- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 15, 2002

Democracy did not ruin Paraguay

As a Paraguayan, I consider the "special contribution" from Reed Lindsay offensive, biased and misleading ("Democracy's disillusionment," World, Tuesday).

To begin with, I am not sure I understand the message of the article. Is it intended to break the news that there are corrupt politicians in Paraguay? Unfortunately, that would not be news.

The fight against political corruption in Paraguay might be more surprising for your readers. Is Mr Lindsay aware that a considerable grass-roots movement recently observed a national day of mourning over the lamentable state of affairs in our government and that many Paraguayans publicly displayed black flags of solidarity against corruption?

Would this article have readers believe the average Paraguayan believes democracy ruined the country? Is it meant to suggest that the majority in Paraguay is willing to exchange democracy for a "benevolent" dictatorship?

What is clear is that Mr. Lindsay has spun his tale incorporating timely sound bites from an odd cast of characters. A chambermaid in a brothel, a community leader from one of our capital's poorest neighborhoods, a politically ambitious government planning secretary and a rights activist can hardly be considered as representative of our nearly 6 million citizens.

Based on his skewed sample, Mr. Lindsay proceeds to affirm that perhaps in no other country the failings of democracy have been as clear as in Paraguay. That seems an ambitious slander. Exactly what scorecard is he using to rate failed democracies?

Mr. Lindsay also hints that the Paraguayan economy has been brought to its knees as a result of corruption, i.e. failed democracy. He fails, however, to mention that during Gen. Alfredo Stroessner's dictatorship, Paraguay was the beneficiary of billions of dollars of foreign investment associated with the construction of the world's biggest and most powerful dam and several years of high international prices for soybeans and cotton, our main exports.

A more objective assessment might ascribe Paraguay's economic prosperity or lack thereof more to market and global economic forces than the undisputed corruption of certain democratically elected officials.

Finally, I would like to offer your readers another perspective on Paraguay and Paraguayans.

There are many of us who believe firmly in and are committed to the institution of democracy. We work toward the goal of a transparent and sustainable democracy every day, within the framework of the democratic political process. To us, the idea of a return to dictatorship is as disagreeable as I imagine the idea of returning sovereignty of the United States to Queen Elizabeth II would be for you and your readers.

Perhaps Mr. Lindsay could write such a piece, incorporating select comments from the disenfranchised descendants of some English loyalists on your Eastern seaboard.


Asuncion, Paraguay

For the historical record

E.D. Lowry described as "dead wrong" my passing reference to French abandonment of the British Expeditionary Force in World War II, proposing that the shoe was on the other foot ("Who abandoned whom at Dunkirk?" Letters, Monday). Even on the face of it, Mr. Lowry's point comes across as irrational. Why would it be a British responsibility to take French forces off the beaches of France? (Actually, most of the French 1st Army escaped through a British-maintained corridor.)

The British rescue at Dunkirk, using every kind of water-borne vessel available, is a heart-rending story, preserved in literature by many authors. For the present purpose, though, I recommend Volume II of Winston Churchill's "The Second World War," pages 53 through 87. An almost hourly account is given of the sorry affair known as the Battle of France, with communications between the governments reproduced in full.

The comprehensive failure of the Maginot Line, the wholesale collapse of the French front in minutes, the absence of reserves and the combination of inability and unwillingness of the French military to defend their homeland is something friends of France would like to forget. It also is something America's military planners had better remember.



D.C. is not a one-party town

Tuesday's Page 1 article, "Local primary contests tighten" stated: "Whoever captures the [Democratic mayoral] primary will be, at least for now, the de facto winner of the Nov. 5 general election: No Republican candidate has come forward." The last part of that sentence is false.

Given The Washington Times' near-absolute refusal to even mention Republican candidates running for mayor, it appears, at least for now, that The Times has, de facto, endorsed Democrat Anthony A. Williams for mayor.

Three Republican candidates came forward. Two of them, Robert Pittman and Todd Zirkle, attended our Republican mayoral meet-the-candidates forum held at the Capitol Hill Club on Sept. 6. Despite the press coverage blackout and short notice, more than two dozen Republican voters peppered Mr. Pittman and Mr. Zirkle with questions concerning issues such as repealing the District's Draconian gun ban, closing the Department of Motor Vehicle inspection station in favor of private inspection stations, working to meet our community's commitment to the poor and homeless, and D.C. statehood. Both longtime residents of the city exhibited a very respectable command of the issues.

Before the event, Kristofor Hammond, the D.C. Young Republican Events Committee chairman, e-mailed information concerning the candidates forum to the metropolitan desk editor and later forwarded the e-mail to the assistant metropolitan desk editor. He left a phone message for the editor and sent a follow-up e-mail detailing our communication with The Washington Post, which had demonstrated interest in our event.

Even absent our concerted efforts to get your attention, standard journalistic practices should have led your reporters to at least qualify the "no candidate" statement on Tuesday. A simple call to the D.C. Board of Elections would have disabused The Times of that notion.

We are very disappointed that although both The Times and The Washington Post failed to cover any of the credible first-time Republican candidates for mayor, both newspapers thought it appropriate to faithfully cover the bugle-blower Faith Dane and other perennial Democratic candidates.



District of Columbia Young Republicans


Bill Simon's 'biggest hurdle': fellow Republicans

Lyn Nofziger, a former adviser in the Reagan administration, is free to make any comments he likes about his perception of the state of Bill Simon's campaign for governor ("Former Simon aide condemns flip-flop in California race," Nation, Monday). Those are his opinions, whether or not they mirror reality. However, since he is quoted as saying he only spent a few days anywhere near the campaign, perhaps his perceptions may not be anywhere near reality.

However, your readership should expect a far lesser amount of perception and a far greater amount of reality when your reporters objectively report on the state of the Simon campaign. The reporter of the above-mentioned article states, "Mr. Simon failed to make headway against [Gov. Gray] Davis in a variety of polls ." Clearly, this is not the case, and your readers need to know this.

In the first Field poll taken earlier this summer, Mr. Davis held a 14 point lead, while numerous other private polls showed a double digit and high single digits. Now, after Mr. Davis has saturated the air waves with $18 million in negative advertising, his lead is down to 7 points in the latest Field poll and even less in private polls.

While the future cannot be foretold, it is quite conceivable that this shrinking lead will be reduced further as Mr. Simon hits the airwaves with his own commercials. With Mr. Davis' high negative ratings and voters believing that California is on the wrong track, Republicans have every reason to believe they can take back the governor's office. That is, if they can remember Ronald Reagan's so-called 11th commandment: Thou shall not speak ill of a fellow Republican. That's the biggest hurdle, not Mr. Davis.


State volunteer chairman

Simon for Governor

Los Angeles

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