AP News in Brief: 07-20-21

  • Pedro Castillo, center, celebrates with his running mate Dina Boluarte after being declared president-elect of Peru by election authorities, at his party's campaign headquarters in Lima, Peru, on Monday, July 19, 2021. Castillo was declared president-elect more than a month after the elections took place and after opponent Keiko Fujimori claimed that the election was tainted by fraud. (AP Photo/Guadalupe Prado)

Rural teacher declared president-elect in Peru

LIMA, Peru — Rural teacher-turned-political novice Pedro Castillo on Monday became the winner of Peru’s presidential election after the country’s longest electoral count in 40 years.

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Castillo, whose supporters included Peru’s poor and rural citizens, defeated right-wing politician Keiko Fujimori by just 44,000 votes. Electoral authorities released the final official results more than a month after the runoff election took place in the South American nation.

Wielding a pencil the size of a cane, symbol of his Peru Libre party, Castillo popularized the phrase “No more poor in a rich country.” The economy of Peru, the world’s second-largest copper producer, has been crushed by the coronavirus pandemic, increasing the poverty level to almost one-third of the population and eliminating the gains of a decade.

The shortfalls of Peru’s public health services have contributed to the country’s poor pandemic outcomes, leaving it with the highest global per capita death rate. Castillo has promised to use the revenues from the mining sector to improve public services, including education and health, whose inadequacies were highlighted by the pandemic.

“Those who do not have a car should have at least one bicycle,” Castillo, 51, told The Associated Press in mid-April at his adobe house in Anguía, Peru’s third poorest district.

Since surprising Peruvians and observers by advancing to the presidential runoff election, Castillo has softened his first proposals on nationalizing multinational mining and natural gas companies. Instead, his campaign has said he is considering raising taxes on profits due to high copper prices, which exceed $10,000 per ton.

Historians say he is the first peasant to become president of Peru, where until now, Indigenous people almost always have received the worst of the deficient public services even though the nation boasted of being the economic star of Latin America in the first two decades of the century.

“There are no cases of a person unrelated to the professional, military or economic elites who reaches the presidency,” Cecilia Méndez, a Peruvian historian and professor at the University of California-Santa Barbara, told a radio station.

Biden wants spending to boost economy, but GOP to block vote

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Monday that his infrastructure and families agenda must be passed to sustain the economic momentum of his first six months in office, aiming to set the tone for a crucial week of congressional negotiations on the two bills.

But a Wednesday deadline set by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on the bipartisan infrastructure bill was in doubt as Republicans signaled they would block a procedural vote, for now, while details are still being worked out. Senators are wrangling over how to pay for the new spending in the $1 trillion package of highway, water system and other public works projects.

At the same time, Democrats are developing the particulars of a separate bill that would invest a stunning $3.5 trillion nationwide across Americans’ lives — with support for families, education, climate resiliency and other priorities that they aim to ultimately pass with solely Democratic support. Democrats hope to show progress on that bill before lawmakers leave Washington for their recess in August.

The legislative maneuvering marks a major test of Biden’s ability to deliver on a massive package of economic promises and reforms he made during his campaign. He’s been putting public pressure on lawmakers with a series of speeches highlighting the strengthening economy while emphasizing the need for further investment to continue that growth and to bolster the middle class. Biden’s top aides met with senators late Monday.

“What the best companies do — and what we as a country should do — is make smart, sustainable investments with appropriate financing,” the president said during remarks at the White House Monday.

McCarthy proposes five Republicans to sit on Jan. 6 panel

WASHINGTON — House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy has picked five Republicans to sit on the new select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, signaling that Republicans will participate in the investigation that they have staunchly opposed.

McCarthy has selected Indiana Rep. Jim Banks, who recently visited former President Donald Trump on trips to the U.S.-Mexico border and Trump’s New Jersey golf club, to be the top Republican on the panel, according to a Republican familiar with the decision and an aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi must approve the names before they are final, per committee rules.

McCarthy has also tapped Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, North Dakota Rep. Kelly Armstrong and Texas Rep. Troy Nehls to serve on the panel, according to the two people, who shared the names on condition of anonymity ahead of an official announcement.

The five Republicans selected by McCarthy — all men — have strongly supported Trump, whose supporters laid siege to the Capitol building on Jan. 6 and interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory. Banks, Jordan and Nehls all voted to overturn Biden’s win that day, even after the rioting. Davis and Armstrong voted to certify Biden’s win.

McCarthy’s picks come after all but two Republicans opposed the creation of the 13-person select committee in a House vote last month, with most in the GOP arguing that the majority-Democratic panel would conduct a partisan probe. House Democrats originally attempted to create an evenly split, independent commission to investigate the insurrection, but that effort fell short when it was blocked by Senate Republicans.

Size of Oregon wildfire underscores vastness of the U.S. West

PORTLAND, Ore. — The monstrous wildfire burning in Oregon has grown to a third the size of Rhode Island and spreads miles each day, but evacuations and property losses have been minimal compared with much smaller blazes in densely populated areas of California.

The fire’s jaw-dropping size contrasted with its relatively small impact on people underscores the vastness of the American West and offers a reminder that Oregon, which is larger than Britain, is still a largely rural state, despite being known mostly for its largest city, Portland.

The 476-square-mile Bootleg Fire is burning 300 miles southeast of Portland in and around the Fremont-Winema National Forest, a vast expanse of old-growth forest, lakes and wildlife refuges.

If the fire were in densely populated parts of California, “it would have destroyed thousands of homes by now,” said James Johnston, a researcher with Oregon State University’s College of Forestry who studies historical wildfires. “But it is burning in one of the more remote areas of the lower 48 states. It’s not the Bay Area out there.”

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At least 2,000 homes have been evacuated at some point during the fire and another 5,000 threatened. At least 70 homes and more than 100 outbuildings have gone up in flames. Thick smoke chokes the area where residents and wildlife alike have already been dealing with months of drought and extreme heat. No one has died.

By wire sources