- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 18, 2000

Peru's election could infect Latin American neighbors

I was disturbed to see The Washington Times feature William F. Buckley Jr.'s appallingly flawed column "Illegitimize Fujimori?" (Commentary, June 2). Consistent with Mr. Buckley's long career of being perfectly clear in his thunderous blasts against the transgressions of left-wing regimes, but oh, so careful when he enters the murky purlieus of his right-wing chums, he rejects the U.S. response to the recent elections in Peru as a futile effort.

Predictably swayed by President Alberto Fujimori's devotion to the drug war and free-market economy, Mr. Buckley argues a dangerous precedent for the evaluation of authentic democracy. If Mr. Fujimori is allowed to claim his presidential victory in an obviously tainted ballot, it could infect fragile neighboring democracies and reverse the past decades of modest growth in Latin America.

Mr. Fujimori has used his complete monopoly of power to bypass Peru's two-term constitutional limitation, exert total control over the tabloid press, fire judges who dared to rule against him and bribe voters with public funds. Such tactics corrupt the very essence of democracy and eliminate any theoretical chance that public support for opposition candidate Alejandro Toledo could be tested fairly at the polls.

Washington, for all its backpedaling on the issue, faces indifferent reactions from fellow Organization of American States members to Mr. Fujimori's latest outrage of vote rigging. Mutant Fujimocracy voids political accountability, undermines the power of the majority and ends up destroying faith in the democratic system.

In the quest to preserve Latin America's fledgling democracies, the United States should strive to protect the definition of democracy from further defacement by self-serving egoists such as Mr. Fujimori. Similarly, your readers might wish to be spared Mr. Buckley's selective indignation and his inability to be stressed by any excesses committed by his rightist brethren.


Research associate

Council on Hemispheric Affairs


An alarmist attack against Ritalin

I am a college student at a top university and have a great grade-point average. I also have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). While Phyllis Schlafly, in "Addiction trainees" (Commentary, June 14), mentions the few students who have had violent reactions while on medication, she forgets to mention the thousands of students like me whom Ritalin has helped. Penicillin also has caused unintended reactions in some patients, but no one argues against prescribing it because of all the people it benefits.

Alarmist columns such as Mrs. Schlafly's only bolster the stereotype that Ritalin shouldn't be given to students (and thus not given to those who need it and use it properly) or that students abuse Ritalin as a party drug.

Students with ADHD already are at a greater disadvantage than their peers because of their disability; they should not be disadvantaged further by constantly having to defend their usage of prescribed medications.



Metro deserves to be criticized for snafus

Finally, Metro's incompetence and disregard for the public and public safety are becoming more visible through the smoke screen. I hope more people will complain and protest the high costs of poor management and public safety propaganda.

I have seen drivers close train doors on handicapped people in wheelchairs. I have been in short delays announced by Metro that end up being a half-hour or more. Asking the station attendants about delays only gets smug sarcastic answers. They always seem to offer less than no help.

Then, after delays, no buses to get home. And don't forget overcrowded parking lots and trains so crowded that if it were any other location the fire department would have to close it down. Most people already know about the escalator problems that have killed people. I also have seen some Metro bus drivers come within inches of people standing on sidewalks that were not near bus stops, almost hitting them.

After these and many other similar incidents, I called to complain, only to get a low-level employee who couldn't have cared less. If I didn't get the bus driver's name, bus number or train number, these incidents never happened. But they did, and they still do.

Maybe Metro's rates will have to increase again to buy another insulating level of management so they can continue to play dumb and blame lower levels for gross mismanagement.


Crofton, Md.

Discrimination against off-highway vehicles

One needn't travel as far away as Yellowstone National Park to witness the indiscreet power of government or the zealous attitude of environmentalists toward recreational vehicle users ("Snowing the public," June 11). A situation has been brewing in Prince William County for more than a year and is coming to a head tentatively June 27 when the county board of supervisors votes on whether or not to permit legally sanctioned off-highway vehicles (i.e., all-terrain vehicles and dirt bikes) in the county.

About a year ago, the county clamped down hard on off-highway vehicle riders by levying $500 fines and confiscating vehicles being used principally in two areas: a forested area in a corridor adjacent to Interstate 95 between Dumphries and Dale City and the county's landfill.

Since there was "no governing authority" to permit such riding, the county was within its rights to do so ($500 fines against 16-year-old boys notwithstanding). The county, however, ceased to criminalize such behavior. It passed another ordinance requiring any off-highway vehicle rider to produce written proof he has permission to ride where he is, and it attempted to pass another ordinance requiring property owners to own at least 10 acres of land before they could even ride on their own property.

This proved to be too much for the several residents who organized the Prince William Off-Road Coalition (PWORC). PWORC's membership is now more than several hundred families. It has been featured in American Motorcyclist magazine (November 1999) and described as a grass-roots organization dedicated to promoting safe, responsible and environmentally friendly off-road riding.

To its credit, the county appointed a citizens task force to investigate the feasibility of using the landfill or any other piece of property for riding. But the task force, not to mention the county board of supervisors, is not without a faction openly hostile to the idea. Furthermore, some people think the task force is just the county's way of showing accountability without, in any sincere way, recognizing the needs of this segment of its residents.

Discrimination against off-road riding is not new. Some of this is understandable, since off-highway vehicles tend to be noisy and raise a lot of dust. These are manageable problems, however. Trees and shrubs can act as buffers. Adding a water sprinkler system that can be operated at a fraction of the cost of a neighborhood pool can eliminate virtually all dust.

Citing the 1996 Virginia Outdoor Plan, PWORC has shown that while 7 percent of the county in baseball and that an abundance of fields exist for the sport, 5 percent of the county participates in off-highway vehicle activities, but no places for riding exist.

Meanwhile, one young man was killed in 1999 and another boy seriously injured earlier this year while riding off-road highway vehicles on the road where they shouldn't be, as police officers arrest teen-agers for riding where they could be.

It's time official Washington and even rural Prince William County understand that off-highway vehicle riders are tax-paying citizens, responsible members of the community and ardent lovers of the environment, too.



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