MAIL CALL

Colombia's President

Our Aug. 9 story on Alvaro Uribe, based on a controversial Pentagon report, led readers to the Colombian president's defense. Cried one, "NEWSWEEK, you were had!" Said another, "Uribe is winning the drug war."

Defending Uribe's Record

It's unfair of NEWSWEEK to publish a declassified "intelligence" report from 1991 that leaves the impression that, at the time, the U.S. government suspected Alvaro Uribe, now president of Colombia, of being linked to narcotics trafficking ("Off the Hook?" Aug. 9). To the contrary, Uribe was known to those of us who followed his career as one of those brave public figures willing to openly proclaim their opposition to the drug cartel that then threatened to dominate his home city of Medellin. I was chief of South American affairs in the State Department when I first saw that inaccurate report from the Defense attache and complained. The U.S. Embassy in Bogota later corrected the record. That correction should have been declassified along with the original sloppy report that NEWSWEEK too readily credited.
Phillip McLean
Washington, D.C.

NEWSWEEK, you were truly and grossly had! Communist guerrillas in Colombia, especially those known as the FARC, feed well-elaborated lies to poorly informed journalists. They even spend a lot of money buying columnists of the most influential international publications to discredit President Uribe, the first true enemy they have found in Colombia's troubled recent history. In fact, he is the No. 1 champion of the battle against terrorist gangs fueled by dope money. Your readers should know that FARC is not a political organization; it consists of drug producers and smugglers of the worst kind. They generate terror in little towns deep in the countryside and spread fear among farmers in their quest for political power. They are responsible for thousands of kidnappings, assassinations and disappearances. They abuse the liberty that our Constitution grants them and they have a few representatives elected to Congress whose job it is to disinform and spread calumny against President Uribe because he is winning the war against drug traffickers and terrorists.
Said Gutierrez
Madrid, Spain

Your article regarding the president of Colombia is unbecoming of a magazine of your stature. What was stated in that article is unsubstantiated. The intelligence report does not offer any actual proof of those accusations. It is common knowledge that Uribe's father's farm bordered Pablo Escobar's father's farm and the two elders shared a great interest in horses. It would be simple to assume that Uribe and Pablo Escobar knew each other. However, no one has ever shown that there were any established ties between the two. Uribe has enough enemies that, if this were true, it would have been investigated and prosecuted a long time ago. It is sad that your magazine decided to fuel a personal vendetta against a sitting president who is fighting a very difficult war against insurgents and right-wing paramilitaries. Do some more research, please.
J. David Perez
Clearwater, Florida

You argue that Alvaro Uribe had connections with paramilitary and narco groups. This information is false: our president has shown an excellent governing style. NEWSWEEK should be more careful with information that is not confirmed.
Carlos Arias
New York, New York

How dare you publish an unverified document with allegations that Colombia's president had connections with drug dealers, listing him in the same category as Pablo Escobar? Did you just pick up gossip from somewhere that fits your own political agenda? How dare you make such a strong statement about someone who has extradited more than 140 drug dealers to the United States? Nobody has confronted Colombia's conflict as President Uribe has. We are, for the first time in decades, winning this war--thanks to this administration. Ask the U.S. government about it. The Colombian people are so happy with Uribe that, for the first time in our history, we are considering changing our Constitution in order to re-elect him. After two years as president, his approval rating topped 80 percent.
Maria Mendoza
Bogota, Colombia

Why are you trying to discredit the best president Colombia has had in decades? Dragging out an old and mistaken accusation by the U.S. Department of Defense against Alvaro Uribe certainly does not speak well of your journalistic objectivity or good judgment.
Timmy Ashe
Cali, Colombia

Re-Elections in Latin America?

Joe Contreras's analysis of Colombia's risk in seeking a constitutional change that would permit President Uribe to seek re-election ("The Re-Election Risk," June 28), cites other countries in South America, notably Argentina and Peru, where similar initiatives led to failed leadership. But Colombia's challenges in the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking are unique and require bold solutions and strong leadership. Colombians have found this in President Uribe, which is why after 24 months in power as Colombia's chief executive, he remains the most popular president in the country's modern history. Colombia has strong and mature political institutions and a strong tradition of elections. Besides, contrary to what Contreras implies in citing Congressman Gustavo Petro, Colombia has a free press that serves as an effective check against any Colombian leader who would seek to exercise political power beyond what the country's Constitution provides. If the Constitution is amended to enable President Uribe to seek a second term, he remains accountable to a Colombian electorate who will decide if his continued leadership is beneficial to the nation.
Fernando Rojas
Medellin, Colombia

The Original Olympics

Michael Meyer should not forget that ancient Greece gave the world not only the Olympics but also democracy ("A Gold Medal for Brutality," Aug. 9). While he insists on some minor negative aspects of the Games, he forgets that the Olympics started as an institution in ancient Greece, which had a highly developed civilization where citizens debated current issues, and where the first-ever banking transactions took place on big tables called trapeza (now the modern Greek word for "bank"). At that time, Anglo-Saxons were nothing but brutal barbarians. These days the brutality takes place on a different level: among ruthless American and multinational corporations that try to squeeze out every single drop of profits for the benefit of their modern "barbarian" owners, whose measure for everything is not the "man" (as in ancient Greece) but money.
George Koumparellis
London, England

Ouch! I bet many readers will tell you that there has never been such an event as "the 1933 Games in Nazi Germany." A country cannot host the Olympics. The correct expression must be the Berlin Olympics, or the 1936 (not 1933!) Summer Olympic Games of Nazi-era Berlin. Just as the current games were not Greece's, but those of Athens.
Gerard Lepine
Paris, France

Greece, a European Partner?

