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Who's who among government leaders: meet 20 leaders who are making headlines around the world. (People).

United States On January 20, 2001, George W. Bush was inaugurated as the 43rd U.S. President. Bush, 56, won one of the closest and most controversial elections in U.S. history. He received fewer popular votes than his opponent, Vice President Al Gore, but won more Electoral College votes after a contested recount in Florida.

The son of George H. W. Bush, the 41st U.S. President, Bush is only the second son of a President to occupy the White House. The first was John Quincy Adams, our sixth President (1825-1829). He was the son of John Adams, our second President (1797-1801).

After the attacks of September 11, 2001, President Bush's popularity soared, and Americans supported his war on terror. But, as the U.S. economy began to sag, Bush's domestic policies came under increasing attack. The President's $1.35 trillion tax cut, passed by Congress in 2001, was criticized for favoring the wealthy over the middle class.

In recent months, the President has stirred debate by saying that the U.S. should attack Iraq. Bush insists that Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader, is a danger to world peace. (See News Special p. 4.)

Mexico Vicente Fox, 60, became Mexico's President on December 1, 2000. With his victory Fox, head of the National Action Party (PAN) and former chief executive of Coca-Cola in Mexico, ended 71 years of dominance by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Some political analysts say that this change in government led to unrealistically high expectations.

Fox, a close ally of U.S. President George W. Bush, has called for easing restrictions along the U.S.-Mexico border and increasing trade between the two nations. Since the September 11, 2001, attacks, however, attention has been diverted from such efforts, and border security has become tighter.

At home, Fox faces widespread poverty, crime, corruption, and drugs.

Canada Jean Chretien (Zhon kray-TYEHN), 68, grew up in the French-speaking province of Quebec. Many residents there want Quebec to become an independent country--but not Chretien. He has long advocated (called for) a unified Canada.

Chretien became Prime Minister in 1993. His Liberal Parry won re-election for the third consecutive time in November 2000.

Last spring, a series of government scandals rocked Canada, and Chretien's approval rating took a nosedive. In response, Chretien established new governmental ethics codes. He has also helped the country address the claims of native peoples to land and self-rule.

Because of terrorist concerns, the U.S. and Canada have been cooperating to increase security along the 3,987-mile border that separates the two nations.


Fidel Castro, 76, came to power in Cuba in 1959, after the fall of dictator Fulgencio Batista. Castro was a leader of rebel forces in Cuba who overthrew Batista's government, and he became President soon after the revolution. Castro has governed longer than any other current world leader.

After Castro's rise to power, many Cubans fled to the U.S. in search of better lives. In the early 1960s, Castro allied himself with the Soviet Union. The U.S. then broke off ties with this Communist nation and imposed an embargo (an order to halt trade). Officially, U.S. tourists are not permitted to visit Cuba.

Last May, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter visited the island of Cuba. Carter noted that health care and education have improved under Castro. But Carter criticized Castro for jailing political opponents and preventing free elections.


South Africa

Thabo Mbeki (TAH-bo M-BECK-ee), 60, was elected President in 1999. Mbeki, who succeeded Nelson Mandela as head of the African National Congress (ANC) and as South African President, lived in exile in the West for many years.

With high unemployment and rising crime rates, Mbeki has not enjoyed the popularity of Nelson Mandela. And Mbeki has been widely criticized for his handling of South Africa's AIDS epidemic.

Until 1995, a white government ruled South Africa. It enforced racial-separation laws called apartheid. These laws have damaging effects even today.

In spite of its problems, South Africa has been a stabilizing influence in sub-Saharan Africa, where many nations are divided by civil war.


In 1999, when Olusegun Obasanjo (O-LOO-say-goon 0-BAH-san-jo) was elected President, many people hoped he would be a positive force in Africa's most populous country. Obasanjo, 64, was Nigeria's first democratically elected President in many years, ending a long history of brutal dictatorships.

Yet many Nigerians are dissatisfied with the President's efforts to improve their country's outlook. Most Nigerians live on less than $1,000 a year.

