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Brazil roadblocks dwindle as Bolsonaro starts handover

Photo: Miguel Schincariol / AFP

| By AFP | 

Brazilian police said Friday they have nearly finished clearing hundreds of roadblocks by supporters of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who have been protesting since his election loss to veteran leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Just 15 partial roadblocks remain nationwide, said federal highway police, adding they had broken up another 954 since Sunday’s divisive presidential runoff election.

Bolsonaro supporters reacted furiously to Lula’s narrow victory, blocking highways with cars, trucks, and tractors and camping out at army bases to demand a military intervention.

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The blockades had threatened to cause havoc in Latin America’s biggest economy but have diminished since Bolsonaro urged supporters Wednesday to “unblock the roads.”

Ex-army captain Bolsonaro remained silent for nearly two days after the election, raising fears he would try to cling to power with the backing of hardline supporters.

But after a series of key allies acknowledged the result, the incumbent said Tuesday he would respect the constitution and authorized the start of the transition process for Lula’s inauguration on January 1.

However, Bolsonaro has still not explicitly recognized the result or congratulated Lula.

The outgoing president on Thursday met briefly with vice president-elect Geraldo Alckmin, who is heading Lula’s transition team.

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Alckmin said the meeting had been “positive,” and that Bolsonaro had promised “all information and assistance needed for a smooth transition.”

Pro-Bolsonaro protests had dwindled Friday morning outside military bases in various cities.

Around 100 people remained outside a barracks in Brasilia, an AFP photographer said. In Sao Paulo, a handful of protesters remained, calling for “divine and then military intervention.”

In Rio de Janeiro, demonstrators had dispersed.

The remaining roadblocks affect just five of Brazil’s 27 states, police said.

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The National Confederation of Industry had warned Tuesday that there was an “imminent risk of shortages” if highways were not quickly cleared.

Although Bolsonaro urged supporters to lift their roadblocks, he also encouraged “legitimate demonstrations,” raising fears Brazil may still face turbulent times until Lula is sworn in, and beyond.

Ex-metalworker Lula, 77, who led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, won an unprecedented third term with 50.9 percent of the vote, to 49.1 percent for Bolsonaro — the closest presidential election in the country’s modern history.

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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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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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