The Guardian 4 May, 2005

Global briefs

CZECH REPUBLIC: The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia is calling on the people of the Czech Republic to uphold democratic rights in the face of mounting attacks on the party’s legality. In a statement the party said the anti-communist campaign aims to move society towards fascism. Earlier this month two senators in the Czech Parliament launched a campaign to change a law criminalising national, racist, religious or class hatred, to include the phrase "supports or propagates communism, Nazism or any other similar movement". The law specifies a five-year jail term for violators. Two Senators have also initiated an action against Mlada Pravda (Young Truth), the monthly magazine of the Communist Youth Union, because, they said, it promotes "Leninism" and calls for a socialist revolution.

KUWAIT: Kuwait’s Parliament has given initial approval to a law that would allow women to vote for the first time and to run in municipal council elections. The bill must pass a second reading and be signed by the country’s ruler, Sheikh Jaber al Ahmed al Sabah. The sheikh supports the measure, but past efforts have been blocked by Parliament, with representatives of the country’s tribes leading the opposition. Municipal elections are expected in the next six months. Women’s rights activist Rola Dashti called the April 19 vote "a first step," and expressed the hope that women would soon also participate in Parliament. Under current law, only men over age 21 who are not in the police or military can vote.

NICARAGUA: During a Week of Action against the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), hundreds of Nicaraguans marched in Managua to protest against President Enrique Bolanos’ pressure for CAFTA’s ratification. Organisers said CAFTA would swamp the country’s small and medium agricultural producers with competition from US agribusiness giants. Thousands of people also rallied April 16 in Ticuantepe, near Managua, against the treaty. Former president Daniel Ortega, now general secretary of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), said the pact will cause "a real social earthquake" by putting "thousands of agricultural producers" out of work.

SOUTH AFRICA: AIDS could kill 20 percent of southern Africa’s agricultural workers by 2020, possibly threatening food production in a region already facing frequent shortages. "It’s not as simple as to say there will be a one-fifth reduction of the crop", HIV/AIDS expert Smangaliso Hllengwa told a conference in Durban on AIDS and food security. "But it’s obviously going to have a significant impact." The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation predicts that 25 percent of farm workers will die by 2025, based on national HIV infection rates and local surveys. Observers also warn of the dire economic consequences to families whose breadwinners have died of the disease.

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