Strong unions, economics and especially partnerships are built not on handouts but on principles, values and deeply rooted institutions--all seemingly almost nonexistent in today's Greece ("A Bridge to Nowhere," May 10). More important, it is the right mentality and attitudes that shape new partnerships and the mutual respect stemming from them. Greece unquestionably lacks all these, a feeling widespread not just in the EU offices in Brussels but among those who live and work here as well. Even more disappointing is the lack of any vision vested in these qualities as the country has been scorched for more than 20 years by corruption on an epidemic scale, an inefficient public administration and the inept use of public funds. In today's competitive environment, Europe cannot afford the luxury of wasting its efforts on building "bridges to nowhere," let alone paying for them. After 20-plus years of membership in the EU and tens of billions of euros in subsidies, Greece remains a marginal "European" partner whose contribution to the Union seems to be the most expensive "what-not-to-do" manual.
Thomas Papalexiou
Thessaloniki, Greece

There is no particular north- south pattern of development differences in Greece. In fact, the region northwest of the Gulf of Corinth, relatively isolated from the more prosperous eastern mainland by the Pindus mountain range, is, if anything, less developed than the Peloponnesian peninsula and more likely to benefit economically from the improvement in transport communications owed to the Rio-Antirrio bridge. And by the way, this is not the Corinth bridge, which is the one over the Corinth canal, some 120 kilometers to the southeast. So I would suggest that your argument, that the noninclusion of a rail line in the project is likely to condemn the "stubbornly underdeveloped" Peloponnesus to remaining so, is a bungled one. Further, while it is true that the bridge is still incomplete (as the caption to a six-month-old photograph says), it would have been preferable to say that it is going to be open to traffic three months ahead of schedule. That way you would have avoided misleading your readers.
Haris Argyropoulos
Athens, Greece

The Price of Princely Arrogance

Misreading the headline of Fareed Zakaria's "The Price of Arrogance" (May 17) as "The Prince of Arrogance," I first thought it meant George W. Bush, then Dick Cheney, then Donald Rumsfeld. After reading Zakaria's accurate, sadly fantastic essay, I reflected upon the price we are paying for this triumvirate of princely arrogance. As an American living abroad, I can attest to Zakaria's comment about "the creation of a poisonous atmosphere of anti-Americanism" around the world. America is largely perceived as an international outlaw here in Europe in spite of its myriad good intentions. George Bush is often portrayed as a gunslinging Texas cowboy; his administration adopts the role of protective posse. Bush may believe he is the one wearing the white hat, promoting God's gift to humanity (otherwise known as democracy), but Europeans are not so sure. They mistrust his motives, they are disturbed by the blanket mandate justified by 9/11 and they can spot double standards as easily as they can find those abhorrent Abu Ghraib photos on the Net.
D. J. Fosbenner
via internet

Congratulations, and welcome to our club, Fareed Zakaria. Finally, you are beginning to get it. What an astounding and unapologetic turnabout for a hitherto staunch defender of the Bush administration's views and deeds! Did it really take Abu Ghraib to open your eyes? Now let's hope for some new Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein stepping forward to educate the American public at large, especially the U.S. electorate, come November.
Jens Fromm
Cologne, Germany

Every week I eagerly await the arrival of NEWSWEEK to read Fareed Zakaria's commentary. As an American living in Germany, I must congratulate him for his excellent May 17 article that explains why an overwhelming majority of Germans are anti-Bush. Unfortunately, the arrogance emanating from Washington has led to anti-Americanism in places where it had never existed before.
Erwin A. Scheller
Memmingerberg, Germany

The price of arrogance had been blood and bucks all these months; now, we have shame to bear, in addition. So long as Bush and his militant advisers steer the country, this steep price will continue to climb. November cannot come too soon.
Michael G. Driver
Ichihara City, Japan

It is important for Americans to know that they still have many friends here in Germany--in particular, among the older generation--who remember the Marshall Plan, CARE parcels and President Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech. But this will all change if George W. Bush wins the November election because American voters will then be held responsible for their president's deeds and millions of anti-Bush Germans will become definitely anti-American. "America is ushering in a new responsibility era where each of us understands we're responsible for the decisions we make in life." Yes, President Bush speaks perfectly to the point here.
Hans Sillescu
Mainz, Germany

I commend Fareed Zakaria for telling the truth about Iraq. This American is sickened and enraged by the crimes and abuses that have been perpetrated in the name of fighting terror and defending freedom. The Bush administration has recklessly created a foreign-policy debacle, and the awful consequences of the resulting loss of moral legitimacy, national isolation and increased hatred and distrust of the U.S. abroad will unfold over several generations. How long will these irresponsible people get away with falsely justifying the unjustifiable aggression in Iraq on the basis of 9/11, calling resistance to invasion and military occupation terror and hatred of freedom?
Paul Rust
Yokohama, Japan

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