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Letters to the Editor

Readers write about ways to bring stability to Bolivia and whether today's conservatives more resemble Lincoln or Douglas.

October 10, 2008



Stabilizing Bolivia requires goodwill and cooperation

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Regarding the Oct. 7 Opinion piece, "Boiling point in Bolivia": Author Seth Kaplan recommends a heavy-handed course of action that would further destabilize the Andean nation.

The absurd oversimplification that Bolivia's conflict can be divided into two warring camps papers over the cracks that have appeared in President Evo Morales's coalition.

Tensions arising from the competing demands of Aymara and Quechua activists, as well as labor unions, rural peasants, and middle-class urbanites, contribute to an environment of instability.

While Mr. Kaplan is correct in pointing out that Morales has exacerbated historical divisions, he fails to mention the debilitative role played by economic and political elites who have a vested interest in the status quo. Like him or not, Morales was supported by more than 60 percent of Bolivians in a recent nationwide referendum, and unlike many of his predecessors, he has consistently resisted the temptation to use Bolivia's military to crush dissent.

Any US government threat to withhold millions of dollars in foreign assistance or to walk away from bilateral trade pacts will only push Bolivia closer to Venezuela, Iran, and Russia. The subsequent shock to Bolivia's economy would be a boon for the narcotics trade, increasing the flow of drugs across the US border.

The opposition must have incentives to contribute to the constitutional process. Insisting that Bolivia's Constitution is illegal will not promote dialogue. Mediators should assist both sides to address theConstitution's inconsistencies with the goal of legitimizing an imperfect document.

Joshua Gross

Master's candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University

Somerville, Mass.

Finding a palatable way to put corrective pressure on such a corrupt and deceitful Bolivian administration will require wisdom, good faith, and goodwill on the part of US policymakers. I was born and live in Bolivia and am well aware that to have a great country, we need great Bolivians who are great in good faith and goodwill. Where these lack, it is the law of the jungle.

Felipe Kittelson
La Paz, Bolivia

Today's conservatives not like Lincoln

Regarding the Sept. 26 Opinion piece, "Lincoln's lesson for today's culture wars": Allen C. Guelzo rightly invokes the morality that underpinned Lincoln's greatness. But in his suggestion that today's conservatives embody that morality, he turns history on its head, in the long tradition of those false "conservatives" (i.e., Douglas) who Lincoln effectively dismembered in his Cooper Union speech.

Lincoln, a true conservative because he found his moral basis in the beliefs of our founders, eviscerated Douglas's "conservative" positions – and his very conservatism – with what one contemporary observer described as "sledgehammer logic." Mr. Guelzo is certainly not unaware of this.

Which party, today, is the home to the modern-day "states rights" disciples of Douglas the "conservative," and the relativist (and racist) moral principles he championed?

Most modern-day conservatives don't fit that description. But of the ones who do, who do you think they're voting for? And to what extent are more reasonable conservatives dependent on Douglas's unwitting disciples for an electoral majority?

Steve Roth
Seattle, Wash.

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