Philip Reeves | KUER 90.1

Philip Reeves

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When Ariles López takes a break from her fruit stall and begins to describe her life in Venezuela, there is a moment when she chokes up and begins to cry.

That will not come as a surprise, when you hear her story.

López, who's 47, is among those Venezuelans who say they will vote in Sunday's election, despite a widely held view that it's a fraudulent exercise calculated to keep President Nicolás Maduro in power.

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Three days of mourning have begun in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, after the murder of a black human rights campaigner who spoke out against the lethal methods routinely used by security forces within the city's poorest neighborhoods.

Many residents of Rio are hardened to daily incidents of deadly violence yet the killing of Marielle Franco, a city council member and civil society activist, is being met by a huge wave of anger and indignation on social media, and protests on the streets.

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Violence in Rio de Janeiro has gotten so bad that Brazil's president recently put the military in charge of security there. The recent crime wave has many people worried. Those who live near banks have particular concerns, as NPR's Philip Reeves reports.

You can buy a remarkable number of items on Copacabana Beach just by sitting on the sand a few yards from the Atlantic waves, and waiting.

Without leaving your beach chair, you can purchase a piece of cheese, a kiddie pool, a blanket, a skewer of shrimp, a string bikini, a selfie-stick, a tropical shirt, a pineapple or a coconut.

Be under no illusions: Copacabana is not merely a beach. It's a giant, restless market, staffed by vendors who drift around in steaming heat, flourishing their wares at the multitude of near-naked basking bodies.

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It's Carnival time in Brazil, and NPR's Philip Reeves says there's more to it than the annual parades and costumes. Phil says if you want to really understand what it's about, you have to hit the streets.

Members of the small but growing shoal of mermaids and mermen in Brazil are getting a little worried and irate.

Until now, they've been able to slip happily into their brightly colored tails and glide away through the water without much attention from the outside world, beyond the odd chuckle or ripple of applause.

When the city of Brasilia was inaugurated nearly six decades ago, it was celebrated as a dazzling example of modernist architecture and as evidence of a young South American nation on the rise.

But Brazil's utopian capital has since acquired another feature on its landscape that's come to be viewed as a national disgrace and an embarrassing eyesore.

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Nine people are dead and 14 injured after a riot at a prison in Brazil. They were all inmates in one of the most troubled penal systems in the world. NPR's Philip Reeves says there are concerns that the latest killings could lead to more.

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Several countries are helping with the search for a missing Argentine submarine. But concerns about the fate of the crew are growing. Officials worry the vessel's oxygen supply is running short. NPR's Philip Reeves has more.

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has unveiled an unusual strategy to help ease the chronic food shortage faced by many of his nation's 30 million people — something he calls Plan Conejo, or "Plan Rabbit."

Maduro and his ministers are embarking on a somewhat surprising — and to many, alarming — campaign to convince Venezuelans to eat rabbits. They say rabbits will make an excellent source of protein for the large number of people who don't have regular access to red meat or chicken as the result of the country's economic collapse.

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Fernando Rojas is holding up a photograph of a pocket of countryside, between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes mountains, that has been his home, his livelihood, and his passion for all of his 74 years.

His picture shows a lake, brimming with water, in front of a range of hills that are silhouetted by the sun. In the foreground, by the water's edge, there's a small boat, ready to set sail. Next to that, there's a wooden jetty, jutting out into the waves.

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Up first, this day marks the anniversary of the start of Venezuela's struggle for independence in 1810. We normally wouldn't mention that here this morning but many Venezuelans plan to spend this day protesting their government.

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Brazil has long been awash with corruption scandals, but the latest to erupt is about an issue that is particularly close to the nation's heart and stomach — and its wallet.

Few people are more prolific meat-eaters than the Brazilians, and few are more passionate about the merits of the barbecue, or churrasco.

They grill with gusto at almost any opportunity — on the beach, the sidewalk, at soccer games and even at protest rallies, where the whiff of sizzling sausage competes with the eye-watering stink of tear gas.

Carlos Roberto Gomes spends his days leaning on a stone wall with a big, brightly colored sign around his neck.

His sign advertises the services that he offers to passersby on the downtown street where he earns his living.

It says that Gomes buys gold. He can fix you up with a tattoo or some body piercing.

Read the sign closely, and you'll also see that he might be willing to lop off your hair and purchase it from you.

Top-quality human hair from Brazil fetches a good price in Europe's salons, where it's sold as extensions and wigs, explains Gomes.

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Brazilians like to call their Carnival the world's greatest spectacle. The multi-day festival officially begins today, but the street parties got going much earlier. And you can count on NPR's Philip Reeves, our new Brazil correspondent, not to miss them.

Rio de Janeiro's carnival is like one of those lavish parties where all the guests show up early and start guzzling away while you're still upstairs, trimming your eyebrows.

Is there another city on earth that tosses aside its troubles with such gusto, and then dives into the dressing-up box with all the wild-eyed relish of The Cat in the Hat?

The carnival hasn't even officially opened, but this weekend several hundred thousand people were already out parading and partying beneath a steaming tropical sun.

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When Donald Trump finally has his feet under the desk in the Oval Office and opens the files marked "Afghanistan" and "Pakistan," he will find much to worry about.

Relations between Pakistan and India, which both have big nuclear arsenals, are in crisis. These days, their armies regularly trade shots along the Line of Control, the de facto border in disputed Kashmir — sometimes with fatal consequences.

Fears abound that Afghanistan could melt down into violent chaos that could spill beyond its boundaries.

Aizaz Azam is a young police detective in Pakistan whose brief career has been devoted to busting minor prostitution and gambling rackets and sorting out street brawls.

Now, though, he's slogging away for up to 20 hours a day, working his first major case. It involves a crime so ruthless that Azam says he and his fellow cops feel "strangely unsettled in our souls."

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