Chile: millions head to polls in referendum on constitutional reform

Chilean streets filled on Sunday for the first time since the start of the coronavirus outbreak as millions of people turned out to vote on whether to get rid of the country’s Pinochet-era constitution in favour of a fresh charter drafted by citizens.A new constitution was a key demand of fierce anti-government protests that erupted last year over inequality and elitism in one of Latin America’s most advanced economies, and have simmered ever since.Voting began at 8am and by midday there were long queues outside polling stations. Soldiers controlled entry and enforced strict sanitary measures.Expectations for the vote are high. Maria Luz Navarette, 71, a former government worker now struggling to get by on her payout from Chile’s privately run and much criticised pensions system, travelled by metro to vote in the central station of the capital Santiago.“I am preparing to go out to celebrate this evening. I think many people will vote in favour of change,” she said. “Everything must change. Social security, culture, citizen participation, health ... there is another way of living a more communal life.”Alejandra, 31, a businesswoman in retail, voted to reject a new charter in Santiago’s upmarket neighbourhood of Vitacura.She said last year’s social unrest and the pandemic had already taken their toll on her company. “The truth is that I feel that another blow is going to bury the business,” she added.“I want changes but I would like them to be gradual. Chile is a small country, we cannot make such dramatic changes without affecting the economy.”More than 14.8 million people are eligible to vote although individuals with Covid-19 have been told to stay away on threat of arrest.

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Tropical Storm Zeta stalls in Caribbean as Hurricane Epsilon passes eastern US

Tropical Storm Zeta stalled on Sunday in the western Caribbean, but forecasters said it posed the risk of a rain-heavy hurricane for Mexico’s resort-dotted Yucatan Peninsula and the US Gulf coast. In a historic hurricane season, Zeta is the earliest ever named 27th Atlantic storm. The previous earliest formed on 29 November 2005, said Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach. This year’s season has seen so many storms that the NHC has turned to the Greek alphabet after running out of official names. Zeta is the furthest into the Greek alphabet the Atlantic season has gone. There was also a Tropical Storm Zeta in 2005, but that year had 28 storms because meteorologists went back and found they missed one, which then became a “unnamed named storm”, Klotzbach said. Also on Sunday, Hurricane Epsilon was moving quickly through the northern portion of the Atlantic. Forecasters said it would become a post-tropical cyclone. Large ocean swells generated by Epsilon could cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions along US east coast and Atlantic Canada in the next couple of days.On Sunday morning, Zeta was centered about 275 miles south-east of Cozumel island in Mexico, according to the US National Hurricane Center (NHC). It was nearly stationary, though forecasters said it was likely to near the north-eastern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula or western-most Cuba by late Monday or early Tuesday and the US Gulf coast by Wednesday. Zeta had maximum sustained winds of 40mph and forecasters said it was expected to intensify into a hurricane by Tuesday. It may dawdle in the western Caribbean for another day or so, trapped between strong high pressure systems to the east and west. It cannot move north or south because nothing is moving there either, said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy. “It just has to sit and wait for a day or so,” McNoldy said. “It just needs anything to move.” When a storm gets stuck, it can unload dangerous downpours which cause flooding when a storm is over or near land. That happened in 2017 over Houston, Texas with Harvey, when more than 60in of rain fell, and in 2019 over the Bahamas with Dorian, a category 5 hurricane, the worst-case scenario for a stationary storm, said Klotzbach. Zeta was over open ocean on Sunday but Jamaica and Honduras were seeing heavy rain because the system is so large. South Florida was under a flood watch, McNoldy said. The NHC said Zeta could bring 4in to 8in of rain to parts of the Caribbean and Mexico as well as Florida and the Keys before drenching parts of the central Gulf coast by Wednesday. A 2018 study said storms, especially in the Atlantic basin, are slowing down and stalling more. Atlantic storms that made landfall moved 2.9mph slower than 60 years ago, the study found. Author James Kossin, a government climate scientist, said the trend has signs of human-caused climate change. Zeta is in a dangerous place to stall. The western Caribbean is “where storms can cook” and rapidly intensify because of the deep, warm waters, like Wilma in 2005, Klotzbach said. However, the NHC was not forecasting rapid intensification and Klotzbach said Zeta would not stall over land. The lack of steering currents also meant a wide spread of possible landfalls when Zeta heads north. The NHC said it could make landfall anywhere from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle. On Sunday, a hurricane watch was called for the Yucatan Peninsula from Tulum to Rio Lagartos, including Cancun and Cozumel, while a tropical storm warning was in effect for Pinar del Rio, Cuba.

