Thousands of Brazilians flocked to a law school Thursday in defense of the nation’s democratic institutions, an event that carried echoes of a gathering nearly 45 years ago when citizens joined together at the same site to denounce a brutal military dictatorship. In 1977, the masses poured into the University of Sao Paulo’s law school to listen to a reading of “A Letter to Brazilians,” a manifesto calling for a prompt return of the rule of law. On Thursday, they heard declarations defending democracy and the country’s elections systems, which President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly attacked ahead of his reelection bid. While the current manifestos don’t specifically name Bolsonaro, they underscore the country’s widespread concern that the far-right leader may follow in former U.S. President Donald Trump’s footsteps and reject election results not in his favor in an attempt to cling to power. “We are at risk of a coup, so civil society must stand up and fight against that to guarantee democracy,” José Carlos Dias, a former justice minister who helped write the 1977 letter and the two documents read Thursday, told The Associated Press. In Sao Paulo, drivers stuck in traffic on one of the main roads to the law school applauded and honked as marching students chanted pro-democracy slogans. A huge inflatable electronic voting machine by the building’s main entrance bore the slogan “RESPECT THE VOTE”. Read: Brazil confirms first monkeypox-related death Inside, hundreds of guests gathered in the university’s Great Hall to hear speeches, while others stood outside watching on big flat screens. The proclamations are contained in two letters. The first went online on July 26 and has been signed by nearly 1 million citizens, including ordinary people; popular musicians such as Caetano Veloso and Anitta; high-profile bankers and executives; and presidential candidates, among them former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who leads all polls ahead of the October election. The second letter, published in newspapers last Friday, carries the endorsement of hundreds of companies in banking, oil, construction and transportation — sectors that traditionally have been averse to taking public political stances, said Carlos Melo, a political science professor at Insper University in Sao Paulo. They appear to have made an exception now, given the fear that any democratic backslide would be bad for business, he said. “Democracy is important for the economy,” he said. Bolsonaro’s commitment to democracy has been scrutinized since he took office, in large part because the former army captain has insistently glorified the country’s two-decade dictatorship, which ended in 1985. Earlier this year he met with Hungary’s autocratic leader, Viktor Orban, and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. The president only spoke about the event late Thursday, saying it was crafted to support da Silva’s campaign. He also criticized the Workers’ Party for supporting leftist authoritarian regimes in Cuba and Venezuela. For over a year, in actions that appear to be lifted directly from Trump’s playbook, Bolsonaro has claimed Brazil’s electronic voting machines are prone to fraud, though — like Trump — he never presented any evidence. At one point, he threatened that elections would be suspended if Congress didn’t approve a bill to introduce printed receipts of votes. The bill didn’t pass.
A fire set off by a lightning strike at an oil storage facility raged uncontrolled Saturday in the city of Matanzas, where four explosions and flames injured 121 people and left 17 firefighters missing, Cuban authorities said. Firefighters and other specialists were still trying to quell the blaze at the Matanzas Supertanker Base, where the fire began during a thunderstorm Friday night, the Ministry of Energy and Mines tweeted. Authorities said about 800 people were evacuated from the Dubrocq neighborhood closest to the fire, The government said it had asked for help from international experts in “friendly countries” with experience in the oil sector. Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Fernández de Cossío said the U.S. government had offered technical help to quell the blaze. On his Twitter account, he said the “proposal is in the hands of specialists for the due coordination.” Minutes later, President Miguel Díaz-Canel thanked Mexico , Venezuela, Russia, Nicaragua, Argentina and Chile for their offers of help. The first support flights from Mexico and Venezuela were expected to arrive at Matanzas' airport Saturday night. The official Cuban News Agency said lightning hit one tank, starting a fire, and the blaze later spread to a second tank. As military helicopters flew overhead dropping water on the blaze, dense column of black smoke billowed from the facility and spread westward more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) toward Havana. Read:Supreme Leader acknowledges Iran took Greek oil tankers Roberto de la Torre, head of fire operations in Matanzas, said firefighters were spraying water on intact tanks trying to keep them cool in hopes of preventing the fire from spreading. Cuba's health minister reported late Saturday that 121 people were injured with five of them in critical condition. There were no deaths. The Presidency of the Republic said the 17 people missing were “firefighters who were in the nearest area trying to prevent the spread.” The accident comes as Cuba struggles with fuel shortages. There was no immediate word on how much oil had burned or was in danger at the storage facility, which has eight giant tanks that hold oil used to fuel electricity generating plants. “I was in the gym when I felt the first explosion. A column of smoke and terrible fire rose through the skies,” resident Adiel Gonzalez told The Associated Press by phone. “The city has a strong smell of sulfur.” He said some people also decided to leave the Versailles district, which is a little farther from the tank farm than Dubrocq. Many ambulances, police and fire engines were seen in the streets of Matanzas, a city with about 140,000 inhabitants that is on Matnzas Bay. Local meteorologist Elier Pila showed satellite images of the area with a dense plume of black smoke moving from the point of the fire westward and reaching east to Havana. “That plume can be close to 150 kilometers long,” Pila wrote on his Twitter account.
