The Guardian 1 June, 2005

Global briefs

FINLAND: Following the May 14 failure of talks with employers, thousands of Finnish paper workers held a two-day strike the week before last, closing 40 paper mills and 14 board mills in the country. Employers responded by declaring a lockout and threatening to keep plants shut until an agreement is reached. With two of the world’s largest papermakers affected, and the possible spread of the strike to Sweden, supply problems seem likely in Europe and the UK. National conciliator Juhani Salonius, who mediated the talks, said the biggest disagreements concerned the use of temporary employees, and production breaks during national holidays.

SOUTH AFRICA: HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death in South Africa, according to a new Medical Research Council report, the UN’s IRIN news agency said. The report, "Estimates of Provincial Mortality", found that while overall rates and causes of death differed, AIDS was the number one cause in all provinces except the Western Cape. In Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg and Pretoria, AIDS accounted for one-third of all deaths in 2000, while in the eastern province of Kwazulu-Natal, the figure was 42 percent. The Research Council said the free provision of nevirapine to prevent mother-to-child transmission, and the start of the national treatment program, should slow the increase in death rates, but cautioned that in the years since 2000, deaths due to AIDS had probably increased.

BELIZE: A medical brigade of 103 Cuban doctors has cared for over 1,257,000 patients in the tiny Central American country of Belize during the last five years, Granma International said earlier this month. In the last year alone, the Cubans cared for nearly 400,000 patients. The Cuban health team has been in Belize since 1998. The Cuban doctors work in every district including remote rural areas where health services have never been provided.

BOLIVIA: Evo Morales, leader of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) of Bolivia, has discounted any attempt at a coup d’état after two army officers called for the dismissal of President Carlos Mesa. In a statement on the two lieutenant colonels, Luis Galindo and Luis Herrera, Morales stressed the popular and democratic roots of the MAS and its position in defence of democracy. He declined to comment in detail on the proclamation of the officers in support of the popular demand expressed in recent huge street protests that once again are besieging the Murillo Plaza (the main square). He emphasised the democratic nature of the current social struggles directed toward Congress convening a constituent assembly to undertake far-reaching reforms to the political and economic regime of Bolivia, and reiterated that the social organisations are going to defend democracy. The coup proclaimed by the two officers was also rejected by MAS deputy Gustavo Torrico, who stated that the plan conceals a fascist plot.

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