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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Odds on Favorite
On, Vaughn!: After reading about Vickiel Vaughn ["254th-and-Long," Martin Kuz, Aug. 23], I think I see what his chances really are to make the 49ers roster. They're better than you think.

The 49ers' last pick in last year's draft, Billy Bajema, made the squad. The second-to-last pick in last year's draft is also on an NFL roster. For inspiration, Vickiel has to look at Mike Green, Mr. Irrelevent 2000. Green, a safety like Vaughn, is now a six-year NFL veteran, now with the Seattle Seahawks. So, if Vickiel Vaughn wants to make this club, the chances are good, but he still may need a Hail Mary to make this roster!

Joseph Veyera
Shoreline, Wash.

Lewis Is Burning
Global Exchange begs to differ: Matt Smith's article on the electoral dispute ["Mexico Burning?" Aug 23] in Mexico is very misleading.

Global Exchange did indeed observe the recent elections. We sent 30 highly qualified and carefully screened observers in early June, again at the time of the election, and a third time in August. Since 1994, I have organized 10 electoral observations in Mexico, watching the electoral system move from bad to pretty good.

In 2000, the year when Mexico voted out the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), I also organized by far the largest and best-qualified contingent of international observers. In response, the PRI conspired to expel me from the country, a decision overturned only after leaders of the Federal Electoral Institute, major newspaper editorials, and the opposition parties National Action Party (PAN) and (Matt's former employer) Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) joined in demanding I be readmitted to the country.

Prior to this year's election, I was cited in Mexico City's La Cronica saying that Mexico's electoral system is technically superior to ours — something I still believe, even after the recent problems. We never said Mexico is "burning" as Matt's attention-grabbing headline suggests; nevertheless, in the wake of a very close vote, real questions have arisen, and to avoid undermining the very institutions that have brought Mexico's democracy so far, there needs to be a careful and very public accounting.

Due to poor work by Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute, serious doubts were raised about the accuracy of the vote count. Our call for a full recount responds to the need to clarify matters so that the eventual winner will not be plagued by exactly the type of climate now developing. The New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and respected Mexican commentators, like Denise Dresser, all called for a recount.

Matt suggests that Global Exchange was alone in its critique, but fails to note that Civic Alliance, the largest, oldest, and most serious Mexican observer organization, (our U.N.-funded partner), fielded over 2,000 observers and reached conclusions that mirror and strengthen ours. Instead, he quotes an anonymous U.N. observer's personal opinion (the U.N. does not make assessments of elections). Additionally, he fails to note that one-third of the just 693 international observers accredited for the election were embassy staffers (92 from the U.S. embassy alone) not allowed to express opinions. The fact that Matt sidelined the views of thousands of Mexican observers is professionally irresponsible.

Matt descends into silliness when he refers to the 1994 Zapatista rebellion as "a tiny ... local dispute." Does he not remember that this event had profound national dimensions and is what kick-started the campaign by civil society to make Mexico's electoral institutions independent of the government?

I got involved in supporting democracy in Mexico because I believe that, for all their flaws, fair elections are a better way to change societies than violence and upheaval. Because of this I have suffered verbal slings and arrows from some on the left and others on the right, but I didn't think I would be attacked by Matt Smith, someone I thought was a fair-minded centrist.

Ted Lewis

Founder, Global Exchange Mexico Program
San Francisco

A different progressive: Bay Area readers owe thanks to Matt Smith for his incisive critique of Global Exchange's meddling into the Mexican election. What a shame the S.F. Board of Supervisors are such suckers to succumb to the PC propaganda disseminated by Global Exchange!

For progressives like myself, there are three pariahs of leftist disinformation that we must regularly debunk: KPFA/Pacifica broadcasting, the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement, and Global Exchange. The latter offers so-called "reality tours" to Cuba, where 47 years of tyrannical one-man rule is distorted into a socialist paradise of equality. What Global Exchange doesn't show to tourists vulnerable to its falsehoods is that the sole equity manifest in Cuba is the equality of poverty.

Ditto "reality tours" to the new Marxist paradise of Venezuela, where the latest Global Exchange hero, porcine Colonel Chavez, has been transformed into a "revolutionary" leader rather than a charlatan who embraces such thugs as Castro and Iran's Ahmadinejad.

In sum, Global Exchange is a font of ideological swill that no intelligent progressive should take seriously. Matt Smith's reportage will hopefully, to that end, open some eyes.

Dan Spitzer
Kensington, CA


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