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Serbia eyes restrictions; virus spreads in US, Brazil, India

July 09, 2020

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — The European nation of Serbia mulled how to curb accelerating coronavirus infections following two nights of clashes involving anti-lockdown demonstrators, while the virus showed no sign of slowing Thursday in the countries with the highest caseloads — the United States, India and Brazil.

The three nations on separate continents are accounting for more than 60% of new confirmed cases, according to recent tallies from Johns Hopkins University. India on Thursday reported 25,000 new cases; the United States on Wednesday reported just short of the record 60,000 cases set a day earlier, and Brazil reported nearly 45,000.

Much of Europe appeared to have put the worst of the crisis behind it, at least for now. But Serbia has emerged as a new focus of concern — and of unrest. The country’s crisis team was expected to reimpose a ban gatherings in the capital, Belgrade and to limit the cafe and night club operations following a spike in infections that officials say threatens the Serbian health system.

It wasn’t clear whether officials would reintroduce a weekend curfew, the initial announcement of which triggered violent protests in Belgrade and other cities. Critics accuse President Aleksandar Vucic of letting the crisis spin out of control by lifting an earlier lockdown to allow for an election that tightened his grip on power.

Rock-throwing demonstrators this week fought hours-long running battles with special police forces who used tear gas to disperse them. Vucic said in an Instagram post on Thursday that the government would control the unrest.

Flare-ups of new virus cases are causing concern in several parts of the world, and in some cases leading to the reintroduction of restrictions on public activity. In France and Greece, officials warned that residents were too frequently ignoring safety guidance. The French government’s leading coronavirus adviser, Jean-Francois Delfraissy, lamented that “the French in general have abandoned protective measures.”

“Everyone must understand that we are at the mercy of a return (of the virus) in France,” Delfraissy said. “It suffices to have one super-spreader in a gathering and it will take off again.” Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said authorities were “determined to protect the majority from the frivolous few.” He said the government may announce new restrictions, if needed, on Monday.

Pestas said authorities were focused on the rising number of cases in nearby Balkan countries and tourists who traveled to Greece over the land border with Bulgaria. In Australia, which had initial success containing the outbreak, authorities on Thursday reported 179 new cases, most in Melbourne, where authorities are battling a resurgence and have imposed a new six-week lockdown.

Victoria state Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said six new cases were from a Melbourne high school which has become the state’s largest known cluster, with 113 people infected. More than 2,000 students and hundreds of staff are in quarantine.

Tokyo confirmed more than 220 new cases Thursday, exceeding its record daily increase from mid-April and prompting concerns of widening of the infections. Tokyo’s more than 7,000 cases are about one-third of Japan’s total.

“It’s a wake-up call,” Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike told reporters. “We need to use extra caution against the further spread of the infections.” Experts on Tokyo’s virus task force said the majority of recent cases were linked to night clubs but rising infections from households, workplaces and parties raised concerns the virus is spreading in the wider community.

Hong Kong moved to tighten social-distancing measures after it reported 42 new infections on Thursday. Rules for restaurants, bars and fitness centers will be tightened for two weeks starting Saturday.

In India, research by the Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Chennai shows that the reproduction rate of the virus ticked up in the first week of July to about 1.2 after it had steadily fallen from a peak of 1.8 in March. The rate needs to be below one for new cases to start falling.

The head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it would be wise to prepare for the worst-case scenario as virus=related deaths passed 12,000 and confirmed cases climbed fast on that continent. A day after confirmed virus cases across Africa surpassed half a million, the total was over 522,000 and climbing. Testing levels are low, so the actual number of cases is unknown.

’We’ve crossed a critical number here,” Africa CDC chief John Nkengasong said of the half-million milestone. “Our pandemic is getting full speed.” In the U.S., the number of confirmed cases has passed 3 million — meaning nearly one in every 100 people has been confirmed as infected — and the death toll in the pandemic is more than 132,000.

U.S. President Donald Trump remains determined to reopen America’s schools despite worries about the virus, and on Wednesday threatened to hold back federal money if school districts don’t bring their students back in the fall.

Despite Trump’s pressure, New York City announced that most of its students would return to classrooms only two or three days a week and would learn online in between. A growing chorus of public health experts is urging U.S. officials to reconsider how they are reopening the broader economy, and to prioritize schools. That effort that will likely require closing some other establishments like bars and gyms to help curb the virus spread.

Perry reported from Wellington, New Zealand. Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Geir Moulson in Berlin and Associated Press reporters around the world contributed to this report.

Beijing sees drop in virus cases as Brazil passes 1 million

June 20, 2020

BEIJING (AP) — China’s capital recorded a further drop in coronavirus cases amid tightened containment measures while Brazil surpassed more than 1 million confirmed infections, second only to the United States.

