Opinion

FILE PHOTO: Former Vice President Biden speaks to reporters after speaking at electrical workers’ conference in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Former Vice President Joe Biden who is mulling a 2020 presidential candidacy, speaks to the media after speaking at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ (IBEW) construction and maintenance conference in Washington, U.S., April 5, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

April 24, 2019

By Chris Kahn

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Former Vice President Joe Biden, expected to declare his run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday, leads all other candidates in the race and draws his strongest levels of support from minorities and older adults, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos public opinion poll.

The April 17-23 poll released on Wednesday focused on the vote preferences of 2,237 Democrats and independents: the two groups that may select the Democratic nominee in most of the statewide contests ahead of the 2020 general election.

(Graphic: Who is running in 2020 – https://graphics.reuters.com/USA-ELECTION/010091471JC/index.html)

According to the poll, 24 percent would vote for Biden over 19 other declared and potential candidates.

Another 15 percent said they would support U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who ran a competitive campaign for the Democratic nomination in 2016.

No other candidate received more than 7 percent of public support, and 21 percent said they “don’t know” which candidate they would back in a primary.

The poll measures how potential voters feel right now. Many may change their minds as they become better acquainted with the candidates. It has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 2 percentage points for the combined group of Democrats and independents.

The statewide nominating contests will kick off in early February next year, led by Iowa.

Biden, 76, who has sought the Democratic presidential nomination twice before, remains widely popular since he left the White House in 2016 after two terms as vice president. The former longtime U.S. senator will announce he is seeking the Democratic nomination https://reut.rs/2IAxNys on Thursday, a source familiar with the plans said on Tuesday.

Sixty-three percent of all Americans say they have a “favorable” impression of Biden, including 88 percent of Democrats, 59 percent of independents and 39 percent of Republicans.

In comparison, 58 percent of Americans said they have a favorable view of Sanders and Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, whose upstart campaign has out-raised some of his more established rivals this year.

All three appear to have stronger bipartisan appeal than Republican President Donald Trump. According to the poll, 44 percent of all adults said they have a generally favorable view of Trump.

Biden receives his strongest levels of support from older adults and minorities.

Thirty-two percent of adults who are 55 years old and older said they would vote for Biden over other candidates. And 30 percent of nonwhite adults, including about 4 in 10 African-Americans, said they would back Biden for the nomination.

The poll shows that at this early stage of the presidential campaign, Americans say they will vote for candidates who have been in the national spotlight for a long time.

Their preferences may change once they get to know other candidates for the Democratic nomination.

More than 80 percent of Democrats said they were at least “somewhat familiar” with Biden and Sanders.

Sixty-seven percent of Democrats were familiar with Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and about half said they were familiar with former U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas or U.S. Senators Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey.

The rest of the field appears to be largely unknown by a majority of Democrats.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online in English throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 4,018 adults in all, including 1,449 Democrats, 1,437 Republicans and 788 independents.

(To see the poll question and answers, please see: https://tmsnrt.rs/2W7qykY.)

(Reporting by Chris Kahn; Editing by Leslie Adler and Jonathan Oatis)

Source: OANN

A U.S. judge in Oregon said Tuesday he intends to at least partially block a rule change by President Donald Trump’s administration that could cut off federal funding for providers who refer patients for an abortion, though the scope of his decision remains to be seen.

U.S. District Judge Michael McShane made the comments after more than three hours of arguments in a lawsuit brought by 20 states and the District of Columbia, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported . The states say the rule change, due to take effect May 3, is a transparent attack on Planned Parenthood and a violation of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits “unreasonable barriers to the ability of individuals to obtain appropriate medical care.”

“At the heart of these rules is an arrogant assumption that the government is better suited to direct women’s health care than their providers,” Oregon Public Broadcasting quoted the judge as saying.

McShane said he needs more time to decide whether he will issue a national injunction or a more limited one blocking the policy from taking effect. The judge said he’s reluctant to set national health care policy and would describe the scope of his injunction in a written opinion soon.

“We will need to see what the final ruling says,” Oregon Justice Department spokeswoman Kristina Edmunson said in an email. “We are pleased with the decision.”

