Suspect Arrested for Sending Bombs to Trump’s Opponents in Mail

The FBI arrested Cesar Sayoc Jr. on Oct. 26 for allegedly mailing 14 explosive devices to critics of President Donald J. Trump. The targets included former U.S. President Barack Obama, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), actor Robert De Niro and former U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and at CNN’s New York offices. None of the bombs detonated, and some were intercepted in mail sorting facilities, including two intended for U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), according to CNN. Sayoc, 56, is from Florida and has a criminal history, including a felony for making a bomb threat to a power company in 2002, according to NPR. Sayoc’s social media accounts reveal that he is a Trump supporter, and that he often targeted Democrats who Trump publicly criticized, according to NBC News. Sayoc faces up to 48 years in prison on five federal charges, including illegal mailing of explosives, threats against a former president and assaulting federal officers, according to The Washington Post. Trump condemned the attempted attacks while speaking at the White House on Oct. 24, saying “in these times, we have to unify.” In a tweet written on Wednesday shortly before Sayoc’s arrest, Trump said the news has reduced Republican momentum leading into the midterm elections. In wake of the mail bombs, CNN President Jeff Zucker said “There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media. The president, and especially the White House Press Secretary, should understand their words matter.”

Abrams, Kemp Debate

Georgia gubernatorial candidates Stacey Abrams (D) and Brian Kemp (R) faced off on Oct. 23 in the first of two televised debates before the Nov. 6 election. The candidates sparred over issues such as health care, immigration, voting rights and personal finance history. Abrams highlighted how Kemp’s office has allegedly suppressed black voters in the state, which Kemp called a “farce.” Kemp called Abrams’ positions, particularly on health care and immigration, an “extreme agenda” that is out of touch with a conservative Georgia. In response to a question about Abrams’ flag-burning controversy, the Democratic candidate said she was “appalled by the racial divisiveness” of the Confederate symbol in the flag, and she stands by her peaceful protest. Kemp and Abrams disagreed on whether Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients should be allowed to attend Georgia’s top state colleges and be eligible for the HOPE Scholarship. Abrams supports offering scholarship funds to DACA recipients, while Kemp does not. Kemp also accused Abrams of encouraging undocumented immigrants to vote, referring to an Oct. 9 campaign speech in which Abrams described “the blue wave” as including those who are “documented and undocumented.” Abrams denied encouraging illegal voting, saying, “I have never, in my life, asked for anyone who is not legally eligible to vote to cast a ballot.” The next debate will be held on Nov. 4.

Lion Air Crashes with 189 on Board

An Indonesian passenger jet carrying 189 people crashed on Monday into the Java Sea 13 minutes after departing from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Indonesia. Flight JT 610 had requested to return to the airport before disappearing from the radar, according to CNBC. No distress signal was sent and the plane’s main wreckage and black box have yet to be found, according to USA Today. The reason for the crash is unknown. Indonesian rescuers have found six bodies and other human remains as of Tuesday night, according to CNN.

Far Right Populist Bolsonaro Wins Presidential Election in Brazil

Brazil elected Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right populist, as its next president, according to BBC News. Bolsonaro is a seven-term congressman backed by the military, conservatives and a number of Brazilians who are frustrated with corruption and high crime rates, according to the Times. Bolsonaro said in his victory speech that he would preserve democratic institutions, although he previously declared himself “in favor of a dictatorship,” arguing that Brazil “will never resolve serious national problems with this irresponsible democracy.”

Merkel Announces She Will Not Run for Re-Election

German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Monday she will not seek re-election in 2021 in a meeting with leaders of her party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), according to The New York Times. The announcement comes days after an election in Hesse, Germany, that drew only 27 percent support for the CDU, continuing a years-long trend of the declining popularity of the party. Merkel has been the chairman of the CDU since 2000. The conservative party will hold a two-day conference starting on Dec. 6 to elect a new executive board and leader, according to the Times.

The result sparked deep concern among Chavista sectors fearing a possible military escalation from the ex-military man, whom they describe as a “neo-fascist.”

Presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro, of the right-wing Social Liberal Party arrives for a press conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Oct. 11, 2018. Leo Correa | AP

Venezuela’s opposition has welcomed the victory of ultra-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil’s presidential elections Sunday, calling on the new president-elect to intervene in Venezuela in line with their political goals.

Bolsonaro won the second round with 55 percent despite nearly 10 percent of ballots being marked null or void. Abstention was 22 percent, one point higher than the first round.

