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Bolsonaro ‘authorizes’ transition without acknowledging defeat

Photo: Evaristo Sa / AFP

| By AFP | Marcelo Silva De Sousa |

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday “authorized” the transition to a new government, without acknowledging his defeat to leftist rival Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Bolsonaro, 67, broke two days of silence after his razor-thin loss to Lula on Sunday, which sparked protests from his supporters across the country and fanned fears he would not accept the outcome.

In a speech that lasted just over two minutes, the far-right incumbent neither acknowledged defeat, nor congratulated Lula on his victory.

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Bolsonaro started by thanking the 58 million Brazilians who voted for him, before commenting that the roadblocks erected by his supporters across the country were “the fruit of indignation and a feeling of injustice at how the electoral process took place.”

“Peaceful protests will always be welcome,” he said, adding that people should not be impeded from coming and going.

“As president of the Republic and a citizen I will continue to comply with our constitution,” he said, before handing the podium to his chief of staff Ciro Noguiera, who said Bolsonaro had “authorized” the “start of the transition” process.

Lula’s Workers’ Party announced Tuesday that his vice-president-elect Geraldo Alckmin would lead the transition process which would begin on Thursday. Lula will be inaugurated for his third term as president on January 1.

No concession call

Bolsonaro’s appearance, however succinct, capped two days of tensions over how he would respond to such a narrow loss after months of alleging fraud in the electoral system.

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“Anyplace else in the world, the defeated president would have called me to recognize his defeat,” Lula said in his victory speech to a euphoric sea of red-clad supporters in Sao Paulo on Sunday night.

Bolsonaro remained silent even as key allies publicly recognized his loss, including the powerful speaker of the lower house of Congress, Arthur Lira.

Federal Highway Police (PRF) on Tuesday reported more than 250 total or partial road blockages in at least 23 states by Bolsonaro supporters, which they were attempting to disperse, in some cases firing teargas at demonstrators.

Protesters wearing the yellow and green of the Brazilian flag, which the outgoing president has adopted as his own, said they would not accept the outcome of the election.

“We will not accept losing what we have gained, we want what is written on our flag, ‘order and progress’. We will not accept the situation as it is,” Antoniel Almeida, 45, told AFP at a protest in Barra Mansa, Rio de Janeiro.

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On Monday night, Judge Alexander de Moraes of the Supreme Court ordered police to disperse the blockades immediately. He was acting in response to a request by a transport federation that complained it was losing business.

‘Strength of our values’

Bolsonaro became the first incumbent president in Brazil not to win re-election in the post-dictatorship era after a four-year term in which he came under fire for his disastrous handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, which left more than 680,000 dead in Brazil.

He also drew criticism for his vitriolic comments, polarizing style and attacks on democratic institutions and foreign allies.

Bolsonaro used his brief speech to reflect on his time in office and said the victory of a majority of right-wing candidates in Congress “shows the strength of our values: God, homeland, family, and liberty.”

“Our dreams are more alive than ever. Even in the face of the system, we overcame a pandemic and the consequences of a war,” Bolsonaro said, referring to Russia’s war against Ukraine, which has reverberated around the globe with rising prices and concerns of a major food crisis. “I was always labeled undemocratic and unlike my accusers, I always played within the limits of the constitution.”

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Lula gets to work

The post-election drama follows a dirty and divisive election campaign between Bolsonaro and Lula, who returns to office in a dramatic comeback.

Brazil’s president between 2003 and 2010, Lula crashed into disgrace in a corruption scandal that landed him in jail before his conviction was thrown out due to bias from the lead judge. However, he was not exonerated.

The election outcome showed just how polarized the country is between the two very different leaders.

Lula scored 50.9 percent to Bolsonaro’s 49.1 percent — the narrowest margin in Brazil’s modern history.

With a massive to-do list, Lula leaped into action, meeting Argentine President Alberto Fernandez in Sao Paulo and holding a series of phone calls with US President Joe Biden, France’s Emmanuel Macron, Germany’s Olaf Scholz, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and others.

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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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