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Brazil’s most-voted lawmaker suspended from Twitter

Photo: Douglas Magno / AFP

| By AFP |

An ultra-conservative who was the most-voted lawmaker in Brazil’s elections said Saturday his social media accounts had been suspended after he called for an investigation of alleged irregularities in President Jair Bolsonaro’s loss at the polls.

Nikolas Ferreira, 26, a social media star and fervent supporter of the far-right president, had posted a series of messages on Twitter Friday calling on electoral authorities to investigate accusations that some of Brazil’s electronic voting machines gave unusually large scores to leftist president-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who defeated Bolsonaro in the October elections.

“I’m asking the (Superior Electoral Tribunal) to verify revelations made today of possible fraud in the Brazilian elections. Valid doubts have emerged,” wrote Ferreira, a devout Christian with more than two million followers on Twitter and Instagram.

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He said the information came from a video on a  pro-Bolsonaro YouTube channel about supposed irregularities in “unauditable” voting machines manufactured before 2020.

Bolsonaro and his supporters have regularly alleged Brazil’s voting system is plagued by fraud, with scant evidence.

The Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE) has moved aggressively to counter disinformation around the elections, including by ordering false claims be blocked on social media — drawing accusations of bias from Bolsonaro.

Ferreira’s Twitter account was inaccessible in Brazil, displaying a message that said it had been “withheld in response to a legal demand.” 

Ferreira accused the authorities of censorship in a message on Instagram, saying he “never alleged anything, just asked for an investigation.”

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He posted a picture of himself with black tape over his mouth, with the message: “Share this information… The truth will prevail.”

The TSE did not confirm it had ordered Ferreira’s accounts suspended. A spokeswoman for the electoral authority told AFP such rulings are confidential court documents.

Ferreira, who says he is at “war” with the “silent threat of communism” in Brazil, was elected to Congress for the southeastern state of Minas Gerais with 1.5 million votes in the country’s October 2 elections.

Lula went on to defeat Bolsonaro in a polarizing presidential runoff election on October 30, with 50.9 percent of the vote to 49.1 percent for the incumbent.

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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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