The Guardian 16 March, 2005

Global briefs

AFRICA: More than 80 million people living in Africa could die from AIDS by 2025 unless concerted action is taken, a new report by UNAIDS says. While about 10 percent of the world's people live in sub-Saharan Africa, the report said, the region has almost two-thirds of all people living with HIV/AIDS. Titled AIDS in Africa: Three scenarios to 2025, the report details the 20 years of the AIDS epidemic and warns that the worst is still to come. "What we do today will change the future", the report said. "While societies will have to deal with AIDS for some time to come, the extent of the epidemic's impact will depend on the responses and investment now". UNAIDS estimates that nearly $200 billion is needed to save 16 million people from death and 43 million from becoming infected. The report emphasised that major inroads can be made if the will is there. Now, UNAIDS said, 25 million people in Africa are infected and life expectancy in nine African countries has fallen below 40. There are 11 million orphans, and 6500 people die each day. Last year some 3.1 million people were newly infected.

BOLIVIA: The Bolivian Congress voted unanimously March 8 to reject the resignation President Carlos Mesa had submitted a day earlier. Mesa said his government had faced 820 protests since taking office in October 2003 which had made it impossible for him to continue. Opponents said Mesa's proposed resignation was a political ploy to stay in office, since Congress' rejection would strengthen his hand. Mesa assumed the presidency after former President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada fled the country amid nationwide demonstrations. The demonstrations to uphold Bolivian sovereignty over its vast natural gas resources, to oppose privatisation of industries and natural resources, including the country's water supply, and to protest against rising fuel costs, have been organised by the Movement Toward Socialism party, a working-class and indigenous movement led by indigenous leader Evo Morales.

URUGUAY: Right after his inauguration, President Tabare Vazquez met with Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque in Montevideo and restored his country's relations with Cuba. In 2002, reportedly under US pressure, Uruguay had condemned Cuba at the UN Human Rights Commission and then broke off relations. The two countries also signed letters of intent to develop commercial relations and to set up medical sales and exchanges. Despite the lack of diplomatic ties, 300 Uruguayan young people have been studying at Cuba's Latin American School of Medicine, 40 of whom will graduate this summer. Vazquez, a socialist and leader of the Progressive Encounter-Broad Front coalition, also immediately proclaimed a broad "Social Emergency Plan" to aid the many Uruguayans who have fallen into poverty during recent economic crises. The plan features food, health, job and housing programs. Perez Roque observed that Uruguay is joining the Latin American trend of choosing progressive leaders, including those of Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela.

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