Officials reported 22 new cases in Beijing on Saturday, along with five others elsewhere in China. There are no new deaths and 308 people remain hospitalized for treatment. South Korea recorded 67 new cases, the largest 24-hour increase in about three weeks. Most of them come from the densely populated Seoul area, where about half of the country’s 51 million people reside. Many cases have been linked to exposure in nightlife outlets.

The head of the World Health Organization said Friday the pandemic is “accelerating” and that more than 150,000 cases were reported the day before — the highest single-day number so far. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva that nearly half of the newly reported cases were from the Americas, with significant numbers from South Asia and the Middle East.

Brazil’s Health Ministry said the total number of cases had risen to by more than 50,000 from the previous day. President Jair Bolsonaro still downplays the risks of the virus after nearly 50,000 fatalities in three months. He says the impact of social isolation on Brazil’s economy can be more deadly.

The new coronavirus has infected more than 8.5 million people worldwide and killed more than 454,000, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The actual number is thought to be much higher because many cases are asymptomatic or go untested.

South Africa and Ethiopia say they are recommending the limited use of the commonly available drug dexamethasone for all COVID-19 patients on ventilators or supplementary oxygen. South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said “this breakthrough is excellent news for us and we are especially fortunate that it came as we are preparing for our upcoming surge” in cases. South Africa has about 30% of the virus cases on the African continent, or more than 87,000.

French authorities are keeping a close eye on signs of an accelerating spread of the coronavirus in Normandy, a region that’s until now been spared the worst of the outbreak that has hit Paris and the east of France particularly hard.

Britain lowered its coronavirus threat level one notch, becoming the latest country to claim it’s getting a national outbreak under control. Meanwhile, Germany reported the country’s highest daily increase in virus cases in a month after managing to contain its outbreak better than comparable large European nations.

The emergencies chief of the World Health Organization has confirmed that China shared coronavirus sequences from its latest outbreak with the global community and says it appears the virus was imported to Beijing from strains circulating in Europe.

At a press briefing on Friday, Dr. Michael Ryan noted that “strains and viruses have moved around the world” throughout the pandemic. Ryan said that many viruses in New York “were of European origin” but that doesn’t mean Europe necessarily was the original source.

He says analysis of the genetic sequences so far suggests that the virus spread to people in China from other humans instead of jumping from animals directly into humans.

Associated Press journalists from around the world contributed to this report.

Overworked, underpaid Brazil nurses risk lives to care for patients

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (SPX)

Jun 10, 2020

Hans Bossan is 40 hours into his 72-hour work week, but despite his marathon nursing shifts and the pandemic claiming an alarming number of his colleagues’ lives in Brazil, he barely looks tired.

Bossan works three jobs to provide for his wife and two-year-old daughter — at two different hospitals and a mobile emergency unit.

Double and triple shifts like his are not unusual in Brazil, where the average salary for nurses, nursing assistants and health care technicians is just 3,000 reals ($600) a month for a 30- to 44-hour work week.

The coronavirus pandemic, which has thrust health care workers into the spotlight around the world, has in Brazil also highlighted the plight of nurses, who often face bad working conditions and are now getting sick and dying from COVID-19 at a startling rate.

“Nursing was always an overworked profession, and this pandemic has just made things worse,” said Bossan, 41.

“We’re highly undervalued. Nurses deal directly with patients, with the virus, we’re on the front lines of the war. But not everyone realizes that,” he told AFP at his home in a poor neighborhood on the eastern outskirts of Rio de Janeiro.

Nurses have been hit particularly hard as Brazil has become the latest epicenter in the pandemic, with 39,680 deaths, behind only the United States and Britain.

Around 18,000 nurses in Brazil have been infected with COVID-19, and at least 181 have died — among the highest numbers in the world, according to the International Council of Nurses.

Last month, nurses protested in the capital, Brasilia, against the poor working conditions they blame for contributing to their colleagues’ deaths.

Brazil accounts for nearly one-third of the 600 deaths among nurses and other health professionals registered worldwide by the International Council of Nurses, though the organization says many countries are not doing enough to track the real number.

– ‘Anxiety and depression’ –

More than 80 percent of Brazil’s 2.3 million nurses are women.

Often they work double and triple shifts caring for patients and then go home to care for their own families — now with the added worry of infecting them.

“It’s a time of great anxiety and depression” for the profession, said Nadia Mattos, vice president of Brazil’s Federal Nursing Council (Cofen).

When the initial flood of cases hit Brazil’s hospitals, health care workers faced shortages of protective equipment and inadequate training on dealing with the new virus, she said.

Although the situation has improved with time, “we’re still getting lots of complaints about lack of protective gear or low-quality equipment,” she said.

