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Ecuador may switch to socialism in Presidential runoff

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Ecuadoreans will vote in a presidential runoff on Sunday to decide whether to maintain the pro-market policies of the last four years or return to the socialism of the preceding decade as the Andean country seeks to revive its stagnant economy.

Left-wing economist Andres Arauz won the first round of the election in February, garnering almost 33% of the vote, on promises of generous cash handouts and a resumption of the socialist policies of his mentor, former President Rafael Correa.

Arauz’s rival, banker and third-time presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso, is promising to create jobs through foreign investment and financial support for the agricultural sector. Lasso won just shy of 20% of the first-round ballots.

Indigenous activist Yaku Perez, who narrowly lost out to Lasso for a slot in the runoff, is calling on supporters to spoil their ballots to protest what he called electoral fraud during the first round.

The vote will hinge on the roughly 15% of the electorate who remain undecided, said Francis Romero, director of pollster Click Report, describing the figure as unusually high.

“(The undecided) see that neither option has the capacity to get the country out of the economic and health crises that it’s in,” said Romero.

The oil-exporting nation’s economy was already weak due to low crude prices when the coronavirus outbreak started. The pandemic has pushed a third of the population into poverty and left half a million people unemployed.

President Lenin Moreno, who is not seeking re-election, imposed painful austerity measures as part of a $6.5 billion financing agreement with the International Monetary Fund, but was unable to kick-start the economy.

The elections council expects to report the results on Sunday night. The new president will take office on May 24.

Arauz, 36, has offered to give $1,000 to a million families as soon as he takes office, as well as provide benefits to young people such as free internet access.

His plans are being closely watched by foreign investors who hold Ecuadorean bonds, some of whom have expressed concerns about heavy spending plans in the face of the government’s delicate finances.

Lasso has tried to soften his conservative image by promising to fight discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and boost protection of animal rights.

Both candidates are calling on supporters to “take care of the votes” and denounce irregularities on voting day and during the vote tallying process.


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Osun free train service: Beneficiaries urge public to take advantage for educational purposes, excursion

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Some of the beneficiaries of the free train service usually provided during the festival periods by the government of the State of Osun, have urged the general public to take maximum advantage of the initiative for educational purposes.


The beneficiaries noted that apart from the socioeconomic support given through the laudable initiative, it behoves the citizens, particularly heads of academic institutions, to maximize the opportunity to encourage students on excursion.


This is even as the train on Sunday returned over 600 passengers who had come home to celebrate Eid-el-fitr with their loved ones back to their various destinations which include, Oyo, Ogun and Lagos States respectively.
Recall that the Administration of Governor Adegboyega Oyetola has sustained the initiative as part of efforts to ease transportation and as well help to ameliorate the palpable socioeconomic challenges facing holidaymakers who are citizens of the State but residing outside Osun, and chose to celebrate their festivals in the State.


Addressing journalists while boarding the train, a beneficiary, Pastor David Oyedele, said he deliberately came to embark on the trip as part of efforts to expose the pupils of his school to rail transportation.


Oyedele, a Director of a private school in Osogbo who boarded the train with about 30 pupils, said he deemed it fit to travel with the free train service provided by the State Government, having identified and seen the great advantages that lie therein.


According to him, the free train service being sponsored by the State Government, particularly during festive periods, had opened windows of opportunity for those who can take it for personal and collective benefits.
“For instance, many believe that the initiative is restricted to convey people and luggage alone. But I want to tell them that this initiative goes beyond that, as it remains the surest way to encourage academic excursion.


“I decided to come this morning with my pupils in order to take them on excursion through this transportation means with the hope to broaden their knowledge and expose them to rail transportation rudimentary.


“As you can see, some of the pupils are seeing the train for the first time while some haven’t travelled with it before. Meanwhile, this will provide them the opportunity of not only seeing it but traveling with it.
“We have taught them the theoretical aspect and with this, they must have experienced the practical aspect by traveling with it. 


“I must commend the State Government for providing us this opportunity because if not, we might not be able to actualise this in view of what may cost each of the pupils to do so.
“I am appealing to the people, particularly those resident in Osun, to take the advantage of the initiative for academic excursions since it costs them nothing,” he added.
Also, Master Olaniyi Joshua applauded the State government for the provision of the free train service.


Joshua, a student who was on  excursion, said, “I am happy today because I have the privilege to see the train, board it and travel in it.”
Another passenger, Mr. Akinwale Oluwagbemiga, praised the initiative and described it as unprecedented.


Oluwagbemiga who claimed to have been enjoying the free train service since it was introduced, expressed delight in the fact that the progressive government has been able to sustain the initiative.


He called on the people, particularly the beneficiaries of the initiative to continue to support the government in whatever way they could in order to make the initiative a long-lasting programme.
In her remarks, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Commerce, Industry, Cooperatives and Empowerment, Mrs. Christiana Olusola Ogunfolaju, expressed delight at the impressive turnout of the passengers.


She assured of government’s commitment to continous prioritisation of the people’s welfare and well-being.
Other government’s officials in attendance during the takeoff of the train were the Coordinating Director, Ministry of Commerce, Industry, Cooperatives and Empowerment, Mrs. Kehinde Odediran; Director of Commerce and Investment Promotion, Mrs. Ajibola Falode; Director of Administration, Mr. Afeez Owolabi; Technical Assistant to the Commissioner of Commerce, Mr. Samuel Oyedemi, among others.


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Jerusalem synagogue grandstand seating collapses, 2 die, 100 injured

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Orthodox synagogue in the West Bank settlement of Giv’at Ze’ev northwest of Jerusalem has collapsed, killing two persons and injuring more than 100, Israeli emergency services confirmed.

CNN reports that at least two people have been confirmed dead in what was described as a “mass casualty event”, the head of police for Jerusalem district told Israeli television reporters.

Video broadcast on Israeli television shows dozens of worshippers falling to the ground when the crowded bleachers collapsed.

A “considerable number of worshippers were injured,” according to police. A firefighter on the scene told Israel Channel 13 that worshippers appeared to be trapped under the bleachers.

More than 100 have been injured, according to Israeli emergency medical services.

The bleacher collapse comes just over two weeks after 45 people were killed in a stampede at a religious festival at Israel’s Mount Meron, where worshipers had gathered to mark the Lag B’Omer holiday.


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Panic, disquiet as hoodlums invade, burn Police stations, Policemen killed in Delta

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Christian worshippers on Sunday stayed off churches after Police headquarters in Nsukwa, Aniocha South Local Government Area of Delta State, was burnt down by gunmen, who also killed three policemen on duty.

The hoodlums, who attacked the police station around 2am on Sunday, also injured one police officer, Veritynewsonline reports

An witness from om Nsukwa community, who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, said both the police station and the police quarters were set ablaze.

He said, “They were four policemen on guard; they shot three police officers dead, that’s the one we see, while one was injured. Even police motorcycles at the premises were burnt also. They (hoodlums) destroyed vehicle and carted away their ammunition.”

It was learnt that the Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Ali, and other security agencies visited the scene of the incident around noon to ascertain the level of the damages.


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