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eyes on the U.S.

Confused And Angry, How U.S. Voters Look In Latin America

A Trump rally last month in Iowa
A Trump rally last month in Iowa
Eduardo Barajas Sandoval

BOGOTA — The U.S. presidential elections have left the two main parties stunned. Amid acrid debates filled with harsh words and the insolence of one billionaire candidate, raw emotions have turned out to be more potent than any substantial solutions proposed by the candidates for their country.

Faced with the populism of the tycoon Donald Trump, the aggressive tactics of the two candidates with Cuban roots (Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz) or the option of returning to the embrace of either the Bush or Clinton dynasties, voters appear to react with a mix of bewilderment and outright revulsion.

The Republicans are straying ever further from a stable tradition of relying on certain principles, ideals and aspirations, and find themselves at a disconcerting juncture: They have yet to find a candidate that faithfully represents what they want and who they are. And that one particular candidate, barging into politics from the business world, has brought with him all the aggressive manners and absence of politesse so typical of his brand of capitalism.

The others, children of Cubans, have made quite a rapid rise compared to descendants of 19th-century migrants, in entering an arena that so had far been the preserve of mostly White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) Americans. The only representative of traditional Republicans looking for their sensible, trustable leader, was Jeb Bush: reserved, painfully predictable and tied to a dynasty that cannot escape or justify its historical mistakes. And now, his candidacy is history.

Two Cubans and a Kenyan

Amid the confusion of voters and candidates alike, a season of disruption has arrived, announcing the rise of a new Right in the United States — and who would have thought it, a new Left as well. This is a Right whose divisive discourse may push it further into populist territory. Indeed the declarations heard so far seemed designed more to agitate than set out a program of governance. Something similar is happening in the Democratic camp, where Bernie Sanders has attacked Wall Street with the same, exalted tone, denouncing vast income inequality and the unjust exercise of economic power. This is something many think but few dare say out loud, because nobody has or had ever reached the White House with a discourse loaded with such blunt talk against basic capitalist principles.

Still, voters of both parties don't quite know where all this rebellion will lead them. They increasingly see their current representatives as a step back in time. But the Trump option carries with it the risk of utter ineptitude and the incapacity to deal with issues that are far more complicated and less autonomously resolved than those that come with running your personal company. At the end of the day, turning over the national and international game board is not a reliable option.

As for the "Cuban" candidates, they do themselves a tremendous disfavor trying to be what they are not, and daring to cross certain ideological fences that violate their own Hispanic surnames. For many, voting for either of them would be as radical as the Democrats who voted for Obama, son of a Kenyan father.

Unhappy with the state of the country, nostalgic of times that will not return and susceptible to populist or radical temptations, U.S. voters seem only to know that they want something different without knowing where to find it. As bitter accusations and convoluted primaries continue, we might agree with the university professor who said that so far, the winners of the Republican debates have been the Democrats. Perhaps that's the best news we have to report.

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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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