Under the new policy, health care providers that receive federal funding would be barred from referring patients for an abortion. Programs that receive the money would also have to be in a separate physical space from facilities where abortion is performed.

The rule change announced early this year concerns Title X, a family planning program created in 1970 which serves roughly 4 million low-income Americans every year. Clinics that receive money under Title X provide a wide array of services, including birth control and screening for diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases and cancer.

Abortion is a legal medical procedure, but federal laws prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the woman. Religious conservatives and abortion opponents have long complained that Title X has been used to indirectly subsidize abortion providers.

“Title X grant funds are a true safety net for low income individuals and those who would not be able to access care, due to a lack of insurance or other barriers,” Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum told the judge. “Put simply, this is an attempt to politicize what has been a successful, non-political public health program for 50 years.”

U.S. Justice Department lawyer Andrew M. Bernie said there was nothing in the administrative record to suggest the change was politically motivated.

But the judge was not swayed. McShane suggested it would be “insane” for a man to go to his doctor seeking a vasectomy, only to be referred to a fertility clinic.

Several other lawsuits have also challenged the new policy. California and Washington have sued separately; arguments in the latter case are scheduled for Thursday in U.S. District Court in Yakima.

Source: NewsMax Politics

Main candidates for Spanish general election hold their second televised debate in Madrid
Spanish Prime Minister and Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) candidate Pedro Sanchez is pictured before a televised debate ahead of general election in Sebastian de los Reyes, outside Madrid, Spain, April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Juan Medina

April 23, 2019

By Belén Carreño and John Stonestreet

MADRID (Reuters) – The main contenders in Spain’s parliamentary election traded verbal blows over jobs and national identity on Tuesday, as Socialist frontrunner Pedro Sanchez said he had no plans to include center-right Ciudadanos in any governing alliance.

A day after an inconclusive first televised debate, the leaders of the four main parties represented appeared to step up efforts to grab extra votes ahead of Sunday’s ballot – and tempers frayed.

The election is the country’s most divisive in decades and, with no single party close to winning a parliamentary majority, its outcome is uncertain. Polls have showed that up to four in 10 voters have yet to decide whom to cast their ballot for.

Outgoing Prime Minister Sanchez looks best placed to form a government if his Socialist Party wins the around 30 percent of the vote that surveys have suggested.

But he would need to team up with one or more other party to form a parliamentary majority, and on Tuesday he distanced himself from one option.

“Entering an alliance with a party that has put cordon sanitaire around the Socialist Party is not part of my plans,” he said in reference to Ciudadanos at the start of the debate.

Ciudadanos has previously said it will not join any coalition led by Sanchez, and its leader Albert Rivera – together with Conservative Partido Popular’s (PP) Pablo Casado – renewed the two-pronged attack they had directed at the prime minister on Monday.

The economy made a late appearance as an election topic in a wide-ranging and at times chaotic debate that also took in immigration, housing and gender equality.

But as on Monday, one of the most emotive issues remained Catalonia and the region’s botched 2017 independence bid, which came close to triggering a constitutional crisis.

Casado called Sanchez “the favorite candidate of the enemies of Spain” and Rivera told him: “Many Socialists are disappointed with you because you want to liquidate Spain.”

Sanchez, who became prime minister in June, has been more open to dialogue with Catalan separatists than his conservative predecessor Mariano Rajoy.

But he reiterated on Tuesday that he was ruling out any moves toward independence by the region, and that its pro- and anti-secessionist factions needed to negotiate with each other.

‘NERVOUS’ OR LOOKING ON?

The rightist candidates also attacked Sanchez over unemployment. Casado compared Spain’s economy to thrice bailed-out Greece and Rivera called the country “the European joblessness champion”.

The Ciudadanos leader also repeatedly told Sanchez he looked “nervous.”

Spain’s jobless rate has nearly halved from its 2013 peak, and growth in the euro zone’s fourth-largest economy has consistently outpaced the bloc’s average since shortly after it exited recession in the same year.