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Venezuelan Opposition Politician Lopez Arrives in Madrid, Spain Says

MADRID—Venezuelan opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez arrived in Madrid on Sunday, Spain’s foreign ministry said in a statement, after spending the past year at the Spanish ambassador’s residence in Venezuela to escape house arrest. “Leopoldo Lopez arrived in Madrid today, being able to reunite with his family,” the statement said. Lopez’s decision to leave the Spanish embassy in Venezuela was “personal and voluntary”, it said. Leopoldo Lopez attends a protest in Caracas, on Feb. 18, 2014. (Leo Ramirez/AFP/Getty Images) Lopez, in a series of tweets in the early hours of Sunday, hinted he had left Venezuela but did not disclose his location. “Venezuelans, this decision has not been easy, but rest assured that you can count on this servant to fight from anywhere,” Lopez tweeted. “We will not rest and we will continue working day and night to achieve the freedom that all Venezuelans deserve.” Lopez was jailed in 2014 after leading protests against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. He was released to house arrest in 2017. From house arrest, he was a mentor to opposition leader Juan Guaido, who early last year invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency and began a campaign to unseat Maduro. In April 2019, when Guaido tried to spur a military revolt against Maduro, Lopez appeared on the streets again alongside him. When the uprising fizzled, Lopez sought shelter first in the Chilean diplomatic residence and then at the home of the Spanish ambassador. Lopez’s wife, Lilian Tintori, who had joined him at the Spanish ambassador’s residence, left for Spain in May 2019 along with their daughter. By Jessica Jones, Elena Rodriguez, and Belen Carreno

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Venezuela opposition figure López has secretly fled, family says

Leopoldo López, a Venezuelan opposition figure who has sheltered at the Spanish ambassador’s residence in Caracas for 18 months, has now fled the country, his father has said. “I can confirm he left the embassy of his own free will and left Venezuela in secret,” his father, who is also called Leopoldo López and who lives in Spain, told AFP. He said he hoped his son would arrive in Madrid on Monday. Later, the younger López himself seemed to confirm the news. “Venezuelans, this decision has not been easy, but be assured that you can count on this servant to fight from any space,” he wrote on Twitter. López, 49, the former mayor of Chacao, a chic district of Caracas, was arrested in 2014 when mass opposition protests began in Venezuela, and served several years in prison before being released to house arrest. He was freed by military officials who were keeping him under house arrest and sought refuge inside the Spanish ambassador’s residence. The senior López said on Saturday his son had left the embassy “about two days ago” and crossed the border into Colombia on Friday. He had since moved on and was heading to Madrid to be reunited with his wife and three children. “We hope he will be here tomorrow,” said López senior, a member of the European parliament for Spain’s rightwing Popular Party. The Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro has not yet reacted publicly to the latest exile of a high-profile opponent. But the United States welcomed the news. “We are happy to see Leopoldo López free,” tweeted the virtual US embassy for Venezuela, located in Colombia. “The illegitimate regime has hundreds of prisoners because they do not agree with Maduro, they represent a threat because the people are with them, or they have the audacity to ask for the rights of the constitution.” And Venezuela’s opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, greeted the news jubilantly, tweeting: “Maduro, you don’t control anything.” His Popular Will party said López would “initiate new actions in favour of the struggle for freedom in Venezuela”. According to one political analyst, the departure weakens Guaidó within an already divided opposition. “It is the signal that Guaidó is heading towards the exit,” said Jesus Castillo-Molleda. As president of the National Assembly, Guaidó proclaimed himself interim president of Venezuela in 2019, calling Maduro’s re-election a fraud. Since then Guaidó has been trying, in vain and despite international support, to oust Maduro, political heir of the late President Hugo Chávez. In power since 2013, Maduro continues to enjoy the support of the army, the cornerstone of the Venezuelan political system, as well as Russia, Iran and Cuba. López’s exile comes ahead of legislative elections called by the government for 6 December. The opposition has called for a boycott of the vote.

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Leopoldo López flees Venezuela vowing to continue fighting Maduro regime

