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Brazilian politics was hit by a wave of violence ahead of Sunday’s vote | Instant News

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazilians returned to voting in 57 cities on Sunday for municipal elections that have seen escalating violence involving assassinations and physical attacks on candidates.

In the two months of campaigning leading up to the first round of voting on November 15, there were 200 murders, attempted assassinations or other candidates injured, according to Brazil’s electoral authority TSE.

That compares with 63 cases of political violence in the first eight months of this election year, and just 46 such cases in the previous municipal elections in 2016, a report by the TSE’s security and intelligence unit found.

Violence is pervasive in Brazilian politics, especially in the “wild west” in poorer northern and northeastern states where powerful landowners sometimes ask for rented weapons to resolve political disputes.

The violence even reached the national Congress in Brasilia. In 1963, Senator Arnon de Mello of the state of Alagoas pulled out a gun in the room to settle quarrels with the enemy, lost his shot and killed another senator.

In 1993, Paraiba governor Ronaldo Cunha Lima shot his predecessor dead for accusing his son of being corrupt.

In recent years, experts say violence has spread in polarized Brazil where more weapons are available and new criminal organizations are consolidating power in cities like Rio de Janeiro. The risk is greater in local politics where crimes often go unpunished, said Felipe Borba, who tracks electoral violence at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

“In smaller districts there is direct confrontation between local rivals. “Winners take everything and losing positions means you have nothing,” he said in an interview.

He pointed to two murders in one day. On September 24, three days before the campaign started, a candidate for city council in Minas Gerais state, Cassio Remis of Brazil’s center-leaning Social Democratic Party, was killed with five shots in a public killing caught on security cameras. On the same day in Pernambuco state, another candidate Valter do Conselho from the center-right Democratic Party (DEM) was also shot dead.

The violence is detrimental to all parties, including the right and the left.

Four days before the November 15 vote, in the Rio suburb of Nova Iguaçu, local DEM candidate Domingo Cabral, was shot dead by a hooded man in a bar. The day before, Mauro da Rocha, from the Christian Workers’ Party, was murdered in the same city.

Violence continued even after voting closed. Edmar Santana of the far-right Patriota party, who had just been elected to the replacement council in Sumaré, a city in the state of Sao Paulo, was shot dead by a bullet fired by a man passing by on a motorbike.

“In Rio, there is a pattern. Political violence mainly involves organized crime, drug trafficking or paramilitary militia groups, “said Borba.

Many political killings remain unresolved, especially in the interior of the country where near impunity reigns, he said.

Even high-profile cases are not fully resolved, such as the 2018 murder of Rio de Janeiro councilor Marielle Franco, a rising politician from the left-wing PSOL party, and her driver.

Despite domestic and international pressure, police to date have only arrested the gunman, former military policeman Ronnie Lessa, but not the mastermind behind Brazil’s most notorious political assassination recently.

Reporting by Lisandra Paraguayassu, Written by Anthony Boadle; edited by Diane Craft


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Germany wants its ski resorts closed but it is difficult to get a deal with neighboring Austria | Instant News

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany wants the Alps countries to close ski resorts to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, but reaching a deal with neighboring Austria has proved difficult, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday.

“Ski season is near. We will try to coordinate in Europe whether we can close all ski resorts, “Merkel told parliament, adding that this may not be possible given the resistance from Austria, but Germany will try again.

In the first wave of the coronavirus earlier in the year, many Germans were infected at the ski resort of Ischgl in Austria. Germany last month issued travel warnings for popular ski areas in Austria, Italy and Switzerland.

France, Italy, Austria and Germany have all ordered even high-altitude lifts that may operate in early winter to remain closed for now in the hope that all resorts can benefit from peak season, if and when infection rates slow down.

Austria’s national lockdown will be lifted on December 7, but it is unclear what that means for the ski sector. Austria is lukewarm about general European rule.

Germany is Austria’s largest source of foreign tourists.

Earlier this week, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte warned people not to ski during the Christmas holidays to help curb the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

He also asked other European countries to agree general rules for the sector to prevent cases from being imported from abroad if Italy closes its slopes.

France says ski slopes should remain off limits until 2021.

If the European Union forces ski areas to remain closed, that would mean losses of up to 2 billion euros, which the European Union will have to bear, Austrian Finance Minister Gernot Bluemel said earlier this week.

Switzerland, which is not part of the EU, allows almost normal operation at its ski resorts.

Merkel agreed with the leaders of Germany’s 16 states late on Wednesday to extend and tighten the coronavirus lockdown until December 20, but relaxed rules over the Christmas holidays to allow family and friends to celebrate together.

(Story corrects nationality of Gernot Bluemel in paragraph 10 Austria, not Italy)

Reporting by Thomas Seytal and Emma Thomasson; Edited by Nick Macfie


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The German hotspot district will launch a mass COVID-19 test for children | Instant News

BERLIN (Reuters) – The prime minister of the state of Thuringia on Thursday announced the first mass tests of children in the Hildburghausen district, Germany’s coronavirus hotspot, to find out to what extent they are contributing to a rapid surge in infections.