A fire set off by a lightning strike at an oil storage facility raged uncontrolled Saturday in the city of Matanzas, where four explosions and flames injured nearly 80 people and left 17 firefighters missing, Cuban authorities said. Firefighters and other specialists were still trying to quell the blaze at the Matanzas Supertanker Base, where the fire began during a thunderstorm Friday night, the Ministry of Energy and Mines tweeted. The governmeht said later that it had asked for help from international experts in “friendly countries” with experience in the oil sector. The official Cuban News Agency said lightning hit one tank, starting a fire, and the blaze later spread to a second tank. As military helicopters flew overhead dropping water on the blaze, dense column of black smoke billowed from the facility and spread westward more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) toward Havana. The Facebook page of the provincial government of Matanzas said the number of injured had reached 77, while 17 people were missing. The Presidency of the Republic said the 17 were “firefighters who were in the nearest area trying to prevent the spread.” The accident comes as Cuba struggles with fuel shortages. There was no immediate word on how much oil had burned or was in danger at the storage facility, which has eight giant tanks that hold oil used to fuel electricity generating plants. “I was in the gym when I felt the first explosion. A column of smoke and terrible fire rose through the skies,” resident Adiel Gonzalez told The Associated Press by phone. “The city has a strong smell of sulfur.” Authorities said the Dubrocq neighborhood closest to the fire was evacuated, while Gonzalez added that some people decided to leave the Versailles district, which is a little farther from the tank farm. Many ambulances, police and fire engines were seen in the streets of Matanzas, a city with about 140,000 inhabitants that is on Matnzas Bay. Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel traveled to the area of the fire early Saturday, officials said. Local meteorologist Elier Pila showed satellite images of the area with a dense plume of black smoke moving from the point of the fire westward and reaching east to Havana. “That plume can be close to 150 kilometers long,” Pila wrote on his Twitter account.
Brazil on Friday confirmed the country's first monkeypox-related death, according to the Health Ministry. The case was reported in Belo Horizonte, capital of the southeast Minas Gerais state, and the victim was a 41-year-old man who was undergoing treatment for other serious clinical conditions, including cancer, and whose health deteriorated after getting infected, the ministry said. The man, whose name was not released, was admitted to a public hospital in Belo Horizonte, where he suffered septic shock aggravated by monkeypox. Read: New York City declares monkeypox a public health emergency In Minas Gerais, state health authorities said there were 44 confirmed cases of the disease and 130 suspected cases under investigation. In Brazil, there were 978 confirmed cases of monkeypox as of Wednesday. The World Health Organization has declared the current outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. Experts classify monkeypox as a rare viral disease that causes skin lesions and is transmitted through close contact with an infected person, including through hugs, kisses, massages or sexual intercourse, in addition to being transmitted through respiratory secretions or contact with clothing, towels, or other items used by the infected person. ■
Peru extended a state of emergency on Thursday over the COVID-19 pandemic amid a fourth wave. The decision extends emergency conditions for another 28 days as of Aug. 1. "The national state of emergency will be extended due to the serious circumstances that affect the lives and health of people as a result of COVID-19," the official newspaper "El Peruano" said. Peru remains on alert amid the new wave, seeing an average of 11,000 new cases a day last week, official figures showed. Read: Peru faces "community transmission" of monkeypox: top health official The Health Ministry has issued 80,336,753 vaccines, of which 68.6 percent correspond to a third dose and 17.4 percent to a fourth. According to the World Health Organization, Peru saw 14,186 new infections and 41 deaths from the disease on Thursday, for a total of 3,873,702 cases and 214,120 deaths.
Peru is experiencing "community transmission" of the monkeypox virus, with 203 cases detected so far, head of the National Health Institute Victor Suarez said on Monday. Most of the infections are concentrated in Lima and its neighboring province of Callao, Suarez said during an interview with a private radio station. The nation has set up specialized sites to identify cases and a laboratory where test results are available within 24 hours, he said. Health Minister Jorge Lopez told journalists that most of those infected are men, between about 32 and 37 years old, and all of them are in stable condition. Read: UN health agency chief declares monkeypox a global emergency He added that Peru is heeding the international alert issued by the World Health Organization, which reported over 16,000 monkeypox cases in 75 countries on Saturday, and is evaluating the acquisition of vaccines against the disease.
