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Brazil’s Neymar backs Bolsonaro’s uphill reelection bid

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The latest in Latin American politics today:

Brazilian soccer star Neymar backs Bolsonaro

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SAO PAULO – Brazilian soccer star Neymar Junior endorsed President Jair Bolsonaro’s uphill re-election bid on Thursday, showing his support in a TikTok video as he smiled and danced to a campaign jingle ahead of the weekend’s pivotal election.

Neymar’s public backing came a day after Bolsonaro visited a charitable institute near Sao Paulo belonging to the global superstar, who currently plays professionally for Paris Saint-Germain Football Club.

Bolsonaro trails former president and frontrunner Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva by 14 points, according to a poll released on Thursday by Datafolha.

Paraguay electoral offices fire could hit election schedule

ASUNCION – A large fire tore through the headquarters of Paraguay’s electoral body on Thursday, casting doubts on primaries and general elections scheduled for the coming months.

Primaries for presidential candidates are currently scheduled for Dec. 18 and general elections are scheduled for April 30 of next year.

Jaime Bestard, president of the Superior Court of Electoral Justice, said the fire may have damaged some 8,500 voting machines and that he would look into holding December’s primaries in two different stages, an idea immediately rejected by the opposition.

Mexico, Colombia enact big rate hikes amid inflation

MEXICO CITY/BOGOTA – Central banks in Mexico and Colombia accelerated their monetary policy hiking cycles to push back against inflationary pressures.

All five board members of the Bank of Mexico voted to raise the country’s benchmark interest rate 75 basis points to a record 9.25%, while Colombia’s central bank raised its interest rate by 100 basis points to 10% in a divided decision.

The moves follow in the footsteps of the Federal Reserve’s recent three-quarter of a percentage point increase, the U.S. central bank’s third straight hike of that size.

Colombia peace process must address root causes – ELN leader

BOGOTA – The top commander of Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group, which is exploring a resumption of peace talks with the newly-elected leftist government, told Reuters any process must seek profound change for all of society and not political power for a few guerrilla commanders.

President Gustavo Petro, a former member of the M-19 urban guerrillas, has promised to seek “total peace” by fully implementing a 2016 peace deal with the now-demobilized FARC rebels, restarting ELN talks and pushing dialog with gangs.

“What is essential for a peace process is to overcome the causes which originated the armed conflict, to even think they are overcome with a few (congressional) seats for a handful of rebels would be miserly,” said Eliecer Herlinto Chamorro, better known by his nom de guerre, Antonio Garcia.

Paraguay: Taiwan ties do not depend on new investments

ASUNCION/TAIPEI – Paraguay’s foreign ministry has said that its diplomatic ties with Taiwan were “excellent” and not conditional on extra investment, amid rising pressure from China to win over the island’s few remaining allies.

Paraguay is one of only 14 nations globally that retains diplomatic ties with Taiwan and the only South American country to do so. China, which considers Taiwan one of its provinces and not a country, has persuaded a number of the island’s allies to shift allegiance in recent years, the last being Nicaragua in December.

The comments came after the Financial Times cited Paraguayan President Mario Abdo as saying the country was seeking $1 billion in investment from Taiwan to maintain ties. Abdo is under pressure from soy and cattle farmers who want access to China.

Mexico to offer its own nominee to head development bank

MEXICO CITY – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the country plans to nominate the former head of the United Nations’ regional economic body Alicia Barcena to head the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

Barcena, former executive secretary of ECLAC, the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, would be a candidate to replace the bank’s former president, who was voted out by the its governors following an ethics probe. (Compiled by Steven Grattan; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Sam Holmes)