The bulk of the recovery took place under Sanchez’s PP predecessor, Mariano Rajoy, though unemployment has continued to fall since Sanchez took office almost a year ago and hit a 10-year low in the last quarter of 2018.

But the jobless rate remains above 14 percent, and a stretched pension system and the labor market are overdue for structural reform.

“This country’s problem is short-term employment,” said Pablo Iglesias of far-left Podemos Unidas.

For Pablo Simon, professor of political science at Carlos III University in Madrid, Casado and Rivera and failed to land telling blows on Sanchez.

The Socialist leader “saw the bulls and stayed behind the barrier, as he did yesterday, letting the others slug it out though he did venture into the ring a little more,” he said.

Publication of official opinion polls ended six days before the election and in Monday’s final survey, by GAD3 in ABC newspaper, the Socialists scored 31.5 percent of the vote, giving Sanchez far more leeway than others to pitch for coalition partners.

However, he may well need to bring separatist lawmakers on board, which would complicate any broader alliance.

A putative coalition of PP, Ciudadanos and the far-right Vox of Santiago Abascal scored a combined 45 percent – putting them short of a parliamentary majority.

Vox was not invited to the debate as it is not currently represented in Spain’s parliament.

(Additional reporting by Andres Gonzalez; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Main candidates for Spanish general elections hold their first televised debate in Pozuelo de Alarcon, outside Madrid
FILE PHOTO: Candidates for Spanish general elections People’s Party (PP) Pablo Casado, Spanish Prime Minister and Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) Pedro Sanchez, Ciudadanos’ Albert Rivera and Unidas Podemos’ Pablo Iglesias attend a televised debate ahead of general elections in Pozuelo de Alarcon, outside Madrid, Spain, April 22, 2019. TVE via REUTERS/File Photo

April 23, 2019

By John Stonestreet and Belén Carreño

MADRID (Reuters) – The main contenders in Spain’s national election prepared for a second televised debate on Tuesday after a encounter in which they accused each other of lying but left open questions about what coalition deals might eventually be struck.

Sunday’s election, one of the most polarised since Spain’s return to democracy four decades ago, is being fought on emotive issues including gender equality and national unity following Catalonia’s failed 2017 independence bid rather than matters such as the economy and climate change.

With the result too close to call, the focus on heart rather than head makes it unlikely that candidates will broach new topics in Tuesday’s second round.

Ignacio Jurado, politics lecturer at the University of York, suggested rightists Pablo Casado of the People’s Party (PP) and Albert Rivera of Ciudadanos might change roles after Monday’s two-pronged attack on Socialist Prime Minister and election frontrunner Pedro Sanchez.

Casado might become more aggressive and Rivera pull his punches, Jurado said.

The right-leaning El Mundo newspaper suggested Casado and Rivera had outflanked Sanchez over Catalonia – an issue that has dominated national politics in the last few years.

Sanchez, who took power in 2018 after a series of corruption scandals led to the PP’s downfall, has been more open to dialogue with Catalan separatists than other parties and he may need their support to form a viable government.

But he has repeatedly insisted that independence is not up for discussion.

Left-leaning El Pais said Sanchez, seen as a less inspiring public speaker than Rivera and Casado, had not lost the debate.

“Sanchez achieved the minimum required. He managed to get his message across but demonstrated little flexibility,” said Jose Fernandez-Albertos, a political scientist at Spanish National Research Council CSIC.

“There was no clear winner, so they can all go home with the job done.”

Madrid residents who spoke to Reuters TV on Tuesday morning said the leaders should focus more on creating jobs and improving social benefits than clashing over patriotism.

“Catalonia, the flags, Spain – those things don’t shock me. I care about work, well-being, my relatives and society in general, specially the most defenseless,” said one, who gave his name as Jose Antonio.

University of York’s Jurado said candidates may try to present themselves in different ways on Tuesday but the issues were likely to be the same.

MURKY AND MURKIER?

Should Sanchez’s poll standing be harmed by the debates, the election outcome risks becoming more murky than ever.

Publication of official opinion polls ended six days before the election and in Monday’s final survey, by GAD3 in ABC newspaper, the Socialists scored 31.5 percent of the vote, giving Sanchez far more leeway than others to pitch for coalition partners.

