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  • Writer's pictureTéa Satariano

Weekly News Blast | April 28 - May 5


U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar has been indicted on charges of bribery and money laundering (Wikimedia Commons)


Texas Representative Henry Cuellar Indicted Over Foreign Ties


Representative Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Texas’ 28th Congressional District, and his wife, Imelda Cuellar, were charged with bribery and money laundering on May 3. According to the 54-page federal indictment, the couple allegedly received $600,000 in bribes from Azerbaijan leaders and a Mexico City bank. In return, Cuellar delivered a floor speech favoring Azerbaijan and inserted provisions into an aid bill that benefited the Azerbaijanis paying the bribes. During his time as Texas secretary of state, he also tried to weaken money laundering laws that adversely affected Mexico’s banking sector.


The couple was released on a $100,000 bond, and Cuellar released a statement shortly after denying all wrongdoing. “I want to be clear that both my wife and I are innocent of these allegations. Everything I have done in Congress has been to serve the people of South Texas.” He added that he still plans to seek re-election come November, but many question how the recent allegations will affect his campaign. One of the most conservative Democrats in the House, Cuellar faced a tough primary race in 2022, defeating Democrat challenger Jessica Cisneros by fewer than 300 votes. 


If convicted, Cuellar and his wife could spend years, if not decades, in prison. However, for now, the investigation is still ongoing. Christie Stephenson, a spokeswoman for House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries, said that Cuellar would step down as ranking member of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee but reaffirmed Cuellar as “a valued member of the House Democratic Caucus” and said he was “entitled to his day in court.”


President Joe Biden Awards the 2024 Presidential Medals of Freedom


On Friday, Joe Biden awarded 19 individuals—hailing from all corners of the American landscape—the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The award is respected as the highest honor to be bestowed on a civilian and is awarded annually to individuals who have significantly contributed to the prosperity and security of the United States. Among this year’s recipients were such celebrities as Michelle Yeoh and Katie Ledecky, as well as notable names in politics, including Jim Clyburn and former Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. Recipients shared a laundry list of accomplishments to be celebrated, including the development of gang-prevention programs, the establishment of holidays acknowledging the victories of the civil rights movement, and a Nobel Peace Prize. The award was also granted to three individuals posthumously, for their contributions to American culture and well-being before their passing.


European Union Ends Rule of Law Proceedings Against Poland


The European Union (EU) announced plans to end six years of rule of law proceedings against Poland. First initiated in 2017, when the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party created a disciplinary chamber with power over the country’s judges and ruled that EU law ranked lower than Polish national law, the formal Article 7 procedure suspends the rights of member states found to be in violation of the EU’s principles. Since then, Poland has been barred from certain privileges, such as voting in the Council of the European Union, and the European Commission has withheld billions of euros in funds earmarked for Poland.


However, the situation changed after the PiS lost parliamentary elections in October to a more liberal coalition led by Donald Tusk, a pro-EU politician. Since then, the new government has moved to address concerns about the independence of the justice system and recognized the primacy of EU law over national law. As a result, the commission said that it “considers that there is no longer a clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law in Poland.”


Poland’s government welcomed the EU’s decision after six years of having little voice in the organization’s affairs. “This is obviously good news for Poland,” said Katarzyna Pelczynska Nalecz, the Funds and Regional Policy Minister. “It strengthens Poland’s position in the European Union and makes us a strong player. There is no longer a dark shadow over us.” 

 


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