The council has set up virtual psychological counseling for nurses, available 24 hours a day.

The group has also pushed for years for nurses’ minimum salary to be increased to $1,200 a month, double the current average.

– Heroes without capes –

One of Bossan’s jobs is in the intensive care unit at Che Guevara Hospital in Marica, about 60 kilometers (35 miles) outside Rio.

Working behind a face shield with a mask underneath, he monitored the constantly beeping machines helping to keep his patients alive.

One of them, 56-year-old Eliane Lima, thanked her health care team from behind her oxygen mask.

“The doctors and nurses are excellent here. They take care of us with a lot of love. It’s badly needed in a place like this,” she said.

Outside, in the semi-intensive care ward, nurse technician Flavia Menezes summed up her profession thus: “It’s the art of caring for people.”

Source: Terra Daily.

Link: https://www.terradaily.com/reports/Overworked_underpaid_Brazil_nurses_risk_lives_to_care_for_patients_999.html.

Brazil edges toward being next big coronavirus hot spot

April 28, 2020

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil is emerging as potentially the next big hot spot for the coronavirus amid President Jair Bolsonaro’s insistence that it is just a “little flu” and that there is no need for the sharp restrictions that have slowed the infection’s spread in Europe and the U.S.

As some U.S. states and European countries moved gradually Monday to ease their limits on movement and commerce, the intensifying outbreak in Brazil — Latin America’s biggest country, with 211 million people — pushed some hospitals to the breaking point, with signs that a growing number of victims are now dying at home.

“We have all the conditions here for the pandemic to become much more serious,” said Paulo Brandão, a virologist at the University of Sao Paulo. Brazil officially reported about 4,500 deaths and almost 67,000 confirmed infections. But the true numbers there, as in many other countries, are believed to be vastly higher given the lack of testing and the many people without severe symptoms who haven’t sought hospital care.

Some scientists said over 1 million in Brazil are probably infected. The country is heading into winter, which can worsen respiratory illnesses. Worldwide, the death toll topped 210,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The number of dead in the U.S. surpassed 55,000 — close to the 58,000 U.S. troops killed during the Vietnam War. Italy, Britain, Spain and France accounted for more than 20,000 deaths each.

In other developments:

— U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday that deaths in the United States from the coronavirus could reach as high as 70,000, after putting the number at 60,000 several times earlier this month.

— The Trump administration worked to draw up new guidelines for how restaurants, schools, churches and businesses can safely reopen. The administration also unveiled a “blueprint” for states to scale up their virus testing in the coming week. Still, there were doubts from public health experts that the new testing targets were sufficient.

— The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded the list of people to be prioritized for virus testing to include those who show no symptoms but are in high-risk settings such as nursing homes.

— British Prime Minister Boris Johnson returned to work after a bout with the virus and warned strongly against easing his own country’s lockdown too soon: “I refuse to throw away all the effort and the sacrifice of the British people and to risk a second major outbreak and huge loss of life.”

— New York canceled its Democratic presidential primary, set for June 23, since Bernie Sanders has already conceded the nomination to Joe Biden. In a bit of encouraging news, the state reported 337 deaths for the lowest daily count this month, down from nearly 800 almost three weeks ago.

— Massachusetts recorded its 3,000th known death from the virus. The state is “still in the surge and very much in the fight against COVID-19,” Gov. Charlie Baker said. In Brazil, Bolsonaro has disputed the seriousness of the coronavirus and said people need to resume their lives to prevent an economic meltdown. But most state governors in the country have adopted restrictions to slow the spread and pushed people to stay at home.

In mid-April, Bolsonaro fired his popular health minister after a series of disagreements over efforts to contain the virus, replacing him with an advocate for reopening the economy. Residents protested, leaning out their windows to bang pots and pans.

Medical officials in Rio de Janeiro and at least four other major cities have warned that their hospital systems are on the verge of collapse or too overwhelmed to take any more patients. Officials in Sao Paulo — the largest city in South America, a tightly packed metropolitan area of over 21 million residents, many living in poverty — have issued death certificates over the past two weeks for 236 people who succumbed at home, double the number before the outbreak, according to the SAMU paramedic service.

Manaus, an Amazon city of 1.8 million, recorded 142 deaths on Sunday, the most yet, including 41 who died at home. In the main cemetery, workers have been digging mass graves. Brazil’s funeral industry warned last week that the city was running out of coffins and “there could soon be corpses left on corners.”

In the U.S., the governors of Nevada and Colorado announced their states will join California, Oregon and Washington state in coordinating their reopenings. The governors of all five states are Democrats.

In Georgia, where Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has let businesses reopen, restaurants received the go-ahead to resume dine-in service as long as they follow certain restrictions, including keeping tables 6 feet (2 meters) apart.