However, he may well need to bring separatist lawmakers on board, which would complicate any broader alliance.

A putative coalition of Casado’s PP, Rivera’s center-right Ciudadanos and the far-right Vox of Santiago Abascal, meanwhile scored a combined 45 percent – putting them short of a parliamentary majority.

Polls show up to four in 10 voters have yet to decide who to cast their ballot for.

Arguably the greatest unknown remains Vox, tipped to win about 30 seats on Sunday in the 350-seat legislature but prevented from participating in either debate because it currently has no parliamentary representation.

In comments during Monday’s debate, Abascal criticized the lack of media coverage for his party and the lack of diversity between his main rivals. Vox would bring “order and freedom” to Catalonia, he said.

(Additional reporting by Silvio Castellanos; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Angus MacSwan)

Source: OANN

Herman Cain, the businessman, radio host, and columnist President Donald Trump wanted on the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank, said Monday he decided the personal and professional cost was too high.

In an opinion piece for the Western Journal, Cain wrote he was well through an arduous vetting process when he realized he would be giving up “too much influence to get a little bit of policy impact.”

“It was an honor to be considered,” Cain wrote. “Under different circumstances, I would like to have served. I realize not everyone was a fan of my prospective nomination, and that’s OK. I was prepared to make the case for myself, and I was prepared to live with the outcome.”

“But look: I’m 73 years old and at this stage of my life, I’m doing all the things I want to do,” he continued. “I can go where I want and say what I want and work with the team I’ve enjoyed working with for years now. It’s remarkable how we’ve all stayed together and we all enjoy each other still, and I get a lot of joy out of that at this stage of my life.”

“It’s still fun and I do think it’s making a difference,” he added.

The decision was not easy.

Cain wrote he not only liked “the idea of serving on the Fed,” but was “convinced I could make a positive difference advocating for better growth and monetary policies.”

“As recently as last Monday I had told President Trump I was all in, and on Friday I was making plans to come to Washington and visit with the senators who were skeptical of my qualifications,” he added.

He wrote even after publishing an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal that explained his stance on the issues the Fed deals with, “I was prepared to defend these beliefs in meetings with senators and in confirmation hearings.”

“But the cost of doing this started weighing on me over the weekend,” Cain wrote. “I also started wondering if I’d be giving up too much influence to get a little bit of policy impact. With my current media activities, I can reach close to 4 million people a month with the ideas I believe in. If I gave that up for one seat on the Fed board, would that be a good trade-off?”

The answer was “no.”

And he jokingly warned not to believe everything written about him.

“Anything you hear about a reason other than what I’ve laid out here is (OK, I’ll go ahead and say it) fake news,” he wrote. “They don’t have a source. They don’t have inside information. Only you do, because I just gave it to you.”

Source: NewsMax America

Herman Cain, the businessman, radio host and columnist President Donald Trump wanted on the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank, said Monday he decided the personal and professional cost was too high.

In an opinion piece for the Western Journal, Cain wrote he was well through an arduous vetting process when he realized he’d be giving up “too much influence to get a little bit of policy impact.”

“It was an honor to be considered,” Cain wrote. “Under different circumstances, I would like to have served. I realize not everyone was a fan of my prospective nomination, and that’s OK. I was prepared to make the case for myself and I was prepared to live with the outcome.”

“But look: I’m 73 years old and at this stage of my life, I’m doing all the things I want to do,” he continued. “I can go where I want and say what I want and work with the team I’ve enjoyed working with for years now. It’s remarkable how we’ve all stayed together and we all enjoy each other still, and I get a lot of joy out of that at this stage of my life.”

“It’s still fun and I do think it’s making a difference,” he added.

The decision wasn’t easy.

Cain wrote that he not only liked “the idea of serving on the Fed,” but was “convinced I could make a positive difference advocating for better growth and monetary policies”

“As recently as last Monday I had told President Trump I was all in, and on Friday I was making plans to come to Washington and visit with the senators who were skeptical of my qualifications,” he added.

