INTERNATIONAL DIGEST: Brazil elects pres.; Russia, Venezuela announce nuclear deal; ...
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Latin America's biggest country elected its first female president -- a former Marxist guerrilla who was tortured and imprisoned before studying economics and helping her husband get elected to their state congress.
Dilma Rousseff is a cancer survivor and a former minister of energy and chief of staff to Brazil's popular outgoing president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. With nearly all ballots counted, Rousseff polled 56 percent of the vote, compared to almost 44 percent for her rival, Jose Serra, the Associated Press reported.
Rousseff says she has grown politically from her younger days as a Marxist to a pragmatic capitalism and being Silva's hand-picked successor for a country that is rising fast as a political and economic power in Latin America. Her election came in a run-off caused when she failed to capture a majority of votes in first-round elections Oct. 4. She benefited from the support of many voters who cast ballots for an evangelical Christian woman, Green Party candidate Marina Silva, who attracted 19.3 percent of the vote in the earlier balloting.
Rousseff, who will take office Jan. 1, said she would place high priority on gender equality and lifting 20 million Brazilians out of poverty, the AP reported. She also will oversee a huge expansion of Brazil's oil industry, following the discovery of major offshore fields that should make Brazil one of the world's top 10 oil exporters, the AP said.
Brazil's economy is expected to become the world's fifth-largest by the time it hosts the 2016 Summer Olympics, the AP reported. In a new Forbes Magazine listing of the most powerful people on earth, Roussef was ranked 16th, ahead of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
VENEZUELA/RUSSIA NUCLEAR DEAL RAISES CONCERNS -- The Oct. 15 announcement that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had signed an agreement for Russia to build two nuclear reactors in Venezuela raises concerns not only that Venezuela may not use nuclear capabilities for peaceful purposes, but also that it may become a work-around for Russia to supply military weapons to Iran.
Chávez stopped in Tehran on his way home from Moscow -- his ninth visit to Iran in 18 months – heightening concerns over the partnership between the three countries, Vanessa Neumann wrote in The Weekly Standard Oct. 19.
"It's an alliance that features not only nuclear cooperation and energy resources, but also conventional arms and terrorism," Neumann said. "Iran has been seeking uranium from Venezuela (as well as Bolivia), while both Iran and Venezuela want nuclear technology and more conventional weaponry from Russia. In exchange, Venezuela is offering money and mineral wealth -- uranium and gasoline for Iran; gold, oil, uranium and natural gas for Russia.
"Since 2005, Venezuela has spent $4.4 billion on Russian weaponry, making it Latin America's biggest consumer of Russian military hardware," Neumann added. "Venezuelan money has also been flowing into Iran. In July 2010, the EU ordered the seizure of all the assets of the Venezuelan International Development Bank, an affiliate of the Export Development Bank of Iran, one of 34 Iranian entities implicated in the development of nuclear or ballistic missile technology."
The Weekly Standard's Jaime Daremblum reported that in mid-October, a Russian media outlet said Moscow might sell its S-300 air-defense systems to Venezuela instead of Iran, which is forbidden because of international sanctions against the Islamic Republic. "The fear is that Chávez would then sell those weapons to Tehran," Daremblum said. "He seems determined to prevent U.N. sanctions from having any real impact, given his gasoline sales to Iran and his efforts to strengthen financial ties."
PAKISTANI CHRISTIAN TORTURED -- A Muslim land owner in Pakistan's Punjab province subjected a 25-year-old Christian to burns and a series of humiliations, including falsely charging him with having sex with his own niece, because the Christian refused to work for him without pay.
Fayaz Masih is in jail with burns on his body after No. 115 Chitraan Wala village head Zafar Iqbal Ghuman and other villagers beat him, shaved off some of his facial hair and set fire to him on Oct. 3, a local evangelist Yaqub Masih (no relation to Fayaz Masih) told he Compass Direct News.
Sources said neither Fayaz Masih nor his family had taken any loans from Ghuman, and they had no obligations to work off any debt as bonded laborers, Compass reported. Ghuman, who reportedly has forced other Christians into slavery, and 11 of his men abducted Masih from his home at gunpoint and brought him to Ghuman's farmhouse. After the armed men had beaten Fayaz Masih, Ghuman announced that Masih had had relations with Masih's 18-year-old niece, Sumeera, and called for everyone in the village to punish him. Some threw kerosene on Masih and alternately set him on fire and extinguished the flames.
Masih's sister, Seema Bibi, told Compass that Ghuman threatened her daughter Sumeera at gunpoint and told her to testify in court Masih had relations with her. The girl, however, told the court Masih was innocent and Ghuman had tried to force her to testify against her uncle. Ghuman reportedly has been issuing daily death threats against the girl's family.
In spite of the court ruling, police were ordered to register a charge of adultery against Masih and he was jailed.
JERUSALEM ARSONIST ATTACKS VOLUNTEERS -- An unidentified arsonist in Israel set fire to a Jerusalem church building that has long been a focal point for anti-Christian sentiment in a Jewish ultra-Orthodox-leaning neighborhood.
Leaders of the Jerusalem Alliance Church Ministry Center told Compass Direct News someone broke the basement windows of the center and set fire to its bottom floors shortly before 1 a.m. Oct. 29. An area resident noticed the fire and called the fire department, which arrived 20 minutes later and found the church basement engulfed in flames.
Firefighters extinguished the blaze, ventilated the smoke and left after inspecting the rest of the building, Jack Sara, senior pastor of the church, told Compass. Smoke and the noise of the blaze had awakened 10 volunteer workers who were sleeping at the church's overnight facilities. The volunteers, who were visiting Israel from the United States and Denmark, went to a nearby hospital and were treated for smoke inhalation, then released.
The building sustained approximately $85,000 in smoke and fire damage, Compass reported. The fire largely gutted the basement and destroyed recent renovations.
The arsonist had to know people were inside the church, Sara said. "He not only intended to burn a room but to kill people," Sara told Compass. "Whoever did it intended to kill people."
The church, which hosts several congregational groups, including expatriates and both Arab Christians and Messianic Jews, routinely receives threats from Orthodox Jews, militant Palestinians and even some Orthodox Christian communities, Sara added.
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Mark Kelly.