At Plucked Up Chicken & Biscuits in Columbus, Georgia, eight regulars showed up in the morning to have their coffee and breakfast and “chatted at each other across the room,” manager Alesha Webster said. But only 10 customers could be inside at a time, well below the capacity of 45.

Alex Brounstein, owner of the Atlanta-based chain Grindhouse Killer Burgers, had no plans to reopen right away. “You’re talking about people putting their mouths on things in your restaurant. You now have dirty dishes going back into your kitchen. To me, it’s just completely illogical,” he said.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday outlined a slow reopening, allowing restaurants, retailers, movie theaters and malls to start letting customers trickle into their establishments starting Friday. The state has one of the world’s largest economies.

Technology is likely to play an important role in helping countries ease their restrictions. Many countries, including Italy, France, Switzerland and Britain, are working on virus-tracking apps and other means of reducing the labor-intensive task of tracing infected people’s contacts.

In Australia, with about 80 COVID-19 deaths, 1.1 million of the country’s 26 million people downloaded a new contact-tracing app within 12 hours of its becoming available.

Biller and De Sousa reported from Rio de Janeiro and Geller from New York. Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.

Virus tamed in New Zealand, while Brazil emerges as hot spot

April 28, 2020

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Surfers in New Zealand hit the waves at dawn, builders returned to construction sites and baristas fired up their espresso machines as the nation eased a strict lockdown Tuesday amid hopeful signs the coronavirus has been all but vanquished Down Under — at least for now.

But elsewhere, Brazil was emerging as a potential new hot spot for infections, and fresh doubts were raised over whether Japan would be able to host the already postponed Olympic Games next year. Europe and some U.S. states were also continuing to gradually ease limits on movement and commerce as they tried to restart their economies.

But in a reminder of the virus’s increasing toll, President Donald Trump said the numbers of deaths could reach 70,000 in the U.S., after putting the number at 60,000 several times earlier this month.

With the number of new cases waning, New Zealand’s government loosened its lockdown, which for more than a month had shuttered schools and most businesses, and only allowed people to leave their homes for essential work, to get groceries or to exercise.

Most students will continue studying from home and workers are still required to work from home if they can, while everyone is required to maintain social distancing. But restaurants can now reopen for takeaway orders, construction can restart, and golfers and surfers can play.

New Zealand reported just three new infections on Tuesday and the country’s health authorities said they’re winning the battle against the virus. Nevertheless they cautioned people not to get complacent and to maintain social distancing.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said people had done an incredible job to break the chain of transmission, but cautioned they needed to remain vigilant. Quoting a microbiologist, Ardern said “there may still be some smoldering ashes out there, and they have the potential to become a wildfire again, if we give them the chance.”

In Australia, authorities reopened Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach to swimmers and surfers on Tuesday and hundreds returned to the water as soon as the restrictions were lifted. People can only use the beach during daylight hours, cannot linger on the sand and are counted to ensure social distancing.

In Japan, a top medical expert said he thinks it will be difficult to hold the Olympics in 2021 without an effective coronavirus vaccine. “I hope vaccines and drugs will be developed as soon as possible,” said Yoshitake Yokokura, the president of the Japan Medical Association.

Japan and the International Olympic Committee agreed to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games until July next year due to the pandemic. Japan is under a monthlong state of emergency amid a rapid increase of infections throughout the country, where hospitals are overburdened.

In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro has insisted COVID-19 is just a “little flu” and that there is no need for the type of restrictions that have slowed the infection’s spread in Europe and the U.S. Brazil has reported 4,600 deaths and 67,000 confirmed infections. But the true numbers are believed to be vastly higher given the lack of testing and the many people without severe symptoms who haven’t sought hospital care.

Medical officials in Rio de Janeiro and at least four other major cities have warned that their hospital systems are on the verge of collapse or are too overwhelmed to take any more patients. There are also signs that a growing number of victims are now dying at home. Brazil is Latin America’s biggest country, with 211 million people.

“We have all the conditions here for the pandemic to become much more serious,” said Paulo Brandão, a virologist at the University of Sao Paulo. Bolsonaro has disputed the seriousness of the coronavirus and said people need to resume their lives to prevent an economic meltdown. But most state governors in the country have adopted restrictions to slow the spread and pushed people to stay at home.

In other developments, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson returned to work after a bout with the virus and warned strongly against easing his own country’s lockdown too soon: “I refuse to throw away all the effort and the sacrifice of the British people and to risk a second major outbreak and huge loss of life.”

And New York canceled its Democratic presidential primary, set for June 23, since Bernie Sanders has already conceded the nomination to Joe Biden. The state reported 337 deaths for the lowest daily count this month, down from nearly 800 almost three weeks ago.