He wrote even after publishing an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal that explained his stand on the issues the Fed deals with, “I was prepared to defend these beliefs in meetings with senators and in confirmation hearings.”

“But the cost of doing this started weighing on me over the weekend,” Cain wrote. “I also started wondering if I’d be giving up too much influence to get a little bit of policy impact. With my current media activities, I can reach close to 4 million people a month with the ideas I believe in. If I gave that up for one seat on the Fed board, would that be a good trade-off?”

The answer was “no.”

And he jokingly warned not to believe everything written about him.

“Anything you hear about a reason other than what I’ve laid out here is (OK, I’ll go ahead and say it) fake news,” he wrote. “They don’t have a source. They don’t have inside information. Only you do, because I just gave it to you.”

Related Stories:

Source: NewsMax Politics

Ukraine's presidential candidates Petro Poroshenko and Volodymyr Zelenskiy attend a debate in Kiev
Presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy attends a policy debate with his rival, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, at the National Sports Complex Olimpiyskiy stadium in Kiev, Ukraine April 19, 2019. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

April 21, 2019

By Matthias Williams

KIEV (Reuters) – Ukrainians vote on Sunday in the second round of an election that could thrust a comedian with no prior political experience into the presidency of a country at war and wanting transformational change.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who plays a fictitious president in a popular TV series, has led opinion polls against the incumbent Petro Poroshenko, whose popularity has been dragged down by patchy efforts to tackle corruption and sliding living standards.

At stake is the leadership of a country on the frontline of the West’s standoff with Russia following the 2014 Maidan street protests and the annexation of Crimea. Both candidates have pledged to keep the country on a pro-Western course.

Investors are also seeking reassurances that whoever wins will accelerate reforms that are needed to keep foreign aid flowing and attract much-wanted foreign investment.

Zelenskiy’s promise to fight corruption has resonated with Ukrainians who are fed up with politics as usual in a country of 42 million people that remains one of Europe’s poorest nearly three decades after winning independence from the Soviet Union.

His rise comes at a time of political insurgency in many parts of the world, from Brexit to the election of U.S. President Donald Trump and to the 5-Star Movement in Italy, which was also driven by a comedian.

“I think the top election issue is frustration with the status quo,” said Mary O’Hagan, Ukraine Resident Senior Director of the National Democratic Institute (NDI).

Poroshenko was elected amid high hopes for change after the Maidan protests. O’Hagan says he inherited a difficult situation in 2014 and implemented many reforms but has not convinced voters that he is serious about tackling corruption.

“I think it is fair to say that public opinion has not regarded the current set-up as a sufficient step forward from what there was before, to justify the many sacrifices that people have made following the revolution, in terms of living standards, security, loss of life, displacement,” she said.

Zelenskiy’s unorthodox campaign relied heavily on quirky social media posts and comedy gigs instead of traditional rallies and leafletting.

Poroshenko has sought to portray Zelenskiy as a buffoonish populist whose incompetence would leave Ukraine vulnerable to Russia. Ukrainian troops have battled Kremlin-backed separatist fighters since 2014 in a conflict in the eastern Donbass region that has killed 13,000 people despite a notional ceasefire.

A victory for Zelenskiy would be a drastic departure from previous presidential elections in independent Ukraine, which were won by experienced politicians including three former prime ministers.

But he remains something of an unknown quantity and faces scrutiny over his ties to a powerful oligarch who would like to see Poroshenko out of power.

Just 9 percent of Ukrainians have confidence in their national government, the lowest of any electorate in the world, according to a Gallup poll published in March.

(Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO - A man runs across a hill in front of the Sydney city skyline under a smoke tinted sky at daybreak
FILE PHOTO – A man runs across a hill in front of the Sydney city skyline under a smoke tinted sky at daybreak September 5, 2012. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

April 21, 2019

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – The environment has emerged as a major issue for Australian voters, a poll showed on Sunday, but healthcare and the cost of living are the top concerns ahead of next month’s elections.

For 32 percent of Australians, access to affordable health services is the biggest worry, followed by the cost of living at 31 percent and crime at 25 percent, according to the Ipsos Issues Monitor, cited by the Sydney Morning Herald.

