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RIO DE JANEIRO — Cinthia Ribeiro knew she had a fight on her hands when COVID-19 arrived in her hometown in Brazil. What she didn't know was that, one year on, humans would be out to kill her, too.

Ribeiro is mayor of Palmas, capital of Tocantins, a small state wedged between the southeastern edge of the Amazon rainforest and the Cerrado, South America's tropical savanna.

The fresh wave of infections now racing across the landscape has reached her city, flooding hospitals with patients, and pushing intensive care unit occupancy rates up to 96%.

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When the health system first collapsed in the Amazonian city of Manaus, Brazil, and COVID-19 victims were buried in mass graves, the mayor sent a desperate appeal to then-President Donald Trump and other world leaders.

"We are doing our best, but I tell you, it's still very little in [the] face of the oncoming barbarism" said Arthur Virgílio Neto in a video message. "We cannot be silent. We need all possible help."

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A tragedy is playing out in the city of Manaus in northern Brazil. There is a huge surge of COVID cases there, and oxygen supplies are so scarce that people have died of suffocation in their hospital beds. NPR's Philip Reeves reports.

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In the before times, this would have been a happy scene.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Portuguese).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking Portuguese).

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A second wave of COVID-19 is rippling across Brazil. The latest hot spot is Rio de Janeiro, hometown of President Jair Bolsonaro. Even so, he is continuing to subvert efforts to control the pandemic.

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A five-year campaign by President Nicolás Maduro to wipe out the last democratically elected bastion of opposition power in Venezuela is reaching its peak.

Maduro and his loyalists are poised to win back control of the National Assembly in elections Sunday, adding to the litany of woes facing his chief rival, Juan Guaidó.

U.S.-backed Guaidó and the mainstream opposition parties are boycotting the poll, calling it a "fraud" and arguing that conditions for holding "free and fair" elections do not exist in Venezuela.

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Last night in southern Brazil, an organized crime gang orchestrated an elaborate and violent bank heist. NPR's Philip Reeves reports. And a warning - the sound of gunfire is part of this story.

With tears, songs and prayers, a multitude of Argentines flooded into the heart of Buenos Aires to pay their final respects to Diego Maradona, one of the world's greatest soccer players.

Thousands of fans lined up from the early hours on Thursday to file past Maradona's wooden casket as he lay in the Casa Rosada, the presidential palace, beneath his nation's sky-blue-and-white flag and his signature No. 10 shirt.

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Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona has died of a heart attack. Here's NPR's Philip Reeves.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: No one disputes Diego Maradona was one of the world's greatest-ever soccer players. The question is, was he the greatest?

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A Black man in Brazil has died after being severely beaten by security guards. It happened last night on the eve of Black Consciousness Day. As NPR's Philip Reeves reports, his death has caused a huge outcry.

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Brazil's far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has been accused of playing politics with the pandemic. This week, his government enraged scientists by briefly suspending trials of a Chinese-made vaccine. NPR's Philip Reeves reports.

Evo Morales, Bolivia's first Indigenous president and one of Latin America's most prominent leftists, has made a triumphant return to his home country after being controversially driven from power one year ago.

The socialist leader crossed the border from Argentina on Monday to begin a 625-mile odyssey through the heartland of his support, accompanied by a festive, flag-flourishing convoy of vehicles.

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After a wave of mass protests, and amid a pandemic, the people of Chile go to the polls Sunday for a historic referendum over whether the country should scrap its dictatorship-era constitution and write a new one.

Opinion surveys suggest the electorate will vote "yes," bringing an end to the 40-year-old charter that was imposed during the rule of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, and has long been seen by many Chileans as the underlying source of many of their grievances.

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Socialists appear to have made a strong comeback yesterday in Bolivia's presidential election. All of the votes have yet to be counted, but the hand-picked candidate of ousted President Evo Morales seems to have taken a big lead in the first round.

Socialists in Bolivia are celebrating a historic victory after a candidate handpicked by their ousted leader, Evo Morales, was on course to win the country's most important presidential election in a generation.

Luis Arce — a former economy minister during the Morales era — is poised to be officially confirmed as the winner after his main rival conceded, even before the official count from Sunday's election was complete.

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