Although Nigeria is rich in oil, most of it is exported to other nations, and there are massive fuel shortages within the country. Nigeria is also divided by violence between Muslims and Christians.


When Alejandro Toledo, 56, was elected President in June 2001, many Peruvians hoped that he would help make their lives better. The first cholo, or native Peruvian, to hold office in the last 500 years, Toledo is nicknamed Pachacutec, after an ancient Inca ruler.

Like most Peruvians, Toledo grew up poor. One of 16 children, he shined shoes as a boy. Toledo attended Stanford University in California on a scholarship, and earned a Ph.D. in economics. He worked as a professor before entering politics.

But jump-starting Peru's stalled economy--and helping its 26 million people out of poverty--has proved a difficult task for Toledo. He has been unable to fulfill his promises of new jobs and better housing and health care, and his approval rating has fallen to about 20 percent. Toledo has asked Peru's people to have "patience while we realize this difficult work."


When Robert Mugabe, 78, became Zimbabwe's first President in 1980, he said that he would bring justice to this former British colony.

Unfortunately, Zimbabwe has faced many hardships under Mugabe. Mugabe has forced white farmers to relinquish (give up) their land without compensation. The President wanted poor blacks to receive the land, which was seized by the British during the colonial era. However, many critics complained that Mugabe was giving the land to his supporters, and that his policies would worsen the country's current hunger crisis.

Mugabe has discouraged protests, and has jailed journalists and demonstrators. He was re-elected last spring in an election that most observers believe was corrupt.


United Kingdom

Tony Blair, 49, became Prime Minister when the Labour Party won parliamentary elections in 1997. He was re-elected by a landslide in 2001. Since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, this politician has been a strong ally of the U.S., supplying military forces to fight in Afghanistan. Blair has also backed U.S. President George W. Bush in his call for military action against Iraq.

At home, the Prime Minister has supported reform of the criminal-justice system. He also must decide whether to adopt the euro--the official monetary unit of the European Union--as the national currency.


Gerhard Schroeder (also spelled Schroder), 58, has been Germany's Chancellor since 1998. In September, he narrowly won re-election to another four-year term. Schroeder now faces the difficult task of forming a coalition government with varied agendas. Germany also must deal with high unemployment and a stalled economy. And many areas of eastern Germany are struggling to rebuild after massive flooding last summer.

Schroeder has been critical of a possible U.S.-led war on Iraq, which damaged his relations with President Bush. In an effort to repair this relationship, Germany has offered to rake command of peacekeeping duties in Afghanistan.


Vladimir Putin, 50, became Russia's second President in 2000. Previously, this martial-arts expert was a government spy and head of his country's Federal Security Service.

Since the fall of Communism in 1991, the Russian people have faced a weak economy and financial hardships. Now, the nation must also deal with widespread drug abuse, gang activity, and an alarming AIDS crisis.

The war on terror has brought Russia and the U.S. closer together. Putin agreed to a new arms-reduction treaty with the U.S., and joined an alliance with many Western nations to fight terrorism around the world.


Silvio Berlusconi, 66, was sworn in as Italy's Prime Minister in June 2001. But Berlusconi is more than just Italy's leader. He is also the country's richest citizen. Berlusconi owns a media and sports empire worth $7.2 billion.

Berlusconi's plans for Italy include tax cuts for all citizens and a reduction in illegal immigration. Liberals have criticized the right-wing Berlusconi, head of the Forza Italia party. Many Italians protested after the Prime Minister removed two liberal television hosts from government-controlled TV stations. They complained that Berlusconi had used his power unfairly.



Atal Bihari Vajpayee (Vazh-pie-ee), 77, has served as India's Prime Minister since 1999. A former journalist, Vajpayee governs an impoverished nation with the world's second-largest population.

Vajpayee, who is in fragile health, is the head of the Hindu nationalist party. He governs a people of extreme contrasts in terms of wealth, education, background, and employment.