Following the controversial jailing and political barring of leftist frontrunner Lula da Silva on unfounded corruption charges, previously obscure nine-term congressman Bolsonaro soared to popularity in recent months, campaigning on an outsider platform of social conservatism, anti-corruption, and hardline anti-crime policies. Widely considered a “neo-fascist,” the far-right former army captain has repeatedly expressed nostalgia for Brazil’s military dictatorship, pledging to “cleanse” the country of leftists among numerous other inflammatory, racist, sexist, and homophobic statements. His campaign team has also hinted at military action against Venezuela, raising concerns that Brazil could be used as a launchpad for a US-led strike on Caracas.

After the announcement of Sunday’s results the ex-president of Venezuela’s National Assembly and leader of the hard-right First Justice party, Julio Borges, took to Twitter to congratulate Bolsonaro, as well as to “invite him to work for the rescuing of democracy in Venezuela.” Borges is currently a fugitive of the Venezuelan justice system in Colombia on charges of conspiracy and alleged masterminding of the August drone terrorist attack against President Maduro.

To the right of First Justice, the Popular Will party also welcomed Bolsonaro’s victory, tweeting that they hope to “count on your struggle to rescue liberty and democracy in Venezuela.”

“We hope that your government will contribute to promoting peace and liberty in all of the countries in the region and in rescuing democracy in Venezuela,” declared Popular Will leading member Lilian Tintori.

For his part, ex-Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, another fugitive currently based in Spain, likewise praised Bolsonaro as “an ally to confront the government.”

The opposition leaders’ comments mirrored those of Organisation of American States Secretary General Luis Almagro, himself a vociferous opponent of Venezuela, who tweeted his support for Bolsonaro’s “message of truth and peace.”

“We congratulate President-elect Jair Bolsonaro and applaud his message of truth and peace. Count on the commitment of the Secretary General of the OAS to work together for democracy, human rights, security and development in the region,” he declared.

US President Donald Trump was also quick to place a congratulatory phone call to Bolsonaro, pledging joint military cooperation with Brasilia.

Following his electoral victory, Bolsonaro also reaffirmed his commitment to Washington and against Venezuela and Cuba, proclaiming, “We will stop praising murderous dictatorships, and we will stop scorning or even attacking important democracies like the USA, Israel and Italy.”

For its part, the Venezuelan government issued a formal statement congratulating Bolsonaro and calling on him to “retake diplomatic relations based on respect, harmony, progress, and regional integration for the wellbeing of our peoples.” The Venezuelan-Brazilian border has turned increasingly hostile over recent months following increasing migratory traffic, xenophobic violence by Brazilian communities, and Brasilia’s militarisation of the area.

Meanwhile, Venezuela leftist organizations expressed alarm at the election result, with many leaders and social movements wasting no time in evaluating its potential implications for the country.

One of Venezuela’s leading Campesino groups, the Bolivar-Zamora Revolutionary Current (CRBZ), issued a statement decrying the result as “a true right hook to progressive and transforming processes in our continent.”

“[The outcome] obliges the Left to evaluate very seriously the causes and reasons… the ultra-right was able to capitalize on the deep rejection of corruption [in Brazil] which has been embodied by a perverted political class… [with the previously ruling] Workers’ Party converting itself into a symbol of this perversion,”the CRBZ continued.

International relations secretary of the Venezuelan Communist Party, Carolus Wimmer, similarly proposed that non-structural populist policies of the Workers’ Party must be factored into explaining the result. “We must retake class-based struggle… the ascension of fascism in an emerging economy (…) marks the start of a deepening of the class struggle in our continent,” he argued.

He also underlined the role of the United States in Bolsonaro’s victory, recalling that Steve Bannon, ex-White House strategist, played “an important role in the campaigning and positioning of Bolsonaro as the leader of the discontent.”

Venezuelan revolutionary intellectual Luis Britto Garcia expressed concern that the election result will spell a heightened military threat against Venezuela, stressing “We can’t carry on without border controls… This new context forces us to assume an extreme rethink of security and national ddefense we must be conscious of the strategic doctrines which look to divide Venezuela.”

Chavista economist and ex-Finance Minister Luis Salas, however, took a less pesimistic position, suggesting that “the Left in general and in Latin America in general tends to have a catastrophic and depressive reading of history (…) Bolsonaro’s triumph is a step backwards, without a doubt, and there is great danger, but it is not the end of the world nor of history.”

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