- The Washington Times - Friday, July 28, 2000

EU seeks clemency

French Ambassador Francois Bujon de l'Estang Thursday appealed on behalf of the European Union for President Clinton to grant clemency to a convicted murderer and drug dealer who faces a federal death sentence.

The execution of Juan Raul Garza, scheduled Aug. 5, would be the first death sentence carried out by the federal government since 1963.

"The European Union solemnly asks you to use that power [of clemency] in favor of Mr. Garza and to commute his sentence to life imprisonment," Mr. Bujon de l'Estang wrote in a letter to Mr. Clinton. "In such a decisive case, we invite you to make a decision that sets an example."

The ambassador, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, delivered the letter to the White House.

Mr. Clinton intends to delay the execution but has not decided whether to commute the sentence.

Mr. Bujon de l'Estang urged Mr. Clinton to impose a moratorium on federal executions "as a first step toward the general abolition of the death penalty in the United States."

Garza was convicted in 1993 for ordering the killing of three men involved in his marijuana-smuggling operation in Texas.

'Spirit of democracy'

Czech Ambassador Alexandr Vondra is proud that his country was recognized for its democratic achievements when more than 100 nations met last month to celebrate the triumph of democracy.

Eleven years after the fall of communism, the Czech Republic was invited to participate as one of four conveners for the Community of Democracies conference, sponsored by the United States and Poland.

"There is undeniably a common ground of democratic values on which we can agree, if only the ground covered by Winston Churchill's famous dictum that 'democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time,' " Mr. Vondra wrote in the latest Czech Embassy newsletter.

Despite the expansion of democracies since the collapse of the Soviet Union, "it turns out that the predominance of democracy does not translate into any kind of an end of history," Mr. Vondra added.

"Even democratic states … sometimes have trouble cooperating in the international arena."

The most recent example is France, which refused to sign a concluding document at the democracy conference in Warsaw. French officials complained that the participants were trying to force democracy on other nations that may not be ready for representative government.

"Improving the cooperation of democracies in international organization and also on the nongovernment level could turn out to be the main positive outcome of the Community of Democracies project," he wrote.

"With more than 100 countries, any common ground can be but a compromise, which is, after all, very much in the spirit of democracy."

Mr. Vondra also said he is thankful that the conference lent support to Aung San Suu Kyi, the embattled democratic activist in Burma.

Burma's military government has kept Mrs. Suu Kyi under house arrest and refused to recognize the result of a 1989 election won by her National League for Democracy.

The conference pledged "to help the democracies that are under siege from dictators," Mr. Vondra said.

Cheney mania?

Cheney mania may not be sweeping the nation, but at least one State Department reporter Thursday was thinking about the Republican vice-presidential choice when he posed a question to spokesman Philip Reeker.

Consider this exchange:

Reporter: "Yesterday Secretary Cheney at the Congress, he said that he still believes that… ."

Mr. Reeker (interrupting): "Secretary who? I'm sorry."

Reporter: "Cheney. I'm sorry, Cohen. I'm sorry."

Laughter broke out in the briefing room.

The reporter, who was not identified on a transcript of the briefing, was trying to ask about Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, who told Congress he believes Iran and Iraq are still trying to develop nuclear missiles.

Richard B. Cheney, who is George W. Bush's pick for vice president, was secretary of defense under President Bush.

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