The number of confirmed infections in the U.S. has risen to nearly 1 million, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, although the true number is likely much higher because not everybody who contracts the virus is tested.

Worldwide, the death toll topped 210,000. The number of dead in the U.S. surpassed 56,000. Italy, Britain, Spain and France accounted for more than 20,000 deaths each.

Biller reported from Rio de Janeiro. Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.

Trump floats idea of Brazil becoming NATO member

Washington (AFP)
March 19, 2019
President Donald Trump raised the possibility Tuesday that Brazil could become a member of NATO as he hosted far-right President Jair Bolsonaro for security talks at the White House.
“I… intend to designate Brazil as a major non-NATO ally or even possibly, if you start thinking about it, maybe a NATO ally,” Trump told reporters in the Rose Garden.
“I have to talk to a lot of people, but maybe a NATO ally, which will greatly advance security and cooperation between our countries.”
Asked earlier as he hosted Bolsonaro in the Oval Office whether Brazil should be granted NATO privileges, Trump replied: “We’re looking at it very strongly. We’re very inclined to do that.”
“The relationship that we have right now with Brazil has never been better,” Trump added. “I think there was a lot of hostility with other presidents. There’s zero hostility with me.
“And we’re going to look at that very, very strongly in terms of whether it’s NATO or something having to do with alliance.”
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which marks 70 years since its founding in April, last month cleared the way for Macedonia to become its 30th member.
Trump has been unstinting in his criticism of NATO’s European members, accusing them of freeloading on the protection offered by the US military while not spending enough on their own armed forces.
Before taking office Trump called NATO “obsolete” and soon after a NATO summit last July summit he questioned whether the US would honor the alliance’s founding principle of mutual defense for newest member Montenegro.
Source: Space War.

Brazil leans toward unsparing vision of far-right Bolsonaro

October 09, 2018

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The far-right former army captain who looks likely to become Brazil’s next president promised nothing short of a complete overhaul of Latin America’s largest nation, vowing Monday to combat the evils of corruption by gutting government ministries and privatizing state companies. He also pledged to promote traditional values that would roll back the rights of gays and other minorities.

With his pledge of “Brazil above all,” Jair Bolsonaro has catapulted from the fringes of Congress, where he served as a member of marginal parties for 27 years, to a stone’s throw from the presidency. A rabble rouser who has reminisced fondly about dictatorship and promised an all-out war on drugs and crime, he just missed outright victory in Sunday’s vote and will face former Sao Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad of the leftist Workers’ Party in an Oct. 28 runoff.

Bolsonaro only needs a few more points to secure victory, and Haddad’s supporters vowed Monday to launch a tough fight to make up ground after their candidate finished a distant second. The election was a seismic shift for this nation of more than 200 million people, where the left has won the past four elections but deep divisions have opened in the wake of a massive corruption scandal and the 2016 impeachment of then-President Dilma Rousseff. Brazil’s move fits into a global trend among voters — in the United States and Europe, among other places — who are choosing anti-establishment and often far-right or populist candidates who target minorities and promise a return to “traditional values.”

“The evils and damages of corruption hurt the people in many ways. It’s they who don’t have a bed in the hospital, who don’t have security in the streets or money in their pockets,” Bolsonaro tweeted Monday. “A corrupt government encourages crime in all spheres.”

His solution? “Reduce the number of ministries, get rid of and privatize state companies, fight fraud in (a popular social welfare program for low-income families) … decentralize power giving more economic force to the states and municipalities,” he said on Twitter, one of his favorite forms of communicating.

Bolsonaro’s Social and Liberal Party was a tiny, fringe group until the candidate began surging in the polls through his use of social media and carefully orchestrated rallies. Bolsonaro has often praised Donald Trump, and his campaign took many pages from the U.S. president’s playbook, from his echoing of Trump’s “America First” slogan, to bashing the mainstream media to using the candidate’s adult children as proxies.

Bolsonaro’s party took a whopping 52 seats in the lower house of Congress — up from just one in the last election — giving it 10 percent of that house and making it the second-largest party after the Workers’ Party, with 56.

If elected, Bolsonaro has promised a total overhaul of Brazil’s government. The proposals that have attracted the most attention — and criticism — focus on how he would slash rising crime rates. Brazil has long been the world leader in homicides, with a record 63,880 people slain last year, according the Brazilian Public Security Forum, an independent think tank.

To this thorny problem, Bolsonaro has proposed simple solutions: Give police more freedom to shoot first and give ordinary people freer access to guns. Critics have expressed concern that police violence, already a major contributor to the high homicide rate, will only worsen if police are given carte blanche.