The east German district recorded a record 603 cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days, more than four times the incidence of the average Germany of 140, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases.

“We will now conduct the first mass tests for children and adolescents, which can be tested for free, starting next Tuesday,” Bodo Ramelow told broadcaster ARD. “Then we’ll find out for the first time: how safe are schools and kindergartens?”

The Hildburghausen district of 63,000 residents introduced a regional lockdown that was stricter than the one imposed in the state of Thuringia on Wednesday.

Unlike most of Germany, kindergartens and schools have closed and people are only allowed to leave their flats if they have a good reason. Violations are punishable by a fine of up to 25,000 euros ($ 29,775).

Lockdown is in effect until 13 December.

Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed with the leaders of 16 federal states late Wednesday to extend and tighten national measures against the coronavirus until at least December 20, but relaxed rules during the Christmas holidays to allow family and friends to celebrate together.

However, another extension to January looks likely.

While many Germans supported the government’s action, there were also some opponents.

After police clashed with thousands of demonstrators in Berlin a week ago, about 400 people gathered in the city of Hildburghausen on Wednesday evening to protest the new restrictions.

Police said they used pepper spray to disperse them.

($ 1 = 0.8396 euros)

Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Edited by Mike Collett-White


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Pakistan is closing schools to curb new coronavirus infections | Instant News

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan is closing its schools and postponing exams on Thursday to try to curb new coronavirus infections and an increasing number of people in hospital with COVID-19.

Students, including those at colleges as well as at private schools, are expected to continue classes through distance learning until December 24, when the school is scheduled for winter break through January 11.

“All efforts will be made to ensure that education continues from home,” Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood said on Monday, announcing the closure of schools, adding that “if the situation improves” schools will reopen on January 11.

Pakistan reported 3,306 new cases as of Wednesday, and 40 deaths from the pandemic, with 2,485 patients currently hospitalized, according to officials. So far, 386,198 cases have been recorded in the country, and 7,843 deaths.

The decision to close schools, officials said, was based on increasing the rate of positive testing results in the country. The rate of people testing positive in June was as high as 23%, but fell to a low of 1.7% in September. Since then it started increasing again, hitting 7.41% this week.

More than 19% of the new cases were from educational institutions, where the rate of positive outcomes nearly doubled in one week to reach 3.3%, officials said on Monday.

The South Asian country has ruled out an extensive lockdown, opting to close non-essential public gatherings in a bid to keep the economy afloat through the pandemic.

“We don’t know what winter will be like, so there is a little bit of concern at the moment because our cases have been increasing quite fast lately,” Prime Minister Imran Khan said at an event organized by the World Economic Forum on Wednesday. .

“We will only lock up the non-essential, in other words public meetings and so on where our economy is not hurt.”

Pakistan closed educational institutions between March and September to combat the spread of the virus. State television and radio stations are used to broadcast lessons for students at home to students in public schools.

Reporting by Umar Farooq, Editing by William Maclean


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Germany’s COVID-19 restrictions will be in effect until 2021 | Instant News

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany may have to stick to measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic through January, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday, while her chief of staff suggested that restrictions may be needed through March.

FILE PHOTO: People wear face masks as they walk next to Christmas decorations at a shopping center amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Berlin, Germany, November 21, 2020. REUTERS / Fabrizio Bensch

“Given the high number of infections, we assume that the restrictions imposed before Christmas will continue until early January, of course for most of Germany,” Merkel told parliament.

Merkel agreed with the leaders of Germany’s 16 states late on Wednesday to extend and tighten the coronavirus lockdown until December 20, but relaxed rules over the Christmas holidays to allow family and friends to celebrate together.

Merkel said the increase in coronavirus cases was still too high and the death toll was cause for concern.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased 22,268 to 983,588, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Thursday, while the death toll rose by 389 to 15,160.

Merkel’s chief of staff said rules restricting social contact may take longer.

“We have difficult winter months ahead of us. This will continue until March, ”Helge Braun told RTL television.

“After March, I am very optimistic because we will probably be able to vaccinate more people and it will be easier to keep infection rates low with spring.”

Merkel said a vaccine could arrive before Christmas.

Germany imposed a month-long “lite lockdown” on November 2 to control a second wave that swept across much of Europe. Bars and restaurants are closed but schools and shops remain open.

From December 1, private gatherings will be limited to five people. Over Christmas, that number will increase to 10, excluding children, although families are asked to avoid social contact for the week before the visit.

Reporting by Thomas Seytal and Joseph Nasr; additional reporting by Thomas Escritt; written by Emma Thomasson; Edited by William Maclean, Robert Birsel


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