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Rosangela da Silva hopes to be a different kind of Brazilian first lady

Photo: Caio Guatelli / AFP

| By AFP | Eugenia Logiuratto |

Jumping for joy in a bright red dress, then tenderly holding her husband’s victory speech as he addressed a sea of euphoric supporters, Brazil’s first lady-elect, Rosangela da Silva, looked very much in love.

Her husband, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, had just won Sunday’s presidential election in Brazil, capping a remarkable political comeback for the leftist icon — and his new wife was elated at his side.

Da Silva, a 56-year-old sociologist and left-wing activist, married Lula, a twice-widowed cancer survivor who is 21 years her senior, in May.

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Despite being stuck in the slog of the ex-president’s brutal, divisive election campaign against far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro, the newlyweds have appeared to be on an extended honeymoon ever since — capped by Lula’s election victory.

Lula credits Da Silva, widely known by her nickname, “Janja,” with giving him new life after the 2017 death of his wife of 30 years, Marisa Leticia, with whom he has four children.

“I am as in love as if I were 20 years old,” the former — and now future — president says of his wife, a long-time member of the Workers’ Party.

Their age difference seems to have breathed new energy into Lula, whose first wife, Maria de Lourdes, died in 1971.

“When you lose your wife, and you think, well, my life has no more meaning. Then suddenly, this person appears who makes you feel like you want to live again,” he told Time magazine in an interview published just before he remarried.

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The septuagenarian politician often links his political rebirth to his late-life love affair.

“I’m here, standing strong, in love again, crazy about my wife,” he told the crowd Sunday. “She’s the one who will give me strength to confront all obstacles.”

Earlier, Da Silva had celebrated the news of his victory by posting a picture of them on Twitter.

“I love you,” she wrote.

A kiss outside prison

Da Silva was born in the south of Brazil and earned a sociology degree from the university in Curitiba, capital of Parana state.

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In 1983 she joined the Workers’ Party, which Lula had co-founded two years earlier.

Brazilian media reports say the two have known each other for decades, but Lula’s press people say their romance began only in late 2017 at an event with left-leaning artists.

But the love affair between this smiling woman with long chestnut hair and the aging lion of the Brazilian left became widely known only in May 2019.

At the time, Lula was in prison — jailed on controversial corruption charges that were later annulled by the Supreme Court.

“Lula is in love, and the first thing he wants to do when he gets out of prison is get married,” said one of his lawyers after a visit with him.

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In the end, the two wed only this year. It was a discreet ceremony — by Lula’s standards. The 200 guests included celebrities like singer Gilberto Gil, who had served as culture minister under Lula.

While Lula was in prison, Janja would pen affectionate tweets about him. “All I want to do is hug you and cuddle with you non-stop,” she wrote on his 74th birthday.

In November 2019, shortly after Lula’s release from prison, they shared a kiss before a crowd gathered outside the prison in Curitiba, where Lula had spent 18 months locked up.

– ‘New meaning’ –

While she has been active in Lula’s campaign, on stage and on social media, Da Silva is very private with her personal life. The magazine Veja says she was previously married for more than 10 years and has no children.

Now, as of January 1, she will be Brazil’s first lady.

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“I want to give new meaning to the role of first lady, by focusing on topics that are priorities for women, such as food insecurity or domestic violence,” she said in August.

She was one of the stars of his campaign, playing a leading role from the day it launched on May 7 — right up to his victory speech on Sunday night.

International

Food prices send hunger soaring in Latin America: UN agencies

Photo: AP News

| By AFP |

Rising food prices in Latin America and the Caribbean caused the number of people going hungry in the region to rise by more than 13 million between 2019 and 2021, a United Nations report said Tuesday.

The report by three UN agencies said the region was particularly vulnerable to the global food crisis caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine due to a high reliance on wheat, maize and fertilizer imports.

“The number of people in the region suffering from hunger increased by 13.2 million to 56.5 million,” read the report, released at a press conference in Santiago, Chile.

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In addition, moderate or severe food insecurity affected 267.7 million people — 40.6 percent of the region’s population — in 2021. 

This is “far above the world average” of 29.3 percent, said the report.

“The rise in food inflation and extreme poverty is one of the factors behind the increase in food insecurity and hunger,” said the report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

According to the FAO, food insecurity refers to a lack of regular access to healthy and nutritious food.

“The heavy reliance on imported fertilizers, and fluctuating food prices, have an unavoidable negative impact on livelihoods — mainly of the rural population — and access to healthy food,” said Mario Lubetkin, FAO Assistant Director-General.

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International

Colombia landslide kills 34

Photo: AFP

| By AFP |

Heavy rains in northwest Colombia sent a wall of earth crashing onto a winding road, swallowing up a bus and other vehicles and killing 34 people, emergency services said Monday.

The landslide Sunday evening prompted a large rescue effort, with dozens of people in hard hats using backhoes and excavators to dig through the earth looking for victims.

The National Unit for Disaster Risk Management said the fatalities included eight minors and that nine other people were injured in the disaster in the remote town of Pueblo Rico.

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The bus had set out from the city of Cali with 25 passengers, and traveled 270 kilometers (170 miles) before being hit by the landslide as it passed through the Andes mountain region, civil defense officials said.

Colombian media reported that a child had survived and was pulled from the arms of its mother, who did not make it.

One survivor said the bus driver had at first managed to dodge the worst of the landslide.

“Part of it was coming down and the bus was a little bit back from that. The bus driver was backing up when it all came crashing down,” Andres Ibarguen told radio station Lloro Stereo.

The rainy season that began in August is Colombia’s worst in 40 years, according to the government, causing accidents that have left more than 270 people dead.

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The country has declared a national disaster over the rains linked to the exceptionally long La Nina weather phenomenon, which cools surface temperatures and is currently causing drought and flooding around the globe.

Today, the landslide “puts this town in mourning, tomorrow it could be in another area, because we really have many unstable areas in the country, and the rainy season has not ended,” said Javier Pava of the UNGRD.

The UN’s World Meteorological Organization said last week the La Nina conditions could last until February or March 2023.

In Colombia, the phenomenon has also caused crop damage, compromising food supplies and leading to soaring prices.

In July, three children were killed in northwestern Colombia when a landslide buried a rural school. In February, 14 people died in a mudslide triggered by heavy rains in central-western Risaralda province.

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International

At least 27 killed in Colombia landslide: president

Photo: AFP

| By AFP |

At least 27 people were killed when a landslide engulfed a road in northwest Colombia, trapping people in a bus and other vehicles, said President Gustavo Petro on Monday.

“It is with sadness that I must announce that, so far, 27 people, including three minors, have lost their lives in the tragedy” that struck on Sunday in a remote area of the Pueblo Rico municipality, Petro wrote on Twitter.

On Sunday evening, the president reported three dead, as dozens of rescue workers searched for survivors.

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One survivor said the driver of the bus managed to dodge the worst of the landslide.

“Part of it was coming down and the bus was a little bit back from that. The bus driver was backing up when it all came crashing down,” Andres Ibarguen told radio station Lloro Stereo.

The bus had set out from the city of Cali with 25 passengers, civil defense officials said.

The rainy season that began in August is Colombia’s worst in 40 years, according to the government, causing accidents that have left more than 270 people dead.

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