“Bolsonaro is very good at picking a one-sentence summary of the issue and a one-sentence solution to the issue and then one name to resolve it,” said Matthew Taylor, an associate professor of Latin American politics at American University.

While Brazilians say that deteriorating security is one of their major concerns, crime — and efforts to crack down on it — have become almost a metaphor in Bolsonaro’s campaign. He has painted a Brazil not only at war with criminals but, in many ways, with itself.

Bolsonaro often uses crime as a lens through which to sketch out a broad indictment of the left: What he calls its coddling policies toward the poor, marginalized and criminal and its push to protect the rights of minorities at what he says is the expense of the majority.

He has vowed to end the designation of indigenous lands, saying such reserves impede development and give special privilege to native peoples that others don’t get. His education policy calls for removing “premature sexualization” from schools, a nod to criticism from the right that “leftist ideas” like sex education have taken hold in the curriculum and morality is absent.

In an interview Monday with a friendly radio station, Bolsonaro indicated he would not change his hard-line views on issues like gay marriage. The constitution “recognizes the stable union between a man and a woman,” he said, adding: “We can’t think that gays can have super powers” to influence laws.

Many are concerned that his veneration of the armed forces, including his praise of the country’s 1964-1985 dictatorship, signal that he will erode democratic values and rule with an authoritarian hand. He has said he will surround himself with former military officers, like his running mate who is a retired general.

In an interview late Monday with Brazil’s most watched TV news program, Bolsonaro pledged to be “a slave of the constitution.” “My administration will have authority, not authoritarianism,” he said. While Bolsonaro was expected to come out in front Sunday, he far outperformed predictions, blazing past competitors who had more financing, the institutional backing of traditional parties and much more free air time on television. His first-place finish with 46 percent of the vote — just short of the 50 percent-plus needed for an outright win — came after an unpredictable campaign in which the front-runner, former President Luiz Inacio da Silva, was barred from running after being jailed on a corruption conviction.

Bolsonaro himself was stabbed and forced to campaign from a hospital bed for several weeks. But the attack allowed him to pick and choose his media appearances and largely speak to his supporters through social media. He will likely face much tougher scrutiny and questioning by reporters over the next three weeks.

Supporters of Haddad, who got 29 percent of the vote, promised a tough fight Monday that included forcing Bolsonaro to engage in policy debates. Brazilians have a lot to be angry about. Since 2014, they’ve watched slack-jawed as prosecutors detailed how many in government manipulated public contracts and promised favors in exchange for billions of dollars in kickbacks and bribes. Much of that focused on the Workers’ Party, and many voters cited a desire to root out corruption in their choice of Bolsonaro.

Brazil has also just emerged from a protracted recession, unemployment is high and crime is rising. Haddad has leaned on a narrative of returning to better times: He promises to bring back the boom times Brazil experienced under his mentor, da Silva, and has portrayed an unequal society hijacked by an elite that can’t bear to see the lives of poor people improve. He has promised to fight those inequalities, invest more in education and improve state services.

“Public security is a public service, to give guns to the population is to exempt the state from protecting citizens,” Haddad told reporters Monday after he visited da Silva in jail.

DiLorenzo reported from Sao Paulo. Associated Press writer Mauricio Savarese in Sao Paulo contributed to this report.

Da Silva’s candidate vows to be his own man in Brazil

September 13, 2018

SAO PAULO (AP) — In his first full day as the presidential candidate for Brazil’s Workers’ Party, Fernando Haddad pledged Wednesday to be his own man if elected and not bow to financial markets or the interests of other countries, including the United States.

His promise to be his own man came a day after he replaced former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as the left-leaning party’s candidate in October’s election and apparently was directed at perceptions that he will be beholden to his jailed friend and political ally.

Da Silva was barred from running because of a corruption conviction and on Tuesday his Workers’ Party officially chose Haddad, who was to have been da Silva’s vice presidential running mate, to lead its ticket.

Haddad’s comment about not bowing to financial markets came after Brazil’s main stock exchange fell whenever da Silva improved his position in the polls and jumped after his presidential bid was barred.

They want a president “to whom the financial markets can say what they want and what they don’t want. What (U.S. President Donald) Trump wants or what Trump doesn’t want,” said the 55-year-old former mayor of Sao Paulo to a crowd.

Haddad said unpopular President Michel Temer did not have the authority to stand up to U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who visited the South American nation in August. “The American secretary came here to tell our government what to do,” Haddad said.

Haddad spoke at a meeting with beneficiaries of education programs started during da Silva’s presidency, between 2003 and 2010. The presidential hopeful was Brazil’s education minister from 2005 to 2012, the year he was elected mayor. Four years later he lost re-election by a landslide.

