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Trump gets warm reception at Republican gathering as rivals lash out

Photo: ALON SKUY / AFP

| By AFP | Paula Ramon |

Donald Trump received a standing ovation at a Republican Party gathering Saturday, even as several possible White House rivals lashed out at his election denialism and insisted it was time to move on from the former US president.

In his first major appearance since announcing his intention to run again in 2024, Trump told the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas that the party had grown under his leadership.

The 76-year-old falsely insisted once again that the 2020 presidential election — which he lost — was rigged, and rejected responsibility for the GOP’s poor performance in the November midterms.

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In 2020 “we had a really disgraceful election, many millions of votes more than we had in 2016… and the result was, in my opinion, an absolute sham,” he told the audience by video link.

“The election was rigged, and it’s too bad it was.”

Asked about how he could improve the party’s appeal to suburban voters, among whom it did badly in this month’s midterms, Trump insisted he had a record of picking winners.

“In the midterms, as you’ve probably heard, I was 222 wins and 16 losses, the press doesn’t want to mention that, and the Republican Party got five million more votes than the Democrats,” he said, despite the final vote tallies not yet being finalized. 

“The Republican Party is a much bigger and more powerful party than it was before I got there,” he said.

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With the midterms in the rear-view mirror, the Las Vegas event served as a catwalk for potential Trump rivals ahead of the Republican Party primaries to decide who will fight for the presidency in 2024. 

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is emerging as one of Trump’s main rivals, closed the meeting with a speech praising his midterms performance. 

“We dominated with independent voters, we secured record margins with Hispanic voters. We swept the suburbs all across the state of Florida,” said the 44-year-old who was loudly applauded by attendees, several of whom approached the stage to shake his hand.

The crowd also heard from former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who said she will think “in a serious way” about whether to launch a bid for the White House. 

“I’ve been the underdog every single time when people underestimate me, it’s always fun,” she said. “But I’ve never lost an election. And I’m not going to start now.”

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‘Joy and a smile’

Many rivals hit out at Trump’s grievance-laden style of politicking, which Republican Party operatives have said was to blame for their tepid showing on November 8.

New Jersey’s former governor and one-time Trump confidante Chris Christie said candidate quality had been the issue.

“Donald Trump picked candidates with one criteria. Not electability, not experience, not wisdom, not charisma, not the ability to govern, but ‘do you believe the 2020 election was stolen or not?’ If you do I endorse you. If you don’t I reject you,” he said.

“The fact of the matter is the reason we’re losing is because Donald Trump has put himself before everybody else.”

Chris Sununu, governor of New Hampshire, agreed.

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“I got a great policy for the Republican Party. Let’s stop supporting crazy unelectable candidates in our primaries,” he said.

On Friday evening, Trump’s former secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, who is also understood to be mulling a run at the White House, urged fellow Republicans to be more forward-looking and more positive.

While he did not mention his old boss by name, Pompeo made none-too-subtle digs about the need to be doers, rather than complainers.

“As we present the conservative case, as we make the argument… we do so with joy, and a smile,” he said.

“We don’t simply rail against the machine… we don’t simply go on Fox News or send tweets, we actually do the hard work.”

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Trump did not address the potential rivals in his appearance on Saturday, but has already begun his customary bomb-throwing about potential presidential competitors, dubbing DeSantis “Ron DeSanctimonious” and saying Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s name “sounds Chinese.”

The gathering, which also featured an address by Israel’s prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, runs until Sunday.

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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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