- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Angry in Bulgaria

Bulgarian prosecutors are howling over remarks by U.S. Ambassador James Pardew, who criticized authorities for failing to combat organized crime and for harassing journalists who expose official corruption.

His remarks at the National Judicial Conference in the capital, Sofia, last week were false and politically motivated, the Bulgarian prosecutors’ union said without detailing their charges.

“His statements are manipulative. They are not connected to the objective truth but are aimed at serving certain political interests,” the union said Tuesday.

In his speech, Mr. Pardew praised lawmakers for the progress they have made since the collapse of communism but cited “important weaknesses in Bulgaria’s judicial system.”

The ambassador recognized Bulgaria’s progress in strengthening some aspects of the judicial system, including legislation to combat human trafficking, enforce tax collection and establish codes of ethics for magistrates.

“Regrettably,” he added, “the authorities, themselves, are locked in a cycle of recrimination and finger-pointing, as police, courts, investigators and prosecutors each blame one another for the failure of the justice system to function properly. All institutions bear a share of the responsibility.”

Mr. Pardew said crime bosses are protected from prosecution and even “flaunt their immunity from the law openly.”

“Their armed convoys with vanity license plates can be seen throughout the country,” he said. “Brazen acts of violence continue to plague Bulgaria with frightening regularity, as criminal groups battle one another, committing murder and mayhem in public.”

He noted that Bulgarian authorities interdict “enormous amounts of narcotics and counterfeit currency but, strangely, there are not successful prosecutions of major drug bosses or counterfeiters.”

However, prosecutors have found time to investigate the British Broadcasting Corp. for a recent broadcast exposing official corruption.

“The BBC case reflects a mind-set harking back to the darkest days of oppression during the Cold War,” Mr. Pardew said.

He warned Bulgarians that corruption threatens the political gains they have made toward democracy.

“The Bulgarian people want a fully functioning democracy, and they deserve a legal system that engenders trust rather than fear,” he said.

Hopeful for Haiti

The top U.S. diplomat for Latin American issues appealed for foreign aid yesterday to save Haiti from a legacy of violence, corruption and unrelenting poverty.

Roger F. Noriega, the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, reported to the Organization of American States (OAS) on his visit to Haiti with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on Dec. 1.

Mr. Noriega expressed U.S. appreciation for international pledges of financial aid but urged the OAS diplomats to make sure the promises are fulfilled.

“Pledges alone will not improve conditions in Haiti,” he said. “We must work to overcome the bureaucratic hurdles in each of our governments and institutions to release the funds.”

Mr. Noriega noted the massive challenges facing the interim government that took over after the removal of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was forced into exile this year.

“Under former President Aristide, despite massive sums of international aid, Haiti sank into despair and anarchy,” Mr. Noriega said. “Aristide bequeathed the interim government a country whose institutions had been corrupted, its treasury looted and its police politicized.”

Despite the massive problems facing Haiti, Mr. Noriega expressed hope for peace and stability.

“I look to Haiti’s future with great optimism because I know that the international community stands willing and able to help Haitians get the honest leadership and good government that they have always deserved but rarely had,” he said.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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