Six people were killed by armed assailants at a drug rehabilitation center in west Mexico's Jalisco state, authorities said Monday. Police arrived at the scene on Sunday after receiving emergency calls, but were unable to make any arrest. Read: 4 dead after sheriff’s office helicopter crash in New Mexico Witnesses told local media that hooded gunmen burst into the facility and opened fire. Jalisco state is one of the most violent areas in the country and a bastion of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel. ■
At least 18 people were killed on Thursday during a police raid targeting a crime group at the Almao favelas in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, police reported. Among the dead were a 50-year-old woman, who was hit by a stray bullet during the raid, and a police officer, police spokesman Ivan Blaz said at a press conference. Four suspects accused of killing police officers were arrested during the operation, in which 400 officers were involved and supported by four helicopters and 10 armored vehicles. Read: Death toll from Brazil floods at least 91, with dozens lost Blaz described the situation in the region as "very tense," saying that the criminal ring had expanded from drug trafficking to robbing cargo trucks entering the city of Rio de Janeiro. The dragnet aimed to locate and arrest the gang members, who planned to enter other favelas Thursday to carry out vehicle thefts, Lieutenant Colonel Uira do Nascimento Ferreira of the Special Operations Battalion of the militarized police in Rio said at the press conference. ■
A police operation Thursday targeting gang members in Rio de Janeiro's largest complex of favelas, or low-income communities, left at least 18 people dead in one of the deadliest raids the city has seen recently and one already bringing more criticism of police violence. Rio authorities said 16 suspected criminals were killed in confrontations with police in Complexo do Alemao along with a police officer and an woman. A police spokesman said the raid targeted a criminal group that stole cars and robbed banks, and invaded nearby neighborhoods. Videos circulating on social media showed intense shootouts between criminals as well as a police helicopter flying low over the small, brick houses. Rio’s police have used helicopters to shoot at targets, even in densely populated residential areas, and video showed shots being fired from the favela at the aircraft. Also read: At least 13 killed in Ecuador prison riot At the site of the raid, Associated Press reporters saw residents carrying about 10 bodies as bystanders shouted, “We want peace!” Residents said those who attempted to help the injured risked arrest. “It’s a massacre inside, which police are calling an operation,” one woman told AP, speaking on the condition of anonymity because she feared reprisals from authorities. ”They’re not letting us help (victims),” she added, saying she saw one man arrested for attempting to do so. A Rio’s police force spokesman said some of the criminals wore uniforms to disguise themselves as police officers. “I would rather they (the suspects) had not reacted and then we could have arrested 15, 14 of them. But unfortunately they chose to fire at our policemen,” said Ronaldo Oliveira, an investigator of Rio’s police. Also read: U.S. embargo negatively affects Cubans' daily lives Rio state Gov. Cláudio Castro said on Twitter he lamented the police officer's death. "I will continue to fight crime with all my strength. We will not back down from the mission of guaranteeing peace and security to the people of our state,” Castro said. But many disagree with the government's strategy for tackling violence and organized crime, an approach that regularly sees deadly police operations. A raid in Rio's Vila Cruzeiro favela in May killed more than 20 people. Thursday's operation was aimed at locating and arresting criminal leaders, some from other states, police said in an early statement. “ENOUGH of this genocidal policy, governor!” Talíria Petrone, a federal lawmaker for Rio, said in response to the governor's tweet. “This failed public security policy leaves residents and police on the ground, en masse. It’s no longer possible to keep piling up Black bodies and favela residents every day!” Alemao is a complex of 13 favelas in northern Rio, home to about 70,000 people. Nearly three-quarters of them are Afro-Brazilians, according to a July 2020 study published by the Brazilian Institute of Social and Economical Analyses. Earlier this year, Brazil’s Supreme Court established a series of conditions for police to conduct raids in Rio’s favelas as a means to reduce police killings and violations of human rights. The court ordered that lethal force be used only in situations in which all other means have been exhausted and when necessary to protect life. The ruling came in response to a raid on the Jacarezinho favela in 2021 that resulted in 28 people being killed. As was the case Thursday, an officer died during that raid, which some speculated at the time was the cause for subsequent abuse and summary executions. Thursday’s operation began before dawn and finished around 4 p.m. local time, police said. Nearly 400 police officers were involved, including Rio’s tactical police unit, backed up by four helicopters and 10 bullet-proofed vehicles, according to the police statement. In a video shared by Voz da Comunidade, a community news outlet focused on Rio’s favelas, residents can be seen calling for peace and waving white cloths from their windows and rooftops. Fabrício Oliveira, one of the coordinators of the police raid, said authorities fear that Friday could be another violent day at the Complexo do Alemao. “Our experience has told us that after raids like these police are attacked in every way,” Oliveira said.
At least 13 inmates were killed and another two injured in a prison riot on Monday in the Ecuadorean city of Santo Domingo following a fight among inmates in the prison. The National Police, the Armed Forces and the Ministry of Public Health were called to the emergency and the situation was brought under control, the National Comprehensive Care Service for Persons Deprived of Liberty said in a report. The same prison was hit by violence on May 9, resulting in the death of 44 inmates. Read: Earthquake shakes Ecuador’s coast, teen killed by power line The Ecuadorean prison system has been afflicted with a serious crisis due to confrontations between rival drug trafficking gangs. In 2021, the country saw a wave of prison riots that left more than 300 inmates dead. The government has declared a crackdown on drug trafficking.