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In recent days, U.S. officials have been characterizing the political turmoil in Venezuela as nearing its end.

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Venezuelans were on the streets again today.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting in Spanish).

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Venezuela has two men claiming to be president right now. Opposition leader Juan Guaido and sitting leader Nicolas Maduro are locked in a battle for power. Speaking to cheering crowds yesterday, Guaido declared himself the country's interim president.

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The global advance of populist nationalism will reach another milestone on New Year's Day, when Jair Bolsonaro is sworn in as president of Latin America's largest nation, Brazil.

Officials predict that up to 500,000 people will flood the streets of the capital, Brasília, to celebrate his inauguration, which will take place inside the chamber of the national Congress.

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"Nothing and no one will stop us!"

So says President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, a nation embroiled in the worst economic and humanitarian crisis in the modern history of Latin America.

That message came in a flurry of recent tweets in which the unpopular Maduro seeks to rally support from his long-suffering population for his latest remedy against total collapse: gold.

Half a century ago, Jean Marc von der Weid was strapped to a pole and bludgeoned with clubs by Brazilian security agents seeking information about his fellow leftist student leaders.

His torturers also attached wires to his fingers, toes, ears, tongue and penis, and blasted him with electric shocks. At one point, he recalls, they subjected him to a simulated firing squad.

"They said, 'If you don't talk, we will definitely shoot you,' " says von der Weid. "I remember one guy saying, 'Do you want to smoke your last cigarette?' I replied: 'No thanks, I don't smoke.' "

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A game of soccer is underway beneath a hazy afternoon sun.

At first glance, it looks like any other you might encounter in Brazil, a nation celebrated for its unwavering addiction to this sport.

A group of teenage boys in brightly colored shirts battles for the ball, urged on by a coach who is barking instructions with the ferocity of a drill sergeant.

Look again, though, and you soon spot a difference: Not one of these young and skillful players is Brazilian. They are all Chinese.

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For those who track the rise of extreme populist nationalism worldwide, this Sunday's election in Brazil represents an important test of how far to the right voters in Latin America's largest nation are prepared to turn.

Amid a race widely regarded as the country's most divisive general election in decades, attention is focused on Jair Bolsonaro, a veteran congressman and retired army captain from the far right.

Bolsonaro not only has led the polls throughout the campaign but has managed to expand his lead in the race's closing days.

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To the outsider, there is a beguiling charm and tranquility about the farming town of Central do Maranhão in northeast Brazil. It's tucked amid the palm groves, mango trees and rice fields that cover the landscape rolling gently toward the Atlantic Ocean, some 30 miles to the north.

For once, Jair Bolsonaro is not surrounded by crowds of young, far-right supporters, cheering for him to be the next president of Latin America's largest nation.

The retired Brazilian army captain is sitting at a cafe in an airport departure lounge, gazing intently into his cellphone, the tool that keeps him in constant contact with his millions of social media followers.

Afro-Brazilian culture is so central to Brazil's port city of Salvador that the city has earned the nickname Roma Negra, or "Black Rome." The nickname resonates with Brazilians who recognize Salvador as a black cultural and intellectual capital — a place where city and culture are as deeply intertwined as Christianity is with Rome.

Afro-Brazilian drummers, snack vendors and visual artists hum through Salvador's streets and plazas. These cultural fixtures are also small businesses — and their challenges are emblematic of those shared nationwide by black Brazilians in business.

Wander into any bar in Rio de Janeiro at present, and you are sure to meet one of the world's greatest soccer talents.

He or she might be young or old, short or tall, a beer drinker or a fan of the head-spinning cachaça spirit made from sugar cane.

Yet they'll have one thing in common.

He or she will be wearing the bright yellow No. 10 shirt identified with Neymar — the man long seen as the Brazilian national team's finest performer, who's now also its funniest.

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