But the monitor, Australia’s longest running survey of community concerns, found that 23 percent of respondents cited the environment as one of their biggest concerns, making it the fourth top issue.

At the last federal election in 2016, the environment ranked ninth at 14 percent.

“Now there is a real momentum around it,” the newspaper cited Ipsos social researcher Daniel Evans as saying.

According to government agencies and environmental organizations, Australians are paying increasingly more attention to climate change, renewable energy, drought, environmental regulation and protection of natural habitats, such as the Great Barrier Reef, under threat from global warming.

Two-thirds of Australians believe their country is already being affected by climate change and 46 percent agree that the change is “entirely or mainly” caused by human action, an annual climate survey issued by Ipsos this month suggested.

Australia’s A$1.87 trillion ($1.3 trillion) economy is slowing, but the number of voters for whom it is a major worry has fallen since the last election to 23 percent from 30 percent. It ranked as the fifth major concern in this month’s poll.

Australians vote on May 18, with opinion polls showing Bill Shorten’s center-left opposition Labor party well ahead and the coalition of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Liberals and the rural-focused Nationals heading for a resounding defeat.

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Source: OANN

People pass over the stone bridge in Skopje
People pass over the stone bridge in Skopje, North Macedonia April 19, 2019. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski

April 21, 2019

By Kole Casule

SKOPJE (Reuters) – Macedonians vote on Sunday in a presidential election dominated by deep divisions over the change of the country’s name to North Macedonia under a deal with Greece.

The name change, which Greece demanded to end what it called an implied territorial claim on its northern province also called Macedonia, resolves a decades-old dispute and opens the door to Macedonian membership of NATO and the European Union.

But the accord continues to divide Macedonians and has eclipsed all other issues during campaigning for Sunday’s election, in which about 1.8 million voters will choose between three candidates.

Reflecting differences over the agreement pushed through by the pro-Western government of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, the winner of Sunday’s ballot is not expected to secure an outright majority, meaning a run-off vote would be held on May 5.

A recent opinion poll gave support of 28.8 percent and a narrow lead to Stevo Pendarovski, who is backed by the ruling centrist coalition of the Social Democrats and the minority Albanian DUI party, which have promised to implement the name change settlement.

“There is no other alternative except NATO and EU. Unfortunately in this country we have an opposition that is buried in the 19th century,” Pendarovski, a long-serving public official and academic, told supporters in the town of Stip.

Pendarovski’s main rival Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova is supported by the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party, which strongly opposed the deal. The latest poll showed her trailing by about two percentage points on 26.8 percent.

Wrapping up her campaign in the capital, Skopje, the university professor accused the government of failing to implement much-needed economic reforms.

“If for the past two and a half years they haven’t done anything except change the name of the country, I don’t believe that in the next period they will do that,” said Siljanovska-Davkova, who also wants the country to join the EU and NATO despite opposing the agreement.

Blerim Reka, the candidate for the second-largest Albanian party Besa, looks set to come a distant third with about seven percent of the vote, the poll showed.

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS

The presidency of the ex-Yugoslav republic is a mostly ceremonial post, but acts as the supreme commander of the armed forces and also signs off on parliamentary legislation.

The refusal of outgoing nationalist President Gjeorge Ivanov to sign some bills passed by parliament has delayed the implementation of some key laws, including one on wider use of the Albanian language — 18 years after an ethnic Albanian uprising that pushed Macedonia to the brink of civil war.

But the presidency had no authority to block constitutional amendments that were passed earlier this year by a two-thirds majority of parliament to enable the name change to North Macedonia.

Analysts say turnout in Sunday’s vote could be low due to fatigue among voters disappointed at the government’s performance on attracting foreign investment and tackling high unemployment.

“There’s nowhere to go except towards the European Union,” said Dimitar Siljanovski, 43, an accountant in a private company.

“That is why I’ll support the option that promises to stand by the deal. Otherwise, what is the alternative? To be stuck forever in a waiting room,” he said.

Polling stations will be open until 7 p.m. (1700 GMT) with the first preliminary results due two hours later.

