- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 11, 2003

Unwarranted vilification of Venezuela

Sunday’s editorial “A challenge to Chavez” made a number of unfounded claims about the administration of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

You said, “Hugo Chavez had ominously warned Venezuelans that their signatures for a recall would be recorded and remembered.” This presumably refers to comments Mr. Chavez made on Oct. 18. The next day, after the media reported that Mr. Chavez was threatening people, he clarified his remarks during his weekly television address. Mr. Chavez said he sought to reassure people that they could verify that their signatures were counted, “so that they don’t say afterward that they were cheated … I am not threatening anyone.” Your failure to mention this clarification, made on national television, amounts to taking the quote out of context and seriously misleads your readers.

Second, you accused the Chavez administration of using excessive force when responding to the two-month oil stoppage and business lockout earlier this year. This, frankly, is ridiculous. In the United States, a strike that caused even a tiny fraction of the economic damage wrought by the Venezuelan strike would be ended by an injunction under the Taft-Hartley Act, a tool President Bush used as recently as October 2002. Furthermore, Venezuela’s striking oil workers were federal workers who were making explicitly political demands. In the United States, federal workers do not have the right to strike, and it is illegal for strikers, public or private, to make political demands unrelated to wages, benefits or working conditions. It is fair to say that in dealing with the opposition oil strike, Mr. Chavez used significantly less force than would have been applied in the United States.

The government of Venezuela is fully committed to the “orderly and constitutional resolution” you favor. Your spurious vilification of the Chavez administration was uncalled for.



Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela


Old-fashioned reporting on classical education

In the Dec. 5 edition of The Washington Times’ Metropolitan section, it was reported that E.R. Braithwaite, author of the classic “To Sir, With Love” conducted a colloquium at Coolidge High School in a poor Washington neighborhood (” ‘Sir’ continues lessons about life”).

Mr. Braithwaite likened the school to the one where he taught in the East End of London after World War II. What was amazing about the exchange was that Mr. Braithwaite’s philosophy reflects an approach to teaching and learning he pioneered nearly 50 years ago, when he served as a teacher in the “top” class at Greenslade Secondary School. It is interesting to note that this experience provided the backdrop for the creation of “To Sir, With Love.” Visits to his classroom in Honors English at Howard University reveal a proclivity to instill traditional values that are reminiscent of his sojourn as a schoolteacher almost half a century ago: emphasis on punctuality, courtesy, proper manners, tidiness and respect for self and others.

The guiding philosophy, now used in Mr. Braithwaite’s Composition for Honors class at Howard University, is based on three enduring principles: reading as a means not only of developing a capacity to form opinions and judgments, but also, more importantly, as a preparation for change in a complex society; the correct use of language, not so much as a stylistic device, but more as a form of interpersonal communication or instrument of social learning in which each person learns from others; and the need for an extended vocabulary of words — the veritable “bricks” of communication. In Mr. Braithwaite’s eyes, students need to know, have and be familiar with enough words to allow for the widest possible choices when they think of something and wish to design the way in which it is spoken or written. Mr. Braithwaite brought the same message to Coolidge High. He told students that this familiarity with words could be achieved through reading. It is these words that will come in handy for speaking and writing.

These students at Coolidge High School must be encouraged and complimented for the high level of their research project on Mr. Braithwaite’s book. A visit to English teacher Loretta Kelly’s 12th-grade class revealed a very high degree of motivation, excitement and creativity. Ms. Kelly was self-effacing and gracious enough to take a back seat and allow her students to engage Mr. Braithwaite during this significant event. Principal Clifton Coates also should be commended for standing tall. Bravo to reporter Denise Barnes of The Washington Times for capturing the key issues presented in this memorable colloquium, and for relevance and old-fashioned reporting that is void of spin.

Though I am happy about the events on that special day, I do hope Education Secretary Rod Paige reads The Washington Times. We continue to witness a long historical trend in which schools in minority areas that are in the vanguard of learning do not receive adequate financial support and encouragement.



Victims of communism will be remembered

In regard to Wednesday’s article “Problems plague memorial to victims of communism” (Nation): While not denying that we have had our problems, especially fund-raising problems, during the 10-year history of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, we have accomplished the following:

• Created a broad-based nonpartisan organization that includes such eminent foreign policy experts as Zbigniew Brzezinski, Richard Pipes and Robert Conquest and such foreign leaders as former Polish President Lech Walesa, former Lithuanian President Vytautas Landsbergis and author and former Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky.

• Published a highly regarded book, “The Collapse of Communism,” suitable for classroom use, in 1999 in cooperation with the Hoover Institution.

• Produced a documentary film, “The Fall of the Wall,” which won a national Telly Award in 2000 as one of the best public-affairs films of the year.

• Visited museums and memorials in Berlin; Warsaw; Prague; Budapest; Vilnius, Lithuania; Seoul; and other cities, establishing an informal network of organizations concerned about the victims and crimes of communism.

m Inaugurated in 1999 the annual Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom Awards, which have been awarded to such distinguished individuals as Elena Bonner, widow of the famed Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov; Vaclav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic; the late Lane Kirkland, former president of the AFL-CIO; Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican; Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat; Wei Jingsheng of China; political philosopher Michael Novak; and Rep. Philip M. Crane, Illinois Republican.

Concluding after years of knocking on corporate, foundation and individual doors that we would not be able to raise $100 million for a bricks-and-mortar museum, we changed priorities early this year and determined to concentrate at this time on building a memorial — close to the U.S. Capitol — to the more than 100 million victims of communism. Thanks to the brilliant leadership of our president and chief executive, Jay Katzen, we are well on the way to raising the half-million dollars needed for the memorial.

At the same time, we are preparing to establish a virtual museum — linking museums around the world — in the first part of 2004. We are hopeful that all of this activity will stimulate support for our long-term goal of building a bricks-and-mortar museum in Washington.

One correction: We did not “fire” our executive director or our director of development. We ended our relationships by mutual agreement.

We have experienced many ups and downs over the past decade, but we are very proud of having kept alive the idea of a memorial to the victims of communism — an idea we are confident will be transformed into reality in October 2004.



Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation


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