The prominent opposition activist Leopoldo López has abandoned the Spanish ambassador’s residence in Caracas and left Venezuela after years of frustrated efforts to oust the nation’s socialist president, his party has said. The 49-year-old former Caracas area mayor had been holed up at the ambassador’s residence since a failed military uprising he led in April 2019 aimed at ousting President Nicolás Maduro. He has been jailed, under house arrest or in a foreign embassy refuge for nearly seven years. “We won’t rest and we’ll continue working day and night to attain the freedom that we Venezuelans all deserve,” López wrote late on Saturday. He said the decision to leave had not been simple and that more details on plans for democratic change in Venezuela would be announced in coming days. In a statement from Popular Will, the party López founded, leaders confirmed he had left the country to continue his work from abroad in a decision they deemed “best for the country and the fight for Venezuela’s freedom”. “After seven years of persecution and unjust imprisonment inside Venezuela, Leopoldo López is still not totally free, like all Venezuelans, so long as there exists a dictatorship that violates the human rights of the people,” the party said. It is unclear how López left the ambassador’s residence, given the heavy state security presence permanently stationed outside. Travel by land has grown increasingly difficult because of widespread fuel shortages. Filling up a vehicle can take hours if not days and checkpoints manned by security forces have proliferated across the country. In a message directed to Maduro on Twitter, the US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó said his political mentor had gotten out of Venezuela by “evading your repressive apparatus”. He added that López’s efforts to remove Maduro would continue from abroad as part of the opposition strategy to garner international support. There was no immediate reaction from Venezuelan authorities. López was sentenced in 2015 to nearly 14 years in prison after being convicted of inciting violence during anti-government protests in which three people died and dozens were wounded. He was released from prison and placed under house arrest after more than three years in a military jail. Even from his confines, López has remained an influential figure in Venezuela’s opposition, advising Guaidó, who claims he is the country’s interim president because Maduro’s 2018 re-election was not legitimate. But after drawing tens of thousands of people to the streets last year, the opposition has struggled to regain momentum. Maduro remains firmly in control of the nation’s military and nearly all other government institutions. López’s flight is likely to be held up by the government as a trophy as it prepares to retake control of the National Assembly in December legislative elections that Guaidó has vowed to boycott. López had long stubbornly refused to leave, even when his wife and children fled to Spain last year. He now joins dozens of anti-government politicians who have fled Venezuela over recent years, many leaving covertly to avoid potential persecution or jail time. “It’s probably the clearest sign that the continued opposition effort to unseat Maduro has floundered that a committed stay-in-Venezuela leader like López has chosen to finally leave,” said Raul Gallegos, a Colombia-based analyst at Control Risks consultancy. López pursued a strategy in 2014 known as “The Exit,” consisting of street protests months after Maduro was elected. The strategy failed and ultimately divided the opposition. He sought allies among his former jailers in the military and in 2019 reappeared on a highway overpass with a small band of national guardsmen calling for an uprising against Maduro. The putsch was easily quashed and López took refuge in the ambassador’s residence. His departure comes just days after Spain’s ambassador Jesus Silva – who has been the dean of Caracas’ dwindling diplomatic community and a firm backer of López – was recalled by Spain’s leftist government to Madrid after serving for four years.

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Paraguay authorities find at least seven bodies in fertilizer shipment

Bodies, which public prosecutor said appeared to be stowaways, discovered when container opened on FridayAuthorities in Paraguay have found at least seven badly decomposed bodies inside a shipment of fertilizer that left Serbia three months ago.The container, which came via Argentina, was unloaded earlier this week at a port on the outskirts of the Paraguayan capital, Asunción, and was collected by an agricultural company. Continue reading...

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How Bolivia's left returned to power months after Morales was forced out

Two agonising weeks had passed since Evo Morales was driven from Bolivia and in his vice-president’s recently vacated chambers one of their party’s rising stars sat, crestfallen and drained.“It hurts,” confessed Eva Copa, the 32-year-old senate president from Morales’ Movement Towards Socialism (Mas), her voice breaking and tears filling her eyes as she pondered what some thought might prove a fatal blow to their pro-indigenous project. “What has happened will leave scars.”Visibly exhausted, Copa admitted the outlook was uncertain, for her movement and Bolivia as a whole. “The last thing the Bolivian people want is more chaos,” she said.But the young senator was adamant Mas could, and would rebuild. “We don’t need to refound ourselves. What we’re going to do is reorganise,” Copa said. “We have faith we’ll pull through this.”That faith was well-placed. On Friday morning authorities confirmed a stunning political comeback with Mas’s candidate, the former finance minister Luis Arce, winning Sunday’s presidential election by a thumping 26.3% margin.His closest rival in the re-run of last October’s voided ballot, the centrist ex-president Carlos Mesa, received 28.8% of the 6.48m votes compared to Arce’s 55.1%. There was a record voter turnout of 88.4%.

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Hurricane Epsilon Weakens, Expected to Move East of Bermuda

MIAMI—Hurricane Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds dropped Thursday as it moved northwest over the Atlantic Ocean on a path expected to skirt just east of Bermuda. Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds ebbed by Thursday afternoon to 85 mph, dropping it from a Category 2 to a Category 1 storm. But the hurricane swirled near enough to Bermuda that the National Hurricane Center has issued a tropical storm warning for the island. The Miami-based center said Epsilon was centered at 5 p.m. EDT about 200 miles east-southeast of Bermuda. It was moving to the north-northwest at 9 mph. Forecasters said Epsilon should make its closest approach to Bermuda by Thursday evening and could produce tropical storm conditions around the island during the night hours. Gradual weakening is expected into the weekend. But large ocean swells could cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions along the coast of New England and Atlantic Canada during the next couple of days, the hurricane center warned. Earlier in the week, Epsilon had gained 50 mph in wind speed in just 24 hours to become a major hurricane on Wednesday. That officially qualified it as a rapidly intensifying storm. It was the seventh storm this season to power up so quickly, reaching Category 3 status at one point. Over the past couple decades, meteorologists have been increasingly worried about storms that blow up from nothing to a whopper, just like Epsilon. Forecasters created an official threshold for this dangerous rapid intensification—a storm gaining 35 mph in wind speed in just 24 hours. This year’s season has had so many storms that the hurricane center has turned to the Greek alphabet after running out of official names.

