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El Salvador president re-election bid draws strong reaction

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — In the hours since El Salvador President Nayib Bukele announced he would seek re-election despite a constitutional ban, opinion quickly divided.

Those who want to give more time to the man who has arrested more than 50,000 people in the past six months for alleged gang connections voiced their support while a vocal minority who see it as one more unsurprising step toward authoritarianism rejected the move.

Bukele announced he would seek re-election in a televised speech Thursday night, El Salvador’s Independence Day, riding a wave of popularity from his crackdown on gangs.

Bukele’s current five-year term ends in 2024, but observers had long expected the announcement, especially since the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, handpicked by his supporters in congress, ruled last year that re-election was permitted and ordered the electoral court to allow it.

“I don’t understand that about the constitution, but the man is doing a good job, he‘s finishing with the gangs, and yes I support him,” said Estela Sánchez, a produce vendor in the San Salvador suburb of Santa Tecla.

Constitutional lawyers have said re-election violates at least four articles of the constitution, including one that limits the presidential term to five years and states that the person who serves as president will not continue in their functions for one day more.

Vice President Félix Ulloa, predictably, sees it differently. “Of course it isn’t unconstitutional,” Ulloa said. “One of the things that has concerned me my entire life has been to respect the rule of the democratic and constitutional state.”

However, some observers have voiced doubts for years about Bukele’s commitment to democratic institutions.

His popularity and sweeping electoral victories are unquestioned, but that power has been wielded to intimidate lawmakers — he took soldiers into the Legislative Assembly when opponents balked at voting on part of his security plan — to remove Supreme Court justices who had challenged some of his measures early in the COVID-19 pandemic and the attorney general.

Congresswoman Dina Argueta of the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, the party Bukele began his political career in, said that the announcement came as no surprise because Bukele had been working toward it. “However, we must establish that our constitution does not allow re-election in any moment,” she said.

Juan Pappier, senior investigator in Human Rights Watch Americas Division, has been a frequent Bukele critic and the human rights organization one of those that Bukele regularly rails against.

“This constitutional breach was predictable,” he said via Twitter. “El Salvador for some time has been on the path to be a dictatorship and many, for ideological blindness, cowardice, geopolitical interests or obsession with immigration did not want to raise the voice in time or help to stop it.”

Within El Salvador, the crackdown that began in late March after gangs killed 62 people in one day, has maintained its popularity despite a rising number of documented human rights violations. Nearly 53,000 people have been arrested since it was put into place March 27 and then renewed monthly ever since.

Human and civil rights organizations have documented more than 3,000. Still, recent polling has shown support for the measures, including suspending some constitutional rights under a state of exception, to be above 90%. Bukele’s own popularity has remained above 80%.

Under President Joe Biden, the U.S. government has been more critical of Bukele’s administration, sanctioning some members of his inner circle and accusing officials of exchanging benefits with gang leaders in return for keeping homicides relatively low during the first half of his term. Bukele has repeatedly denied any such pact, something his government has prosecuted officials from previous administrations for doing.

Eduardo Escobar, a lawyer with the nongovernmental watchdog Citizen Action, said “it is prohibited in the constitution, he has not right to seek re-election, that’s the rule. If he does it, it is contrary to the constitution and takes us closer to Nicaragua. It’s that simple.”

Nicaragua is Central America’s most ominous example. President Daniel Ortega was elected to his fourth consecutive term last November after jailing all of his serious potential opponents. But a constitutional ban on re-election did not stop former Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández from seeking re-election either. A friendly court gave him the green light.

Still, Manuel Torres, a bank employee waiting for a bus Friday, was willing to give Bukele the benefit of the doubt.

“Some say it is not legal, we’ll have to see what happens,” Torres said. “There’s a lot of time before the elections, but I would vote for him.”

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King Charles III to host South African leader in state visit

King Charles III will welcome South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to the U.K. for three days of high-level talks next month, celebrating the first state visit of his reign with the leader of a Commonwealth member with close ties to the royal family

LONDON — King Charles III will welcome South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to the U.K. for three days of high-level talks next month, celebrating the first state visit of his reign with the leader of a Commonwealth member with close ties to the royal family.

