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Brazil election court throws out Bolsonaro challenge, fines party

Photo: Evaristo Sa / AFP

| By AFP |

Brazil’s top electoral authority on Wednesday threw out a challenge by President Jair Bolsonaro’s party against his election defeat and fined it more than $4 million for bringing the case “in bad faith.”

The head of the Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE), judge Alexandre de Moraes, ruled the far-right president’s Liberal Party had presented “absolutely false” arguments in its case, which he said was aimed at “encouraging criminal and anti-democratic movements” by Bolsonaro supporters seeking to fight the election result.

The Liberal Party (PL) brought the case Tuesday, saying an auditing firm it hired had found “irreparable operating discrepancies” in around 280,000 electronic voting machines used in the October 30 runoff election, which Bolsonaro lost to veteran leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

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The PL called for electoral authorities to exclude all votes cast on five models of voting machine manufactured before 2020, alleging they gave a suspiciously large advantage of nearly five percentage points to Lula.

Party lawyer Marcelo Bessa said excluding those votes would change the election result, from a 1.8-percentage-point win for Lula to a 2.1-percentage-point win for Bolsonaro.

Moraes responded with a withering rejection, accusing the PL of seeking to fuel ongoing protests by Bolsonaro supporters who have blocked highways and rallied outside army barracks calling for a military intervention to keep the incumbent in power.

“There is a total lack of supporting evidence” in the PL’s claim, Moraes said in a statement.

The case “is blatantly offensive to the democratic rule of law, and was brought recklessly, for the purpose of encouraging criminal and anti-democratic movements… responsible for grave threats and violence,” he added.

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He fined the PL’s coalition 22.9 million reais ($4.2 million), and ordered an investigation of party leader Valdemar da Costa Neto and the head of the firm behind the audit, the Legal Vote Institute.

Bolsonaro, who has regularly alleged Brazil’s voting system is plagued by fraud — without providing evidence — was initially silent for nearly 48 hours after his defeat.

He then made a terse statement saying he would respect the constitution, but has not explicitly conceded defeat or congratulated Lula, who is due to be sworn in on January 1.

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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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