Asked about the influence da Silva would have if he wins, Haddad said the former president is “an inspiration,” but called his party’s program for the 2018 election of “our Gospel.” “It has my signature and it has Lula’s too,” he said.

While da Silva has publicly endorsed Haddad as the Workers’ Party presidential candidate, many wonder whether supporters of da Silva — who had held a clear lead in all polls — will actually listen and back Haddad, who until now had relatively little appeal?

The designation of Haddad comes only four weeks before Brazil’s first round of voting on Oct.7. If none of the candidates reaches 50 percent plus one vote – as is expected – there will be a runoff on Oct.28.

A Datafolha poll published on Monday shows Haddad in fourth place, favored by just 9 percent of those surveyed. That was a rise of 5 percentage points in just a few weeks, but still behind rightist congressman Jair Bolsonaro’s 24 percent, left-leaning Ciro Gomes’ 13 percent, centrist Marina Silva’s 11 percent and right-leaning Geraldo Alckmin’s 10 percent.

The poll had a margin of error of 2 percentage points. All the 2,804 voters sampled were interviewed on Monday, days after da Silva’s candidacy was barred by the electoral court and Bolsonaro was stabbed in an incident that might put him in hospital until election day.

Da Silva is serving a 12-year sentence for trading favors with construction company Grupo OAS for the promise of a beachfront apartment. The former president has always denied wrongdoing, arguing this case and several others pending against him are meant to keep him off the ballot.

Brazil’s da Silva names successor, but will voters follow?

September 12, 2018

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — In a letter from his jail cell, former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called on tens of millions of supporters to vote for the man he named to lead his Workers’ Party ticket in October’s presidential election.

“I want everyone who would vote for me to vote for Fernando Haddad for president of Brazil,” da Silva, who Brazilians universally call Lula, said on Tuesday, the deadline for the party to pick another candidate after da Silva’s candidacy was barred. “From now on he will be Lula for millions of Brazilians.”

While long anticipated, the formal designation of Haddad both settled one question and launched another: Will da Silva’s supporters actually listen? The two men are close in their political views and said to be friends, but for many voters in Latin America’s largest nation they are also very different.

While da Silva is easily the country’s most recognizable politician after being president between 2003 and 2010, Haddad is largely unknown outside of Sao Paulo, where he was governor four years, a liability in a nation slightly larger than the continental U.S. While da Silva is charismatic and has an every-man touch, Haddad is a political science professor turned education minister who comes off as professorial. He also got trounced in his re-election bid as mayor in 2016, raising questions about how well he is at winning over voters.

Haddad, 55, also only begins his campaign in earnest on Wednesday, less than four weeks before voters go to the polls. Carlos Melo, a political science professor at Insper university, believes the strength of the party and da Silva’s endorsement will be enough to help Haddad get to a second round of voting. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent on Oct. 7, as expected, the top two finishers will meet in an Oct. 28 runoff.

“He was introduced as the candidate very late, we have to see if there is time for him to get all the votes he needs,” Melo said. Before running for mayor in 2012, Haddad served as education minister under da Silva and his predecessor, President Dilma Rousseff.

He was confirmed as the replacement to da Silva on Tuesday after a meeting of his party’s executive committee in the southern city of Curitiba, where the former president is jailed for a corruption conviction. He will be joined on the ticket by Manuela D’Avila, a member of Brazil’s Communist Party.

Recent polls show Haddad with less than 10 percent of voter intentions, but the party hopes he will now rise with da Silva’s endorsement. The current poll leader is far-right congressman Jair Bolsonaro.

A Datafolha poll published on Monday shows Haddad in fourth place, favored by 9 percent support. That was a rise of 5 percentage points in just a few weeks, but still behind Bolsonaro’s 24 percent, left-leaning Ciro Gomes’ 13 percent, centrist Marina Silva’s 11 percent and right-leaning Geraldo Alckmin’s 10 percent.

The poll had a margin of error of 2 percentage points. All the 2,804 voters sampled were interviewed on Monday, days after da Silva’s candidacy was barred by the electoral court and Bolsonaro was stabbed in an incident that might put him in hospital until election day.

The move to put Haddad on the top of the ticket was an acknowledgement that the left-leaning party could not get da Silva on the ballot despite numerous attempts in the courts. One of the last appeals of the former president was denied by Brazil’s top court after Haddad was announced as his replacement.

Haddad met with da Silva after the decision, then delivered his first speech as the candidate in front the federal police building where da Silva is jailed. “I feel the pain of many Brazilians who won’t be able to vote for who they want,” he said, standing next to D’Avila and other Workers’ Party heavyweights. “But now is not the time to have your head down.”