(Writing by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Helen Popper)

Source: OANN

Central American migrants eat mangoes for breakfast as they walk during their journey towards the United States, in Mapastepec
Central American migrants eat mangoes for breakfast as they walk during their journey towards the United States, in Mapastepec, Mexico April 20, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

April 20, 2019

By Jose Cortes

MAPASTEPEC, Mexico (Reuters) – So many migrants have stopped in the southern Mexican town of Mapastepec in recent months that longstanding public sympathy for Central Americans traveling northward is starting to wane.

Hundreds of migrants have been camped out for weeks in Mapastepec, where locals say six migrant caravans have arrived since last Easter. By far the biggest was a group of thousands in October that drew the anger of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Ana Gabriela Galvan, a local resident who helped to provide food to migrants in the October caravan, told Reuters the small town in the impoverished state of Chiapas, which borders Guatemala, felt overwhelmed by the number of Central Americans.

“It’s really bad, because they’re pouring onto our land,” she said, noting that some locals were reluctant to leave their homes. “They ask for money, and if you offer food, they don’t want it; they want money and sometimes you don’t have any.”

Following a surge in apprehensions of Central Americans trying to enter the United States, Trump last month threatened to close the U.S.-Mexico border if the Mexican government did not stop illegal immigration right away.

The administration of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has stepped up migrant detentions and tightened access to humanitarian visas, slowing the flow of caravans north and leaving hundreds of people in Mapastepec.

The humanitarian visas allow migrants to stay temporarily and get jobs. The documents also make it easier for them to travel through the country or seek longer residence.

According to government social development agency Coneval, Chiapas in 2015 had the highest poverty rate of Mexico’s 32 regions, at 72.5 percent. Some 20,000 people live in Mapastepec, the seat of a municipality of the same name where poverty levels were fractionally higher than the state average in 2015.

A month ago, a large knot of migrants began forming in Mapastepec when the National Migration Institute closed its main office in the nearby city of Tapachula. The closure prompted hundreds to travel north to the sweltering town on the Pacific coast where the agency has a smaller outpost.

Since then, bedraggled groups of men, women and children have been staying in and around a local sports stadium, hoping to be issued humanitarian visas.

Central Americans today make up the bulk of undocumented migrants arrested on the U.S. border.

Southern Mexico has long sent thousands of migrants north and support for them has traditionally been strong there. Concentrations of Central American migrants on Mexico’s northern border caused tensions in the city of Tijuana when caravans arrived late last year.

CONCERNED MEXICANS

Recent studies show that while Mexicans still have sympathy for migrants, many are concerned that Mexico will not be able to cope with the arrival of thousands of people from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador fleeing violence and poverty at home.

A survey of around 500 adults in February by the Center of Public Opinion at the University of the Valley of Mexico (UVM) found that 83 percent of respondents believed the Central American migrants could cause problems for Mexico.

Rising crime, increased poverty and a decline in social services were the top risks identified by the poll.

Offered a binary choice on what should be done, 62 percent of those polled said Mexico should be stricter with migrants entering its territory. The other 38 percent said Mexico should help to develop Central America, as Lopez Obrador argues.

The study did not publish a margin of error.

Jesus Salvador Quintana, a senior official at the National Human Rights Commission, said in Mapastepec the body had noticed a decrease in assistance from the public but urged people to keep helping the migrants on their often arduous journeys.

“There are children, pregnant women, whole families that sometimes need this humanitarian aid,” he told Reuters.

Anabel Quintero, a young Honduran mother in Mapastepec, said when her caravan passed through the nearby town of Huixtla some shops closed rather than sell to migrants seeking medicine for sick children.

“It’s a bad feeling,” she said. “They told us they didn’t want us sleeping in the park, and we had to leave.”

Residents of Mapastepec are also running out of patience.

Street vendor Brenda Marisol Ballesteros told Reuters it was time for authorities to move the migrants onward.

“Why?,” she said. “Because things are in a real mess.”

(Additional reporting by Roberto Ramirez in Huixtla; Editing by Dave Graham and Cynthia Osterman)

Source: OANN


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