In Brief: July 10, 2021

Haiti’s interim PM confirms request for US troops to country

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Haiti’s interim government said Friday that it asked the U.S. to deploy troops to protect key infrastructure as it tries to stabilize the country and prepare the way for elections in the aftermath of the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.

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“We definitely need assistance and we’ve asked our international partners for help,” Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph told The Associated Press in an interview, declining to provide further details. “We believe our partners can assist the national police in resolving the situation.”

Joseph said that he was dismayed by opponents who’ve tried to take advantage of Moïse’s murder to seize political power — an indirect reference to a group of lawmakers have declared their loyalty and recognized Joseph Lambert, the head of Haiti’s dismantled senate, as provisional president and Ariel Henry, whom Moïse designated as prime minister a day before he was killed, as prime minister.

“I’m not interested in a power struggle,” Joseph said in the brief phone interview, without mentioning Lambert by name. “There’s only one way people can become president in Haiti. And that’s through elections.”

Joseph spoke just hours after the head of Colombia’s police said that the Colombians implicated in Moïse’s assassination were recruited by four companies and traveled to the Caribbean nation in two groups via the Dominican Republic. Meanwhile, the U.S. said it would send senior FBI and Homeland Security officials to help in the investigation.

‘Heartbreaking’: Death toll in Florida condo collapse now 79

SURFSIDE, Fla. — The death toll in the collapse of a Miami-area condo building rose to 79 on Friday, a number the mayor called “heartbreaking” as recovery workers toiled for a 16th day to find victims in the rubble. Another 61 people remain unaccounted for.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the work to recover victims was “moving forward with great urgency” in order to bring closure to the families of victims who have spent an agonizing two weeks waiting for news.

“This is a staggering and heartbreaking number that affects all of us very deeply,” Levine Cava said of the latest death toll.

“All those who have passed … are leaving behind loved ones. They’re leaving behind devastated families. The magnitude of this tragedy is growing each and every day,” she said.

Rescue workers and emergency support teams from Florida and several other states have labored in 12-hour shifts, 24 hours a day at the site of the devastated beachfront condominium in Surfside — physically and emotionally taxing work performed amid oppressive heat and in dangerous conditions.

Charlottesville set to remove Lee statue that sparked rally

RICHMOND, Va. — A statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that became a rallying point for white supremacists and helped inspire their infamous 2017 rally in Charlottesville will be hoisted off its pedestal this weekend and sent to storage, officials announced Friday.

The Lee statue and another Confederate tribute nearby are both scheduled to be removed Saturday, nearly four years after violence erupted at the “Unite the Right” rally. The chaos left 32-year-old protester Heather Heyer dead and sparked a national debate over racial equity, further inflamed by former President Donald Trump’s insistence that there was “blame on both sides.”

A coalition of activists issued a statement Friday celebrating the announcement. Because of litigation and changes to a state law dealing with war memorials, the city had been unable to act until now.

As long as the statues “remain standing in our downtown public spaces, they signal that our community tolerated white supremacy and the Lost Cause these generals fought for,” the coalition called Take ‘Em Down Cville said.

Preparations around the parks where the statues stand were to begin Friday and included the installation of protective fencing, the news release said. Designated public viewing areas for the removals will be established.

Taking Trump’s cue, Bolsonaro clouds vote with fraud claims

BRASILIA, Brazil — Brazil’s presidential election is 15 months away, yet barely a day passes without President Jair Bolsonaro raising the specter of fraud and warning that he will be entitled to reject the results unless Congress overhauls the voting system.

He has mentioned potential vote fraud more than 20 times in the past two months and even floated the idea of canceling the election altogether.

“I don’t mind handing over the government next year, to whomever it is, but with an honest vote, not with fraud,” Bolsonaro told supporters July 1 outside the presidential residence. Later that day, he was harping on the issue again. “They say I don’t have proof of fraud. You don’t have proof that there’s no fraud either!”

The relentless attack on Brazil’s electronic voting system has prompted an outcry and closed-door meetings between lawmakers and Supreme Court justices to defend the system. And the nation’s electoral tribunal last month ordered the president to provide proof of the fraud he has repeatedly claimed to possess, but so far hasn’t presented.

The assault also raises concern that Bolsonaro, who is far behind in early polls, is cribbing from former U.S. President Donald Trump and laying the groundwork for his own version of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot in Washington.

From wire sources

California forest closed as wildfires burn, heat returns

BECKWOURTH, Calif. — Flames threatening campgrounds and cabins prompted evacuations and closed off a swath of Northern California forest as the state headed into another weekend of dry, scorching weather and the continuing threat of wildfires.

Hundreds of firefighters aided by aircraft were fighting the Beckwourth Complex, two blazes sparked by lightning that were carving their way through the eastern edge of the million-acre Plumas National Forest in the northern Sierra Nevada near the Nevada state line.

Campgrounds and homes around Frenchman Lake were under evacuation orders Friday and a nearly 200-square-mile (518-square-kilometer) area of the forest was closed because of the danger, fire information officer Pandora Valle said.

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After a day and night of explosive growth, the fire covered more than 38 square miles (98 square kilometers) at midmorning Friday, causing containment to drop to 11%.

The flames were burning through pine, fir and chaparral turned bone-dry by low humidity and high temperatures, while ridgetop winds and afternoon gusts of up to 35 mph were “really pushing” the flames at times, Valle said.

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