Catalan separatist protests to continue as elections loom
October 26, 2019 Yashu Kalera
Pro-Catalan independence activists will again take to the streets of the regional capital of Barcelona today.
Unrest was reignited last week by the Spanish Supreme Courts decision to sentence nine Catalan independence leaders to between nine and thirteen years in prison on sedition charges. Over the past five days, clashes between police and protesters have intensified, leaving some 170 injured.
General elections in Spain are due on November 10, and politicians are likely to stoke regional divisions to rally support for their respective parties. Indeed, left-wing parties like the ERC-Sobirenistes have encouraged protests for independence in the Catalonia, Valencia and Balearics regions.
Meanwhile, right-wing parties are promoting a united Spain. Vox, a controversial far-right party that first entered Spains parliament in April, will today hold a rally in Madrid to celebrate constitutional order and national coexistence. Such regionalism could serve to roil protesters, but remains unlikely to significantly alter electoral outcomes.
Catalonia accounts for 19% of Spanish GDP and its capital is a major tourist destination. However, the Spanish government is unlikely to concede to any demands for Catalan independence. Without concessions, it is possible that social unrest will morph into sporadic violent clashes between the police and protesters in the coming weeks.
October 25, 2019 / 6:47 PM / Updated 6 hours ago
One million Chileans march in Santiago, city grinds to halt
Dave Sherwood, Natalia A. Ramos Miranda
SANTIAGO (Reuters) - As many as a million Chileans protested peacefully late into the evening on Friday in the capital Santiago in the biggest rallies yet since violence broke out a week ago over entrenched inequality in the South American nation.
Protesters waving national flags, dancing, banging pots with wooden spoons and bearing placards urging political and social change streamed through the streets, walking for miles (km) from around Santiago to converge on Plaza Italia.Traffic already hobbled by truck and taxi drivers protesting road tolls ground to a standstill in Santiago as crowds shut down major avenues and public transport closed early ahead of marches that built throughout the afternoon.
By mid-evening, most had made their way home in the dark ahead of an 11 p.m. military curfew.
Santiago Governor Karla Rubilar said a million people marched in the capital - more than five percent of the countrys population. Protesters elsewhere took to the streets in every major Chilean city.
Today is a historic day, Rubilar wrote on Twitter. The Metropolitan Region is host to a peaceful march of almost one million people who represent a dream for a new Chile.
Some local commentators estimated the Santiago rally well over the million mark, describing it as the largest single march since the dying years of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.
Chiles unrest is the latest in a flare-up of protests in South America and around the world - from Beirut to Barcelona - each with local triggers but also sharing underlying anger at social disparities and ruling elites.
Protests in Chile that started over a hike in public transport fares last Friday boiled into riots, arson and looting that have killed at least 17 people, injured hundreds, resulted in more than 7,000 arrests and caused more than $1.4 billion of losses to Chilean businesses.
Chiles military has taken over security in Santiago, a city of 6 million people now under a state of emergency with night-time curfews as 20,000 soldiers patrol the streets.
Bolivia election: Protests as Evo Morales officially declared winner
25 October 2019
Bolivian President Evo Morales has been declared the winner of Sunday's election, despite disputed results that have sparked riots and claims of fraud.
Officials said Mr Morales had won 47.1% of the vote and beaten his closest rival by more than 10 percentage points, thereby avoiding a run-off.
Claims of vote-rigging were made after the count was interrupted for 24 hours.
Second-placed candidate Carlos Mesa has called for a second-round vote as have the US, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia.
But Mr Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president and already Latin America's longest-serving leader, is now set to govern the country until 2025.
Police fired tear gas at crowds who protested by the thousands in the capital, La Paz. Clashes also broke out in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, the country's largest city and an opposition stronghold.
Many Bolivians say they no longer have confidence in the electoral authorities, and more protests are expected on Friday.
What does the result say?
According to the electoral tribunal, which said 99.9% of ballots had been counted, Mr Mesa has won 36.51% of the vote. This gives Mr Morales a winning margin of more than 10 percentage points, meaning that a second round of voting is not required under the election law.
The remaining 0.01% of votes were voided in the region of Beni, with new voting there scheduled for November. These votes would not be enough to change the outcome of the election, a spokeswoman for the electoral tribunal said.
'All of them': Lebanon protesters dig in after Nasrallah's speech
Protesters say their demands are 'clear' as Hezbollah leader warns a government resignation would create power vacuum.
by Mersiha Gadzo
11 hours ago
Beirut, Lebanon - Demonstrators in the Lebanese capital say their demands are "clear" and they will keep protesting until the government falls, disregarding a speech by Hezbollah's leader who warned that the protest movement risked pushing Lebanon into "chaos" and "God forbid" civil war.
In a televised address on Friday, Hassan Nasrallah said a government resignation would create a power vacuum which could lead the country into civil unrest "similar to what's happening in the region".
"Under the current monetary and economic situation and the fragile political climate and all the targeting that is happening internationally and regionally, void will lead to chaos, void will lead to destruction," Nasrallah warned, conjuring fears of Lebanon's 15-year civil war that came to an end in 1990.
"We do not accept the fall of the presidency nor do we accept the government's resignation and we do not accept, amid these conditions, holding early parliamentary elections."
For nine days, Lebanese from across the country's sectarian and political divides have been taking to the streets and blocking major roads to call for the resignation of the country's sectarian power-sharing government. Angry at official corruption, a stagnant economy and poor services, they demand an overhaul of Lebanon's political system and an end to austerity measures.
In a bid to appease the protesters, Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday unveiled a series of economic reforms, including no new taxes for the 2020 budget, a 50 percent reduction in the salaries of current and former politicians, the abolition of obsolete state institutions and the drafting of a law that seeks to restore public funds.
The leaderless protesters, however, rejected the announcement as insufficient and continued pouring onto the streets of the capital, Beirut, and elsewhere.
In his speech, Nasrallah hailed the reforms package, which he called "unprecedented", and reassured the protesters that they will be implemented.
He also repeated President Michel Aoun's call on Thursday for a dialogue and welcomed representatives of the movement to deliver a "clear set of demands".
'Everyone means everyone'
At Martyrs' Square in Beirut, where various civil society groups have set up tents, protesters found Nasrallah's speech to be irrelevant to their goal - much like Aoun's televised statement the previous day.
"We tell him - everyone means everyone," a Lebanese woman told Al Jazeera, preferring to stay anonymous.
"It's very clear - the cabinet must resign and then everything will fit into what is constitutional and everything will be OK."
The "All of them means all of them" chant has been a popular slogan since the protests began on October 17, with demonstrators insisting no politician should be exempted from resignation.
Hezbollah, seen as the strongest military and political force in the country, is part of the government that came to power last year after months of negotiations. The movement is aligned with Iran and does not accept any move that could change the status quo.
During his speech, Nasrallah also argued that while the mass protests had started off as a spontaneous movement, they had recently been hijacked.
"Lebanon has entered a stage of regional political targeting, and it is no longer just a popular movement," he said.
Edited by BansheeOne, 26 October 2019 - 1459 PM.