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China warns Canada to halt ‘blatant interference’ as feud continues

China has warned Canadian lawmakers to halt their “blatant interference” in its internal affairs, in the latest episode of a rumbling diplomatic feud between the two nations. Earlier this week, a Canadian parliamentary committee concluded China’s actions against ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang province constituted a genocide and called for sanctions against officials complicit in the government’s policy. “Witnesses were clear that the Government of China’s actions are a clear attempt to eradicate Uyghur culture and religion,” the committee wrote. Speaking to reporters late on Thursday, China’s foreign minister Zhao Lijian condemned the committee’s findings, saying the report was “full of lies and disinformation”. Zhao also used his press conference to level a warning, urging Canada to “exercise caution in its words and deeds” in order to “avoid further damage to China-Canada relations”. China’s response underscores the extent to which relations between the two nations continue to sour. Last week, only days after the two countries observed the 50-year anniversary of diplomatic relations, China’s ambassador to Canada, Cong Peiwu accused Canada of encouraging “violent criminals” as it considered granting refugee status to Hong Kong pro-democracy activists. Deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland said Cong’s remarks were “not appropriate” for a diplomat. “Let me also reassure the 300,000 Canadians in Hong Kong that a Canadian is a Canadian and we will stand with them,” Freeland said. Meanwhile, Conservative opposition leader Erin O’Toole, called for an apology from Cong or face expulsion. In recent years, Canada and China had both expressed hope of building stronger ties. But the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in December 2018 marked a fatal blow to relations between the two nations. China quickly retaliated, detaining Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, charging the pair under dubious “espionage” charges. Canada has repeatedly called for the men, who have been held for more than 650 days in “arbitrary detention” to be released. China temporarily halted canola and pork exports last year, a move that cost industry millions in losses. Canada has mulled barring Huawei from building 5G mobile infrastructure in the country, citing security concerns. On Thursday Zhao said Canada’s report on the Uihgurs had “turned a blind eye to the political stability” in the region and represented parliament’s “ignorance and prejudice” on the topic. Foreign minister François-Philipe Champagne said he welcomed the report’s findings, but did not confirm if the federal government would impose sanctions on Chinese officials.

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'Lack of shame': Robinho affair highlights Brazil's rape crisis

A public debate over sexual violence and rape culture has erupted in Brazil after one of its leading football clubs tried to recruit a convicted rapist to lead its attack. Santos Futebol Clube – which has produced sporting legends including Pelé and Neymar – announced the highly controversial signing of the former Manchester City striker Robinho on 10 October. The decision to bring the 36-year-old back to the club where he began his top-flight career was taken despite his being found guilty in 2017 of involvement in a gang rape that took place in Italy in 2013. Robinho, who is appealing against the conviction, was given a nine-year sentence in absentia which was suspended until the appeals process is complete. Amid a wave of public anger, Santos’s president, Orlando Rollo, defended Robinho, claiming he was the victim of an inhumane “moral stoning”. “Everyone’s judging Robinho but nobody has even read the sentence.” As Rollo spoke, however, a Brazilian journalist in Milan was busy unearthing the 2017 ruling by an Italian judge over the nightclub assault, details of which had not previously been published. The judgment included transcripts considered by the court of a series of shocking exchanges captured by police investigators who were monitoring Robinho’s phone and car. When excerpts of those intercepted messages were published by the Globo Esporte website on Friday morning they painted a damning picture of Robinho’s behaviour. In one message to a friend Robinho refers to the assault, which took place in January 2013, saying: “I’m laughing because I couldn’t care less, the woman was completely drunk, she has no idea what happened.” In another chat Robinho, who played for AC Milan at the time, insisted he did not have sex with the victim, an Albanian woman then in her early 20s. “I saw you when you put your penis inside her mouth,” his friend replied, to which the footballer responded: “That doesn’t mean having sex.” The messages caused further outrage in Brazil and apparently made Robinho’s return to Santos unsustainable after sponsors rebelled. Later on Friday the striker announced his contract’s suspension and claimed he was being persecuted by the “demonic” press like Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro. “Look at what they did to Bolsonaro … saying Bolsonaro was this and that, that he was a racist, a fascist, a killer – and the more they went for Bolsonaro the more popular he became,” Robinho said. In an interview with the Brazilian outlet UOL he insisted he was “totally innocent” and suggested some of the messages had been mistranslated or taken out of context. Robinho, who claims his “contact” was consensual, also blamed feminists for his predicament, telling an interviewer: “Unfortunately there’s this feminist movement … lots of women who aren’t even women.” Indignation over Robinho’s actions – and what many saw as Santos’s attempts to downplay his crime – came as new figures underlined the scale of Brazil’s sexual violence crisis. The Brazilian Forum on Public Security said 66,123 rapes were reported last year – one every eight minutes. Nearly 86% of victims were female and 60% under-14. Ana Paula Araújo, the author of a new book called Abuse: Rape culture in Brazil, said those shocking figures were only the tip of the iceberg because 90% of crimes went unreported. “This is a veritable plague and a silent one because quite often women normalize this [abuse], as do men. Society thinks this is the way things are … That sexual abuse often isn’t all that serious. And that’s why we continue to live in this culture which allows all these different kinds of abuses to be practised against us all, every day.” Araújo, a television journalist, called Santos’s decision to hire Robinho “disgusting”. “What struck me most about this case was the complete lack of shame this big Brazilian club … showed in signing a man who has been convicted of rape. He’s not only been charged. He’s already been convicted – and his signing was celebrated with pomp and circumstance.” Araújo said Robinho’s intercepted messages captured perfectly the need to speak out against the “poisonous” culture of rape. “He doesn’t see himself as a criminal – and this is a very common mindset here in Brazil.”