Ramaphosa has accepted Charles’s invitation for a state visit from Nov. 22-24, Buckingham Palace said Monday. The South African leader will be accompanied by his wife, Dr. Tshepo Motsepe.

Charles has visited South Africa on several occasions since 1997. At Nelson Mandela’s funeral in 2013, he said the world would be a “poorer place” without the man who led South Africa’s transition from apartheid to a multi-ethnic democracy, adding that Mandela was owed “an enormous debt of gratitude” for his achievements.

The King and Camilla, the queen consort — then the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall — welcomed former South African President Jacob Zuma to the U.K. at the start of a state visit in 2010.

Charles’ sons, Princes William and Harry, have also visited South Africa a number of times.

———

Follow all stories on the British royal family at https://apnews.com/hub/queen-elizabeth-ii

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With 52% of Brazil votes tallied, far-right incumbent Bolsonaro has a slight lead over ex-President Lula da Silva

With 52% of Brazil votes tallied, far-right incumbent Bolsonaro has a slight lead over ex-President Lula da Silva

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Haiti reports cholera deaths for first time in 3 years

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Haiti’s government on Sunday announced that at least eight people have died from cholera, raising concerns about another potentially catastrophic epidemic like the one that broke out a decade ago and killed nearly 10,000 people.

The cases – the first cholera deaths reported in three years – came in a community called Dekayet in southern Port-au-Prince and in the gang-controlled seaside slum of Cite de Soleil, where thousands of people live in cramped, unsanitary conditions.

“Cholera is something that can spread very, very quickly,” warned Laure Adrien, director general of Haiti’s health ministry.

Food or water contaminated with the cholera bacteria can lead to severe diarrhea and dehydration that can be deadly.

The United Nations said in a statement that it is working with Haiti’s government to “mount an emergency response to this potential outbreak,” stressing that health teams need to be guaranteed safe access to areas where cases have been reported.

The deaths come as a lack of fuel and ongoing protests shut down the availability of basic services across Haiti, including medical care and clean water, which is key to helping fight cholera and keep patients alive.

Haiti’s most powerful gang continues to control the entrance to a main fuel terminal in the capital of Port-au-Prince, leading to a lack of fuel amid soaring prices that have unleashed widespread protests that have paralyzed the country for more than two weeks.

The absence of fuel and increasing number of roadblocks have prevented water trucks from visiting neighborhoods to provide potable water to those who can afford it. It also has prompted some companies to temporarily shut down operations.

On Sunday, Caribbean Bottling Company said it could no longer produce or distribute potable water because its diesel reserves were “completely depleted,” adding that the lack of such a vital resource would affect “all sectors of society.”

Adrien said health officials were trying to visit communities where cholera has been reported, but that his agency, too, has been affected by a lack of fuel as he called on people blocking the gas terminal and organizing protests to “have a conscience.”

“This is a real problem,” he said of how the country has virtually been paralyzed. “We’re hoping this will not spread.”

Adrien noted that all those who died were unable to reach a hospital in time.

Haiti Health Minister Alex Larsen said people have a right to protest but asked Haitians to allow potable water supplies into neighborhoods that have been cut off by roadblocks and protests.

“Water has not been in these areas for a long time, and people are not drinking treated water,” he said, adding that cholera cases could spike again. “We ask people who can afford it to add a little chlorine to the water.”

Haiti’s last cholera epidemic sickened more than 850,000 people in a country of more than 11 million, marking one of the world’s worst outbreaks of the preventable disease in recent history.

United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal were blamed for introducing cholera into Haiti’s largest river in October 2010 by sewage. The U.N. has since acknowledged it played a role in the epidemic and that is has not done enough to help fight it, but it has not specifically said it introduced the disease.

Haiti would have been declared cholera-free by the World Health Organization only after reaching three consecutive years with no new cases.

———

Associated Press writer Dánica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico contributed.

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