Operation Carwash, Political Scandal Engulfs South America

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A Brief History

On March 23, 2018, the latest in a line of politicians forced from office across South America was Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, the President of Peru.  Not so original himself, Kuczynski was preceded in the presidency by Alan Gabriel Ludwig García Pérez (president 2006-2011) who had also been forced to resign due to corruption, and then by President Ollanta Humala (president 2011-2016) who was also implicated in the same massive anti-corruption investigation, called Operation Carwash, or alternately by a sub-investigation called the Odebrecht Scandal.  Operation Carwash, initiated in Brazil 2014, is far from over, but has already reached 11 other countries and resulted in over 1000 arrest warrants!  The investigation is not yet over…

Digging Deeper

Americans too young to remember Watergate or the Enron Scandal, or the Savings and Loan Scandal or the ABSCAM scandals involving American politicians are at least familiar with the Russia-Gate scandal that consumed the first 3 years of the Donald Trump administration, and ultimately resulted in several convictions, but also in the failed impeachment of the President.  While the Russia/Collusion/Obstruction investigation was pretty long and complicated and involved people from Russia and Ukraine as well as the United States, all the American political scandals pale in comparison to Operation Carwash and the related investigations.

The big investigation started in Brazil concerning the giant Brazilian oil company, Petrobras, a company owned and operated by the government of Brazil.  Conducting the investigation are the Federal Police of Brazil under the auspices of a federal judge appointed as investigative head of the operation.

To put the Operation Carwash Scandal in perspective, here is a partial list of politicians involved in the corruption uncovered:

26 Brazilian Senators

35 Brazilian Federal Deputies

24 Other Brazilian officials, including governors, mayors, family members and others

Mexican Director of Pemex (state owned oil giant) accused of taking $10 million in bribes

Panamanian Panameñista Party President and counselor to the President

President and First Lady of Argentina under investigation and indictment (Note: The First Lady is the former President of Argentina!)

2 Peruvian Presidents and a Candidate for President booted or convicted, former President arrested in California

Venezuelan President implicated and defeated in reelection bid, but remained in office as dictator against the wishes of most of the civilized world

Meanwhile, many industrial figures are also implicated in the scandal and may face prosecution, and the investigation has uncovered numerous other financial and corruption irregularities that are being investigated separately.  Whether or not any Americans end up in jail over this scandal remains to be seen.  Most of the corruption involved entails bribery, skimming, money laundering and corrupt contracting as well as election irregularities.  Banks and other companies are also involved.  Some high placed persons mentioned above have avoided jail by cooperating with investigators or claiming immunity.

While we have merely brushed over the complex and extremely tiring detail filled investigation, you can look it up if you have hours and hours of time and the willingness to read thousands of pages of reports!  The information revealed by Operation Carwash lends some credibility to the notion, “People are no damn good!” (At least politicians…)

Question for students (and subscribers): Which political scandal do you rate as the worst?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Netto, Vladimir. The Mechanism: A Crime Network So Deep it Brought Down a Nation. Ebury Digital, 2019.

Pacheco, Flavia. Operation Car Wash: Understand the investigation that unveiled Brazil’s largest ever corruption scheme. Amazon, 2017.

The featured image in this article, a screenshot from Mensaje a la Nación 21-03-2018 of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in his last message to the nation announcing his resignation from the presidential office, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.


About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.