In the past year, tensions with Pakistan have increased over Kashmir, a region that both nations claim. Relations between the two nuclear powers remain tense.


Pervez Musharraf, 59, took over Pakistan in a bloodless coup (overthrow of a government) in 1999. Since September 11, 2001, General Musharraf has been one of U.S. President Bush's most important allies in the war against terror.

Musharraf allowed U.S. troops to use Pakistan as a base for military action in Afghanistan. But while helping the U.S., Musharraf must also be careful not to anger militant Islamists who hold great power in Pakistan.

Pakistan has many internal problems, including poverty and struggles between different ethnic groups. The country is also in a dispute with India over control of Kashmir.


Jiang Zemin (jee-ang Dzuh-meen), 76, was appointed President of the world's most populous nation in 1993. Jemin is slated to transfer some of his power to younger Chinese politicians, but some people doubt that he will do so.

The Communist party, which controls many aspects of life in China, once ran the country's economy. Today, China is switching to a free-marker system. There has been a huge growth in private-sector jobs, and the standard of living has improved for many people. But jobs are no longer guaranteed, and as many as 40 million Chinese people are now unemployed.

China will host the Summer Olympics in 2008. But many people criticize its poor human-rights record.


Hamid Karzai, 44, became Afghanistan's President in June 2002. He was appointed by a traditional Afghan assembly made up of the country's various ethnic groups.

Karzai served as Afghanistan's interim (temporary) President after U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban government in December 2001. As President, Karzai has appointed some extremist leaders--rather than professional politicians--to fill cabinet seats. Critics say this will hinder efforts to make the country more democratic.

After decades of war, Afghanistan is in ruins. Most people are impoverished, and fighting has displaced many families. Afghanistan is still an unstable and violent land. In recent months, Karzai has survived several assassination attempts.



Many Iraqi children have suffered under United Nations embargoes imposed since the Gulf War. But Hussein is rumored to have gained a $6 billion fortune from oil smuggling and other illegal activities.

Saddam Hussein (hoo-SANE), 65, has been President since 1979. He rules as a dictator and invaded Kuwait in 1990. After this invasion, U.S.-led forces drove Iraqi troops our of Kuwait.

Hussein has prevented UN inspectors from searching for chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons in his country. U.S. President Bush believes that Hussein should be removed from power. (See News Special, p. 4)


Israel is struggling to find a way to peacefully coexist with the Palestinians. In September 2000, the peace process stalled. Since then, violence between Israelis and Palestinians has increased. Over the past two years, Palestinian suicide bombers have killed nearly 600 Israelis. The Israeli Army has cracked down on Palestinians, invading and reoccupying Palestinian-held areas. More than 1,500 Palestinians have been killed in fighting.

Ariel Sharon (Share-OWN), 74, was elected Prime Minister of Israel in February 2001. A former army general, Sharon has long been one of Israel's most controversial figures.

Palestinian Authority

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and U.S. President George W Bush have said the Palestinians need a new leader, and Arafat has called for elections for next year. But few people expect his opponents to succeed.

Yasir Arafat (YAH-seer AHR-uh-FAT), 73, has been President of the Palestinian Authority since 1996. Arafat rejected an Israeli land-for-peace offer in 2000, flawed. Since then, tensions have grown. In September, Israeli tanks destroyed Arafat's headquarters after an Arab suicide bombing in Tel Aviv.



Like the U.S., Australia has resisted signing the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty to reduce global warming. Howard says the treaty would be too expensive for Australia, the world's leading coal exporter, and could hurt his country's economy.

John Howard, 63, has been Australia's Prime Minister since 1996.

Howard has taken a hard line against illegal immigrants, and has been criticized for not helping the Aborigines, Australia's native people.
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Publication:Junior Scholastic
Date:Oct 18, 2002
Previous Article:Iraq: a threat to world peace? You can use the maps, facts, and profiles in this issue to better understand the news. To learn how, read this article...
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