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Venezuelan Vote Offers Some Lessons

August 22, 2004

I was pleased to read Andrew Reding's article on Venezuela ("U.S. Should Form a Marshall Plan for Latin America," Commentary, Aug. 19), which gives a fairer treatment of Venezuela's political situation. Much of the U.S. media ignore the reality and history of Venezuela while painting President Hugo Chavez as a power-hungry leftist nut intent on waging class warfare, destroying the Venezuelan oil economy and cozying up to Fidel Castro. Just take a look at Michael Ramirez's cartoon next to Reding's article, which shows Chavez standing next to Castro.

So Reding asks the U.S. to help Latin America? What a novel idea. Almost 200 years since the Monroe Doctrine, which declared Latin America under the domain of the U.S. and off limits to European powers, the U.S. and multinational corporations continue to meddle in Latin American affairs.

However, the problem with Reding's solution is that the legacy of U.S. intervention in Latin America would overshadow any mission of goodwill to spread a "Marshall Plan" and would come off as another exercise of U.S. imperialism.

Jonathan Sepe

Newport Beach

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Re "To Appease Chavez Foes, Observers OK Partial Audit in Recall," Aug. 18: Though Chavez seems to have won by a wide margin, the opposition demanded a recount. As The Times reported, a recount there is possible because the millions who voted in Venezuela's referendum did so on electronic voting machines that supplied a paper confirmation of every vote cast.

When American voters cast their electronic ballots in November, the majority of such votes won't be able to be recounted and thus will be unverifiable. In the event of a very close election with highly contested results -- not exactly unprecedented -- we will have no option but to blindly trust the machine.

We ought to be grateful to Venezuelan election officials for showing that it is indeed possible to safeguard the credibility of electronic election returns, and for providing a model our own democracy may one day emulate.

Andy Silverman

Woodland Hills

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