists would be run out of Brazil.
"In 16 years of the (Workers' Party), I have been robbed, but never threatened," Neto said on Twitter.
The past few years in Brazil have been exceptionally turbulent. In 2016, then-President Dilma Rousseff of the Workers' Party was impeached and removed from office on charges that many on the left felt were politically motivated. The economy suffered a two-year recession and is only beginning to emerge, with growth stagnant and unemployment high.
Scores of politicians and executives have been jailed in the Carwash corruption investigation, which uncovered a multibillion-dollar scheme to trade public contracts and official favors for bribes and kickbacks.
That instability unleashed sharp anger against the political class but also revealed deep divisions in Brazilian society, and the campaign was the most polarized in decades. There were numerous reports of politically motivated violence, especially directed at gay people.
Many observers predicted that a newcomer would emerge to harness the anti-establishment anger. Instead, support coalesced around Bolsonaro, who at the margins in Congress painted himself as just the strong man Brazil needed to dismantle a failing system.
Bolsonaro's campaign first gained traction with his promises to go after violent crime in a country that leads the world in homicides and where many Brazilians live in daily fear of muggings or burglaries. But his vows to loosen gun laws and give police a freer hand to use force have also raised concerns that his presidency could lead to a bloody crackdown and an erosion of civil rights.
The campaign gained momentum by winning over much of the business community with promises of enacting market-friendly reforms that would reduce the size of the Brazilian state, including cutting ministries and privatizing state companies.
"I hope that with these elections we're not signing a blank check again, and that we don't close our eyes to everything that has happened," said Jose Nobrega, a 53-year-old waiter in Mare, one of Rio's most violent neighborhoods.
Leicester, Oct 28 (AP/UNB) — A helicopter belonging to Leicester City's owner crashed in flames in a carpark next to the soccer club's stadium shortly after it took off from the field following a Premier League game on Saturday.
The central England team said it was assisting authorities with "a major incident" at the stadium but there were no details about who was on board or their condition.
The Air Accident Investigation Branch is working alongside the emergency services and the club to "establish the exact circumstances of the collision," Leicestershire Police said in a statement.
Billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who owns Thai duty-free retail giant King Power, bought Leicester in 2010 and provided the funds that helped the team improbably win the Premier League at odds of 5,000-1 in 2016.
Leicester has not said if its owner was on the helicopter. In a scene regularly seen after matches, Vichai's aircraft arrived in the King Power Stadium after Saturday's 1-1 draw against West Ham before taking off from the center circle more than an hour after full time.
Photographer Ryan Brown reported hearing the engine stopping after the helicopter cleared the stadium.
"I turned round and it made a bit of a whirring noise, like a grinding noise," Brown told the BBC. "The helicopter just went silent, I turned round and it was just spinning, out of control. And then there was a big bang and then (a) big fireball."
British broadcaster BT Sport was presenting its post-game show in the stadium when the helicopter took off.
"It suddenly got very serious," BT presenter Jake Humphrey announced later on air. "The helicopter has crashed. It has crashed in the club carpark ... we heard a commotion."
The local ambulance service said it received reports of a helicopter crash at 8:38 p.m. local time and sent a doctor, two paramedics in ambulance cars, a crewed ambulance and its Hazardous Area Response Team.
"The first resource (arrived) within two minutes of the call," the ambulance service said.
An indication of concerns within the Leicester squad came on social media.
The emoji of praying hands was tweeted by several players, including striker Jamie Vardy, whose goals helped the 134-year-old team win the English title for the first time in 2016.
The competition's organizers tweeted: "Thoughts from all at the Premier League are with everyone affected by tonight's incident."