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Venezuelan voters will make a choice

December 01, 2007

Re "Fooling most Venezuelans," Opinion, Nov. 24

Although Venezuelans will likely approve a set of constitutional reforms this month, William Ratliff concludes that they are wrong to do so. If we truly believe that free and fair elections are the hallmark of a democratic society, and that citizens have the right to choose their own leaders, then we must support Venezuelans when they exercise their right to do so. Even if those they elect, and the measures they approve, stray from our narrow understanding of democracy, what matters is that they participate and express the will of the people.

We would do well as Americans to remember that rather than underestimating the ability of entire populations to rule themselves. The very same mentality was used by the British to keep Americans enslaved, and we all know how that turned out.

Olivia B. Goumbri

Executive Director

Venezuela Information

Office

Washington

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Ratliff hits the nail on the head regarding Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his ultimate goals. Chavez has sought since his "election" to become the new Fidel of South America and is moving toward implementing a Marxist state under his control. The result ultimately will be a Venezuela that looks like Zimbabwe. Marxism as economics and politics never works except for the dictators and their retinue. The signs of failure are already extant in Venezuela in the food shortages and in other areas, but you can bet that neither Chavez nor Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe are going to miss any meals.

George Schirtzinger

Pasadena

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Ratliff calls what Venezuela may become after its Dec. 2 election "a populist dictatorship." This is a contradiction in terms. The people of Venezuela have a choice on Dec. 2. They can vote the reform down, or they can accept it. That's democracy. The issue isn't that Venezuela is a dictatorship. The issue is that Chavez has challenged U.S. policies in Latin America. This is a no-no to an ideologue like Ratliff.

The country is in the middle of a revolution that has many problems. The reforms in Venezuela are a continuation of handing over more power to the vast majority of people who are poor and formerly disenfranchised. Yes, there is strong opposition, but it represents the upper classes that have lost much ground in the revolution. There is much work to be done in Venezuela, but I've never seen a more engaged and intelligent electorate.

Luis J. Rodriguez

San Fernando

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