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Sacrificial llamas found buried in Peru shed light on Incan rituals

That the Inca sacrificed people to appease their gods is well known, but a discovery in Peru sheds new light on a far more common sacrificial practice: the ritual offering of highly prized and ornately decorated llamas.Four naturally mummified llamas have been uncovered during the excavation of Tambo Viejo, an Incan administrative centre. Archaeologists say the extraordinarily well-preserved specimens, sacrificed more than 500 years ago, may have been killed not only to please the gods – to ensure successful harvests, healthy herds and victory in war – but also to win over newly conquered locals.“Historical records indicate animal sacrifices were important to the Inca, who used them as special offerings to supernatural deities,” said Dr Lidio Valdez, from the University of Calgary, who uncovered the remains with a team of archaeologists from San Cristóbal of Huamanga University. “This was especially the case of llamas, regarded second only to humans in sacrificial value.”Spanish conquistadors documented how llamas would be killed by the hundreds as ritual offerings to the gods, but radiocarbon dating found that the offering of the four Tambo Viejo beasts took place after the region was peacefully annexed by the Inca. Further excavation revealed evidence of a big party, including large ovens and other traces of feasts and celebration.“The offerings likely were part of much larger feasts and gatherings, sponsored by the state,” said Valdez. “The state befriended the local people with food and drink, cementing political alliances, whilst placing offerings allowed the Inca to claim the land as theirs.”Excavation at Tambo Viejo started in 2018 and has found a large plaza, an Inca ushnu (a symbolic or religious structure), and that an important road from the Nazca Valley stopped at the settlement.When the conquistadors arrived in the Inca empire, they observed that the native people worshipped a variety of deities that were said to govern aspects of life including the sun, rain and rivers. Although human sacrifice was part of appeasing these deities, llamas were the preferred offering. Bernabé Cobo, a colonial-period Spanish chronicler, wrote that brown llamas were sacrificed to the creator god, Viracocha, and white llamas to the sun.The rituals would happen at key times of the year: in October, 100 llamas would be sacrificed to promote rain, and in February another 100 were sacrificed to stop it.The Tambo Viejo discovery, published in the journal Antiquity, gives new insight into the rituals. The llamas were decorated with valuable bracelets and string and buried alive alongside decorated guinea pigs. Their graves were marked with tropical feathers, perhaps to further cement the Incas’ new authority over the land.The archaeologists wrote in their research: “Through these ceremonies, the Inca created new orders, new understandings and meanings that helped to legitimise and justify their actions to both the conquerors and the conquered.”

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Brazil’s Bolsonaro Says His Government Will Not Buy China’s Sinovac Vaccine

BRASILIA—Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said on Wednesday that his government will not buy China’s Sinovac vaccine against COVID-19, one day after the health minister said it would be included in the nation’s immunization program. “For sure, we will not buy the Chinese vaccine,” Bolsonaro said on social media, responding to a supporter who urged him not to buy the vaccine. The president said the issue would be clarified later in the day. On Tuesday, Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said in a meeting with state governors that the ministry would buy the vaccine developed by Sinovac to include it in the immunization program, in addition to one developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. Sao Paulo state biomedical research center, the Butantan Institute, is testing the Sinovac vaccine, and Gov. João Doria said he hopes to have health regulator approval by the end of the year to start vaccinating people in January. Doria said after the Health Ministry meeting that the federal government has agreed to buy 46 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine. The inclusion of the vaccine, called CoronaVac, in the national vaccination program of a nation of 230 million people would be a major success for Sinovac in what could be one of the first immunization efforts against the coronavirus in the world. The Brazilian government already has plans to purchase the UK vaccine and produce it at its biomedical research center FioCruz in Rio de Janeiro.

