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'Fiesta Democratica' In Venezuela, Maduro Accepts Results

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El Universal, Dec. 7, 2015

CARACAS — Venezuelans congratulated themselves for what several officials described as an "exemplary" election, without violence or widespread accusations of fraud. The ballot Sunday saw the liberal opposition to President Nicolas Maduro took 99 of 167 parliamentary seats in a provisional vote count, with the ruling, socialist PSUV party winning 46 seats.

Opposition daily El Universal called it a "democratic party."

The provisional tally exceeded a simple majority of 84 seats, and opposition politicians were hoping they could finally win more than 110 seats in the next legislature, allowing them to make sweeping political changes, El Universal reported Monday.

In spite of fears he might defy results of a defeat, President Nicolás Maduro recognized the "adverse results" and attributed it to a "perfect" electoral system; he said the elections were a "triumph" of the country's democracy.

The opposition coalition's Executive Secretary, Jesús Torrealba, said their victory was "thunderous" and a new "cycle" of "unity" was starting for Venezuela.

"We won't persecute those who think differently from us. The constitution will be our ... compass," another opposition daily El Nacional reported him as saying. At the rally in Caracas where Torrealba spoke, crowds were chanting "Yes we did," (Sí se pudo), reminiscent of President Barack Obama's Yes We Can slogan.

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Brazil's Evangelical Surge Threatens Survival Of Native Afro-Brazilian Faith

Followers of the Afro-Brazilian Umbanda religion in four traditional communities in the country’s northeast are resisting pressure to convert to evangelical Christianity.

image of Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Agencia Publica
Géssica Amorim

Among a host of images of saints and Afro-Brazilian divinities known as orixás, Abel José, 42, an Umbanda priest, lights some candles, picks up his protective beads and adjusts the straw hat that sits atop his head. He is preparing to treat four people from neighboring villages who have come to his house in search of spiritual help and treatment for health ailments.

The meeting takes place discreetly, in a small room that has been built in the back of the garage of his house. Abel lives in the quilombo of Sítio Bredos, home to 135 families. The community, located in the municipality of Betânia of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco, is one of the municipality’s four remaining communities that have been certified as quilombos, the word used to refer to communities formed in the colonial era by enslaved Africans and/or their descendents.

In these villages there are almost no residents who still follow traditional Afro-Brazilian religions. Abel, Seu Joaquim Firmo and Dona Maura Maria da Silva are the sole remaining followers of Umbanda in the communities in which they live. A wave of evangelical missionary activity has taken hold of Betânia’s quilombos ever since the first evangelical church belonging to the Assembleia de Deus group was built in the quilombo of Bredos around 20 years ago. Since then, other evangelical, pentecostal, and neo-pentecostal churches and congregations have established themselves in the area. Today there are now nine temples spread among the four communities, home to roughly 900 families.

The temples belong to the Assembleia de Deus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the World Church of God's Power, the latter of which has over 6,000 temples spread across Brazil and was founded by the apostle and televangelist Valdemiro Santiago, who became infamous during the pandemic for trying to sell beans that he had blessed as a Covid-19 cure. Assembleia de Deus alone, who are the largest pentecostal denomination in the world, have built five churches in Betânia’s quilombos.

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