- The Washington Times - Friday, January 31, 2003

Legal aliens are given ID

The letter from Mike Stollenwerk of Alexandria ("Licenses for illegals," Wednesday) included the following erroneous statement: "During the two-to-three-year-long wait for the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to adjust one's status to permanent residency, a law-abiding alien is provided no credible documentation of his status from the INS and is not even permitted to renew his visa."
I am an immigration officer, and I can tell you, without any uncertainty, that all legal aliens are given some form of documentation reflecting their status. They are given such ID upon their entry into the United States, and they also are given supplementary documentation during their renewal or legalization periods.
Once again, this is a prime example of the great unwashed who have no knowledge of the INS process other than the dribble they get from fellow bleeding-heart liberals.

DAVID BREHMER
Gulfport, Miss.

U.S. at fault for delegitimizing U.N.

I am writing in response to Nancy E. Soderberg's column "Take back the U.N." (Op-Ed, Wednesday). Although she evidently does not see the irony, it truly is ironic that President Bush accuses the United Nations of losing its legitimacy when there is no country that has contributed more to devaluing the organization than the United States, especially under the Bush administration. The United States' damage to the United Nations starts at the top in the manner in which it manipulates the appointment of leaders of U.N. bodies.
For example, there was the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), for which the United States selected Carol Bellamy to follow James Grant. Mrs. Bellamy almost disabled the world's primary advocate for children. Both in Afghanistan and now in Iraq, UNICEF has remained silent about the plight of children caused by U.S.-backed sanctions because of American pressure to keep quiet.
Then there was the chief of the United Nations itself. The United States prevented Boutros-Boutros Ghali from getting a second term as secretary-general because he had done too much to fulfill the mandate of the organization and too little to cater to U.S. special interests.
Last year, the target was Mary Robinson. While publicly expressing appreciation for her inspiring work for human rights, the United States worked behind the scenes to ensure that she did not continue as U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Then, just this week, the United States thwarted the attempt of the most qualified candidate for director-general of the World Health Organization Dr. Pascoal Manuel Mocumbi of Mozambique, who is both an acclaimed medical doctor and his country's prime minister to insert another contender, Dr. Jong-Wook Lee of South Korea, whom the United States could order around.
Mr. Bush is right. The United Nations is losing its legitimacy. But he is wrong in blaming others. Nobody is more to blame than the American government itself.

CURTIS FRANCIS DOEBBLER
Washington

Venezuela, U.S. share same values

The United States was founded upon two premises: that all men are created equal, and that everyone will have the opportunity to pursue life, liberty and happiness. As a beacon of hope throughout the rest of the Americas, it should come as no surprise that the same premises form the basis of other constitutions across the Western Hemisphere including Venezuela's.
The United States ratified its Constitution 214 years ago. Venezuela ratified hers 37 months ago.
The drafting and passage of Venezuela's constitution marked a profound and historic breakthrough for the rights and the preservation of the dignities of our people, particularly our poor, women and elderly. Passed in December 1999, our constitution banned discrimination, guaranteed rights to and recognized the historic heritage of our indigenous population, created the government's obligation to make a quality education available to every citizen, improved the social security pension system for senior citizens and guaranteed everyone the right to housing and health care. Our constitution also guaranteed the direct political participation of citizens who had been left out of the process of choosing their leaders. It also created the ultimate check-and-balance system: the direct-recall referendum of all elected politicians. I believe America's Founding Fathers would be proud of our constitution.
Needless to say, such broad and sweeping reform has not come without dissension. Unsurprisingly, and again borrowing from the writings of some of America's Founding Fathers, the Venezuelan constitution protects the free speech rights of every citizen including those calling for the president to stand down. (By the way, one of the principle "framers" of our constitution, and the one most credited with bringing it to a vote, is President Hugo Chavez.)
In a nation that has been ruled and used by a handful of political and economic groupthat have become fabulously wealthy, the passage of the constitution in Venezuela was only possible by the agreement of the overwhelming majority of Venezuela's population.
The people of Venezuela made these choices as they are made in the United States at the ballot box, in free and open elections. Similar reforms have been and are about to be made across South and Central America.
Some critics such as Thor Halvorssen vis-a-vis his column, "Venezuela through a tilted lens?" (Commentary, Jan. 22) might not approve of the short-term results of some of these choices, but they cannot honestly state that what has occurred in Venezuela was unwelcome, unfair or undemocratic.
Mr. Chavez and the overwhelming majority of Venezuelans take the premise and the promise made by our constitution very seriously. We believe in free speech, democracy, the rule of law and an open, market-based economy developed in the context of social justice. We believe in the value and dignity of all of our citizens. And, despite being distracted by a coup last April as well as the attempt of a small group of industrialists, supported by each of the four private broadcast TV stations, to cause the partial paralysis of some sectors of our economy Venezuela and all constitutionally based democracies should be proud of the progress we have made in such a short period of time.
The U.S. media, standing tall upon the shoulders of great Americans who have fought for freedom, must be prepared to accept what the newly enfranchised choose to do with their freedom. In Venezuela, a free people have chosen to follow the path of freedom. They have voted to enact their broad-reaching constitution, elected Mr. Chavez as their president and chosen to bring equal rights to all Venezuelans in order to make a society that is fair, open and just.
At a time in history when the values of peace, freedom and democracy are especially dear, the recent choices made by the people of Venezuela should be respected and encouraged.

BERNARDO ALVAREZ HERRERA
Ambassador
Embassy of the Republic of Venezuela
Washington

Man's new best friend?

The article "Rat Fan Club has pet peeve" (Arts, Saturday) was recently brought to my attention, and I am writing to express my displeasure at being unfortunate enough to lay eyes on such "journalism." I am one of those uncivilized humans who happens to adore the company of "icky, cringe-inducing rodents that creep out most civilized human beings." I happen to share my home with 10 adorable, affectionate domesticated rats, and to have it implied that I am somehow less than civilized for my choice in pets is rather insulting.
Obviously, the reporter needs to do a bit more research in regard to rats as pets before he expresses his misinformed opinions. Pet rats are about as "icky" as the family dog next door. Surely, the public would not hesitate to be outraged if it were a bunch of dead puppies being used as props on the TV show "Fear Factor," but because they are dead rats unfairly stereotyped as filthy, dirty, mean and destructive creatures somehow it is all right when they are exploited and abused? Even with wild rats, these stereotypes are not true, but they are especially erroneous when it comes to our beloved, domesticated pet rats.
I love my rats as I love my cats and dogs, my fish and hamsters. They are living, breathing creatures capable of great affection toward their caregivers. To brush them off as disposable "filth" because one doesn't understand them is insensitive and cruel.
Apparently, the reporter thinks that it is funny to use rats as props, to waste their lives in an effort to boost TV ratings. He writes: "[Rat lovers] think that's a bad thing, if you're wondering."
Why wouldn't this be a bad thing? Animal cruelty is animal cruelty, regardless of whether it is a dog or a snake or, yes, even a rat.

KIMBERLY WARNER
O'Fallon, Mo.

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