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Cat and mouse on the high seas: on the trail of China's vast squid fleet

Seascape: the state of our oceans Cat and mouse on the high seas: on the trail of China's vast squid fleet Vessels from the Chinese fishing fleet use bright lights to lure squid to the surface of the Pacific Ocean. Photograph: Jorge de la Quintana Huge foreign fleets gather 400 miles off South America’s Pacific coast attracted by giant squid. Peru’s coastguard must defend its territorial waters amid rising tension by Dan Collyns on the Pacific Ocean Main image: Vessels from the Chinese fishing fleet use bright lights to lure squid to the surface of the Pacific Ocean. Photograph: Jorge de la Quintana The ocean is as black as chipped obsidian, yet whichever way you look dozens of bright lights illuminate the water and the night sky. Nearly 400 nautical miles from the South American mainland, the crew of a Peruvian coastguard ship count more than 30 Chinese squid boats lighting up the sea like a city at night. Some of the boats shine luminous green, others glow blinding white like an alien spacecraft in a movie. Rigged along each side of the ships, incandescent lamps attract giant squid near the surface, where they can be hauled from the ocean by long metal arms jutting over the water. The coastguard cutter Río Cañete drifts within 100 metres of a squid jigger, and the men on each boat gaze at each other across the water. The Chinese fishermen work in silence; the crew of the Peruvian boat is also hushed – none of them has witnessed such a scene before.

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The Bolivian left's election win is a positive sign, but it inherits a dire situation | Kevin Young

On 18 October, the progressive candidate, Luis Arce, decisively won Bolivia’s presidential election, beating his nearest rival by about 20 points according to exit polls. His party, Movimiento al Socialismo (Mas), also apparently retained its majorities in both houses of congress.It’s a remarkable turn of events. In November 2019 the Mas president, Evo Morales, was overthrown in a police-military coup that installed the rightwing evangelical Jeanine Áñez as president.Security forces massacred dozens of unarmed Mas supporters. Regime opponents faced charges of “terrorism” and “sedition”. Racism against the indigenous majority became overt on the streets; Áñez’s caretaker cabinet originally included not one indigenous minister.The ostensibly transitional government also made major changes to policy. It cosied up to the Trump administration, deported 700 Cuban doctors who were providing public healthcare, and signalled its intention to pursue the old neoliberal policies of privatisation and austerity. Many doubted that the regime would ever allow a democratic election.Yet its power was limited. The working-class Bolivians who comprise the Mas base could still shut down the country with road blockades and strikes. The threat of mass disruption, combined with parliamentary pressure by Mas legislators and global scrutiny, ensured there would be new elections and Mas would be allowed to compete in them.Arce’s landslide margin of victory left no room to contest the results. Just after midnight on 19 October, Áñez recognised Arce’s victory. Carlos Mesa, the runner-up, did so the next morning.Even the Organization of American States (OAS), followed suit. The OAS had helped precipitate last year’s coup with claims, based on suspect data analysis, that the Morales administration committed fraud in the October 2019 election.Why did the right lose so badly?The fact that the anti-Mas vote was split between two major candidates, the centre-right Mesa and the ultra-conservative Luis Fernando Camacho, was not as significant as it might appear. The right had expected that the vote would be close enough to force a second round, in which its voters would presumably consolidate to elect Mesa over Arce. The problem was that Arce won an absolute majority, easily surpassing the combined votes of Mesa and Camacho.The deeper reason for the Mas victory lies in the popularity of its policies. It was those policies and their contrast with the current regime’s – rather than some irrational allegiance to Evo Morales or Mas, as the right often implies – that won the election for Arce.Most notably, the quasi-nationalisation of the natural gas industry during Morales’s first year in office dramatically increased state revenues. The resulting public investments and safety-net policies reduced poverty from 60% to 35%. Though the “socialist” Mas never attempted to replace capitalism with socialism, its progressive fiscal policies improved millions of lives.It’s not that everyone who voted for Arce loves Mas, or everything about it. Many criticised Morales’s mixed environmental record, his prioritisation of extractive industry and his sometimes heavy-handed response to opponents.But the right offered little to progressive voters disillusioned with Mas. The anti-indigenous, theocratic and neoliberal ideology of Áñez and Camacho enjoys major support only among light-skinned residents in eastern Bolivia. Mesa’s more technocratic politics appeal to much of the middle class, but not many workers and peasants. And rather than condemning the coup regime’s repression or offering progressive proposals that might help build a working-class base, Mesa’s campaign strategy appeared to focus on siphoning votes from the far-right.The non-Mas candidates likely also suffered from their identification with the United States. The Trump administration openly rejoiced at the 2019 coup. The OAS, which is funded mostly by Washington, drew increased criticism in Bolivia as evidence mounted of its contribution to the 2019 coup.The Áñez regime’s almost Trump-like disdain for Covid victims didn’t help the rightwing candidates either. Bolivia has the world’s third-highest per-capita death rate from the pandemic. As patients died, regime officials stole from the healthcare system. The health minister, Marcelo Navajas, was arrested as part of an investigation into alleged corruption involving ventilator purchases, accusations his lawyers deny.The regime imposed a lockdown in March but did little to assist the millions of workers – more than 60% of Bolivia’s total – who depend on informal jobs. As a result, many defied the lockdown in order to survive, which contributed to the virus’s spread.President Arce will inherit this dire situation. His solid prior performance as Morales’s economic minister is reason for optimism. But Bolivia remains a poor country, and major resources and coordination will be needed to contain the virus.Many other unknowns remain. Will Áñez, interior minister Arturo Murillo and other officials face prosecution for the state violence that occurred under their administration, or will they get safe haven in the US like others from Bolivia’s recent past? Will the reactionary forces that rallied behind Camacho accept the Arce administration’s legitimacy, or will they again turn to violence?On top of these challenges, Mas will need to address the contradictions in its own prior policies. For instance, despite its progressive credentials, it has not worked to wean the economy off its historic dependence on minerals, fossil fuels and agricultural monocultures, with all their negative environmental impacts. The party also needs to cultivate new leadership and input from the grassroots, which was a major weakness under Morales.The 18 October elections were a big win for democracy. But the next few years will not be easy.• Kevin Young teaches history at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and is the author of Blood of the Earth: Resource Nationalism, Revolution, and Empire in Bolivia

