- The Washington Times - Friday, May 5, 2006

Taiwan and the WHO

According to the White House’s new plan to deal with outbreaks of avian flu (“Nation told to prepare for flu,” Nation, Thursday), the United States will work with organizations such as the World Health Organization to contain the disease in its country of origin. But what if there were an infected country that because of political reasons was not allowed to participate in the WHO?

As a major international cargo transshipment point and the only country in the world not afforded the right to participate in the WHO, Taiwan very well may become that country one day. And despite its world-class public-health system and proven track record of humanitarian actions all over the world, it is still kept from participating in the WHO.

No one will truly be safe until all are allowed to participate in the battle against contagious diseases. It is time for Taiwan to be allowed to join the WHO.


North Potomac

Questions on Puerto Rico’s future

The recent editorial “Puerto Rico and statehood” (April 30) encapsulates with accuracy the fatal flaws afflicting the President’s Task Force Report on Puerto Rico’s Status. Far from offering a legitimate road map for the future, as Delegate Luis Fortuno misguidedly argues in his rebuttal to your editorial (“Puerto Rico’s status,” Letters, Wednesday), the task force’s report flatly denies self-determination to the people of Puerto Rico.

Rather than enabling Puerto Ricans to exercise in an unencumbered manner their inalienable right to self-determination, the task force’s report recommends that Congress provide for a federally sanctioned plebiscite that essentially stacks the deck in favor of statehood; an option that has been consistently rejected by the island’s electorate.

In order to derail the commonwealth alternative, which has prevailed in all plebiscites since 1967, the report suggests putting the options of statehood and independence on one side of the ballot lined up together against commonwealth. If the vote for commonwealth does not exceed the combined vote for the other two options, a second vote between statehood and independence would be required. If, on the contrary, commonwealth were to prevail on the first vote, the report further recommends that the people of Puerto Rico keep voting until either statehood or independence wins. Either scenario would pave the way for statehood since less than 4 percent of the voters support independence.

The people of Puerto Rico are well advised in not lending their support to this procedural charade. The future of our association with the United States belongs not in the hands of second-tier bureaucrats lacking the most basic historical and legal understanding of such a complex relationship, but in the hands of our people. Let the people of Puerto Rico tread along a path of their own choosing; free from procedural traps and misleading schemes.

The right approach is embodied in the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act of 2006 currently before Congress. This bill calls for the election of a local constitutional convention that will have the task of formulating a real self-determination proposal. This is by far the most democratic procedural option and the one with deepest roots in American constitutional history.



What the news story from combined dispatches on Puerto Rico (“Puerto Rico fiscal crisis worsens,” Nation, Thursday) does not say is that the governor of Puerto Rico, former Democratic delegate to Congress (2000-2004) Anibal Acevedo Vila ran on the issue of no sales taxes, that during the same period he and the former Democratic Gov. Sila Calderon increased the territory’s public debt by almost 50 percent from $27 billion to $39 billion on an economy that was growing at a rate of 2 percent in an all-out effort to increase the payroll prior to the 2004 elections.

What the news story does not say is that Gov. Acevedo Vila’s budget deficit of $740 million represents an increase in the budget of 7 percent over the previous budget, which comes on top of unprecedented increases in the price of all government services, toll roads and utilities, not to mention the increases in the price of oil.

What the news story does not say is that the current Republican delegate from Puerto Rico to Congress, Luis Fortuno, has been insisting on controlling government spending as a way to stimulate the supply side of the economy and create private-sector jobs to no avail.

What the news story does not say is that the so-called commonwealth status that was inaugurated shortly after World War II has become obsolete as a result of the globalization of the world economy and no longer serves as an instrument of American foreign policy in Latin America.

On the contrary, as America fights a war to bring freedom to Iraq, it seems as if the Latin America countries are embarked on a project of losing theirs while Puerto Rico remains deadlocked and idle with no role to play as a showcase of democracy.

This is one reason why the recently released White House Task Force Report on Puerto Rico together with the bills introduced in Congress by Mr. Fortuno and Sen. Mel Martinez, Florida Republican, are so relevant and important.

Congress must give Puerto Rico the opportunity to come out of its colonial status if it is to play a meaningful role in advancing the cause of freedom and democracy in Latin America.



‘United 93’ well worth watching

I went to see “United 93” (” ‘United 93’ puts terror close-up,” Movies, April 28). It was good, I think, for us — myself and those who saw the movie with me — to relive the events of September 11.

There were perhaps a dozen of us. I don’t imagine for a moment that I was the only one fighting the desire, the visceral drive, to stand up and shout things during the movie — all sorts of things.

I wanted to give voice to my hatred as the assailants spoke to God, thanking Him for the opportunity to commit atrocities. I wanted to shout with triumph as the passengers stormed the cockpit.

I wanted to wail with grief as passengers — mothers, brothers, daughters — called home for the last time. I wondered if I could have found the words I wanted to be my last to my loved one or my friend.

In the end, though, I and everyone else in that theater said nothing. As the lights came up, we sat, perfectly still, absolutely silent. No one rustled candy wrappers. No one got up or took his coat from the seat next to him. No one spoke, not even in a whisper. We sat, stunned and empty. Stunned by what we had witnessed. Perhaps stunned that any of us could forget a day like that one. Empty because lost innocence leaves a hole behind.

Whatever anyone else ever says of Americans, I am grateful that we are the kind of people who stand up. We stand on battlefields of our own and those of others, and we stand up in the aisle of the plane when that’s what needs to be done. It’s not always popular to stand up, to say “enough is enough,” but when it needs to be said, Americans say it. And I’m proud of that.

Finally, I want to share with you the single most important thing I learned. The fact that United Flight 93 was flown into the ground means that the terrorists underestimated the passengers. I only pray that we continue to rise above the fear and cowardice, the deficiency of resolve they have attributed to us. We are not what they think we are.

I encourage everyone to see this movie.

Don’t go in hopes of being entertained. Don’t pass it up fearing graphic violence; there is very little of that. Go see the movie for the same reason you might linger near the grave of the Unknown Soldier or read a book about Helen Keller: because people who have sacrificed much, who have risen above much, ought to be remembered — often.


Brunswick, Maine

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