Da Silva is serving a 12-year sentence for trading favors with construction company Grupo OAS for the promise of a beachfront apartment. The former president has always denied wrongdoing, arguing this case and several others pending against him are meant to keep him off the ballot.

Da Silva led polls for more than a year, but his candidacy was recently barred by the country’s top electoral court. The strategy of holding on to da Silva’s candidacy until the last minute caused much internal fighting within the party. Many believed that leaving Haddad so little time to present his case to voters was risky, while others thought it was best to keep da Silva front and center as long as possible.

Since the beginning of the year the Workers’ Party hinted Haddad could be the candidate. When he was named candidate for vice president in mid-August the choice became obvious. “Haddad and I are like Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez,” da Silva once said, referring to superstar teammates on FC Barcelona’s soccer club. “We play together and we don’t even need to look at each other to know what the other is doing.”

Brazil race begins in earnest with da Silva off party ticket

September 11, 2018

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil’s Workers’ Party on Tuesday replaced jailed former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as its candidate for October’s general election, clarifying one of the biggest question marks hanging over the vote to lead Latin America’s largest nation.

The party confirmed the move after a meeting of its executive committee in the southern city of Curitiba, where da Silva is jailed. Fernando Haddad, a former Sao Paulo mayor, will lead the ticket and be joined by Manuela D’Avila, a member of Brazil’s Communist Party.

The move, while long expected, was an acknowledgement that the party could not get da Silva, who Brazilians universally call Lula, on the ballot despite numerous attempts in the courts. “The struggle has just begun. Let’s go, Haddad! Haddad is Lula!” the Workers’ Party Twitter account said. “He was a Lula minister, he is a Lula attorney and best of all: he is a friend of Lula’s.”

The political science professor turned education minister and later politician met with da Silva Tuesday after the decision, then delivered his first speech as the candidate in front of hundreds of supporters in front the federal police building where da Silva is jailed.

“I feel the pain of many Brazilians who won’t be able to vote for who they want,” said Haddad, standing next to D’Avila and other Workers’ Party heavyweights. “But now is not the time to have your head down.”

Da Silva is serving a 12-year sentence for trading favors with construction company Grupo OAS for the promise of a beachfront apartment. The former president, who governed between 2003 and 2010, has always denied wrongdoing, arguing this case and several others pending against him are meant to keep him off the ballot.

Da Silva led polls for more than a year, but his candidacy was recently barred by the country’s top electoral court. The court gave the party until Tuesday to replace da Silva. In a lengthy letter distributed by the Workers’ Party, da Silva recounted what he called “lies and persecution” that he and his family had suffered and urged supporters to vote for Haddad.

“Today and going forward, Fernando Haddad will be Lula for millions of Brazilians,” wrote da Silva. The strategy of holding on to da Silva’s candidacy until the absolute last minute caused much internal fighting within the party. Many believed that leaving Haddad so little time to present his case to voters was risky, while others thought it was best to keep da Silva front and center as long as possible.

“Haddad and I are like Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez,” da Silva once said, referring to super star teammates on FC Barcelona’s soccer club. “We play together and we don’t even need to look at each other to know what the other is doing.”

Rival candidates have frequently taken shots at Haddad, attacking the centerpiece of the party’s strategy: his dependence on da Silva. Brazil will have “a little president” if Haddad is elected, said left-leaning candidate Ciro Gomes last month.

“The theater of the Workers’ Party is over,” right-leaning Geraldo Alckmin said Tuesday. Recent polls show Haddad far behind, but the party hopes he will now rise with da Silva’s endorsement. The current poll leader is far-right congressman Jair Bolsonaro, consistently over 20 percent in a race that puts several candidates at around 10 percent.

Haddad was education minister under da Silva and his successor, Dilma Rousseff. In 2012 he was elected mayor of Sao Paulo, the most populous city in South America, but failed to get re-elected four years later.

A Datafolha poll published on Monday shows Haddad in fourth place, favored by 9 percent. That was a rise of five percentage points in just a few weeks, but still behind Bolsonaro’s 24, Gomes’ 13, centrist Marina Silva’s 11 and Alckmin’s 10 percent.

The poll had a margin of error of 2 percentage points. All the 2,804 voters sampled were interviewed on Monday, days after da Silva’s candidacy was barred by the electoral court and Bolsonaro was stabbed in an incident that might put him in hospital until election day.

If no candidate gets more than 50 percent on Oct. 7, a runoff will be held on Oct. 28. Political science professor Alberto Almeida, who has written several books on Brazilian polls, believes Haddad has a lot of potential to gain popularity, despite the little time for his campaign.

“By next week, it is possible that Haddad grows enough to see Marina and Ciro behind him. That was predictable because of Lula’s high support at around 40 percent in the polls,” Almeida said, adding: “The race is clearer now.”

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