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Brazilian President Endorses Trump for Reelection

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday endorsed President Donald Trump for reelection, telling reporters after the signing of a U.S.-Brazil investment agreement that he hopes to attend Trump’s second inauguration, according to local reports. “I most certainly hope that, God willing, I will attend the inauguration of the president, who will soon be reelected in the United States,” Bolsonaro said, according to a staff translation of his statement from Portuguese, as cited by Diario de Pernambuco, a Brazilian news outlet. Bolsonaro added that he “doesn’t need to hide” his support for Trump, which he said came “from the heart.” The Brazilian president has often lauded Trump, calling him a political role model and drawing parallels between their conservative agendas. In July, Bolsonaro similarly said he hoped Trump wins his bid for reelection. His remarks came after the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) President Kimberly Reed and Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs at an event in Brasilia, the capital. Under the deal, the sides agreed to explore ways to use up to $1 billion in EXIM financing in areas like telecommunications, energy, infrastructure, and manufacturing, the U.S. Embassy in Brazil said in a statement. The event was attended by national security adviser Robert O’Brien, who was cited by Politico as saying, “I don’t think we’ve ever had a better relationship with Brazil than we have today.” Tuesday’s memorandum of understanding follows a new mini trade deal between the two countries announced Monday. Called the U.S.-Brazil Protocol on Trade Rules and Transparency, it seeks to reduce border bureaucracy, facilitate trade, and enhance anti-corruption measures. “This protocol is an important step in creating a solid base for open trade between the U.S. and Brazil,” said U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Todd Chapman in a statement. “As the two largest economies in the Western Hemisphere, we are creating an environment for our businesses to thrive and recover from the negative impacts of the pandemic that has hit our countries,” he added. U.S. President Donald Trump (R) and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (L) walk down the Colonnade before a press conference at the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on March 19, 2019. On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that as the United States and Brazil reinforce their business partnership, they need to reduce their dependence on imports from China for their own security. At a virtual summit on increased U.S.-Brazil cooperation aimed at post-pandemic recovery, Pompeo underscored the importance of expanding bilateral economic ties, given what he called “enormous risk” stemming from China’s significant participation in their economies. “To the extent we can find ways that we can increase the trade between our two countries, we can … decrease each of our two nations’ dependence for critical items” coming from China, he said. “Each of our two peoples will be more secure, and each of our two nations will be far more prosperous, whether that’s two or five or 10 years from now,” he added. The U.S. government stepped up an offensive on Tuesday to keep China’s Huawei Technologies out of Brazil’s 5G market, with Washington offering to finance purchases by Brazilian telecom companies of equipment from its competitors. In Washington, top U.S. officials urged Brazil to carefully monitor Chinese investments in Brazil and moves by Beijing to expand its influence in Latin America’s largest economy through sale of 5G technology by Huawei. “We have encouraged Brazil … to try to work together to make sure that we watch China carefully with respect to all manner of technology and telephoning and 5G,” White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told the event. “We have taken actions here in the States; we continue to move, and it is my great hope that Brazil will move with us,” he added. “We hope that Brazil will also keep a careful, critical eye on Chinese investment.” Washington believes Huawei would hand over data to the Chinese government for spying, a claim Huawei denies. The Trump administration is working to boost ties with Brazil and provide a counterweight to China. U.S. goods and services trade with Brazil totaled an estimated $105.1 billion in 2019. Reuters contributed to this report.

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EU seeks Amazon protections pledge from Bolsonaro in push to ratify trade deal

Brazil Brazilian president’s stance on deforestation remains stumbling block for South America agreement

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Canadian town of Asbestos chooses new name

Residents in the Canadian town of Asbestos have voted to rename their community to distance it from the once-ubiquitous mineral now recognised as being extremely poisonous and linked to lung and other cancers.The town, formerly home to one of the world’s largest asbestos mines, voted 51.5% in favour of changing its name to Val-des-Sources over five other options, according to results announced on Monday from a four-day referendum.“It’s a name that represents our area, and especially, it’s inspiring for the future,” said the Quebec town’s mayor, Hugues Grimard.The new name, which means Valley of the Sources in English, refers to its location at the confluence of three lakes and represents “the fusion of our history and our roots”, according to the town’s description.The community, 93 miles (150km) east of Montreal and home to about 7,000 people, was built in the late 1870s after the discovery of an asbestos deposit led to the creation of the mine.The mineral was for years considered essential as fireproof insulation but by the early 1970s was widely recognised as the primary cause of mesothelioma among workers involved in producing it and in industries that used it in their products.The mine ceased operations in 2011.“Once upon a time, we have been very proud of that name, but now it’s very difficult because asbestos means a fibre that people are afraid of,” Louise Moisan-Coulombe, mayor of the town from 1997 to 2002, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp on Sunday.“Every time you say, especially in the United States, that you are coming from Asbestos, or they read Asbestos on a package, they are always afraid that it will be poison.”The town council approved the name on Monday night, although the alteration has several bureaucratic hoops to jump through. Grimard said he hoped the name change would be made official before December.

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US, Brazil Both Need to Reduce Dependence on China Imports: Pompeo

BRASILIA/WASHINGTON—U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned on Monday the United States and Brazil both need to reduce their dependence on imports from communist China for their own security. At a virtual summit on increased U.S.-Brazil cooperation aimed at post-pandemic recovery, Pompeo underscored the importance of expanding bilateral economic ties, given what he called “enormous risk” stemming from communist China’s significant participation in their economies. “To the extent we can find ways that we can increase the trade between our two countries, we can … decrease each of our two nations’ dependence for critical items” coming from China, he said. “Each of our two peoples will be more secure, and each of our two nations will be far more prosperous, whether that’s two or five or 10 years from now,” he added. Novos acordos comerciais entre os EUA e o Brasil criarão empregos para os cidadãos de ambos os países enquanto trabalhamos para nos recuperarmos das dificuldades econômicas causadas pela COVID-19. @USTradeRep — Embaixada EUA Brasil (@EmbaixadaEUA) October 19, 2020 The Trump administration is working to boost ties with Brazil and provide a counterweight to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) global ambitions. Delegates from the two countries also met to sign a new agreement to boost rules-based trade opportunities. Brazil’s conservative President Jair Bolsonaro is keen to follow suit given the national security risks presented by the CCP. Currently, China is Brazil’s largest trade partner, particularly for soy and iron ore. Bolsonaro is yet to ban Brazilian telecom companies from buying 5G equipment from China’s Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. as more countries are doing after alarm bells were raised over network security given the CCP’s control over all companies registered in China. @klonkitchen: Huawei is “closely aligned with Beijing and required by law to quote ‘support, assist, and cooperate with national intelligence efforts.’ There’s no out. There’s no alternative. There’s no pass…Chinese gov’t also can *legally* hack into any Chinese co. they want.” — Jeff M. Smith (@Cold_Peace_) April 2, 2019 At the summit organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Bolsonaro confirmed the signing of a protocol outlining three agreements with the United States that will ensure good business practices between the two allies and stop corruption. He said the package will slash red tape and increase trade and investment. “In the last year and a half, together with President Trump, we have elevated Brazil-U.S. relations to its best moment ever, and opened a new chapter in the relationship between the two largest economies and democracies in the hemisphere,” he said. Two top U.S. Democratic lawmakers slammed the Trump administration for increasing trade cooperation with Bolsonaro’s government given its “abysmal record” on human rights, the environment, and corruption. The Democrats made no mention of communist China’s abysmal human rights and environmental protection record. “Giving President Bolsonaro ammunition to claim that the United States endorses his behavior sullies our nation’s reputation as a country that demands our trade partners respect human rights and the rule of law,” said U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal. Pompeo said Brazil was getting closer to joining the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) grouping rich nations with the support of the United States. “We want this to happen as quickly as we can,” he said. The U.S. Export-Import Bank would back projects valued at $450 million in Brazil this year, while the U.S. Development Finance Corp had plans involving about $1 billion in projects there, he said. By Anthony Boadle and Andrea Shalal. The Epoch Times contributed to this report.

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