Mexican Elections Hold a Lesson for US

Regarding "Mexicans Say S to Real Democracy" (July 8), this vote is indeed historic. It has begun to wipe away the cobwebs that have clouded Mexico's electoral process for the past century. As a group that has organized international observers to monitor Mexico's elections for several years, we'd like to pay tribute to the unsung heroes in this victory: the hundreds of civic organizations, such as the Citizens' Movement for Democracy and the Civic Alliance, that have worked tirelessly to rid the system of corruption and level the playing field.

These groups and the tens of thousands of citizens they mobilized took great personal risks to monitor past elections and denounce the countless examples of fraud they uncovered. They fought for an end to the partisan nature of the Federal Electoral Institute that oversees the elections. They demanded more equal access to TV and radio - outlets previously monopolized by the ruling PRI. They led campaigns to advise voters of their rights to a free and secret ballot. Their persistence has paid off.

We in the United States have much to learn from these citizen groups. We have let our own system become hijacked by monied interests. We have allowed our campaigns to become superficial media shows instead of intense debates at all levels of society. It is no wonder that millions of Americans are so cynical or uninterested that they don't even bother to vote!

After decades of deriding Mexico for its electoral charades, it's time we learned from our neighbors how to take back the reins of democracy. Like the Mexicans, we must build a strong grassroots network of citizen groups to get money out of politics, use the airwaves to educate, not entertain, and create an atmosphere in which a true multiparty system can flourish.

Medea Benjamin

San Francisco

Director, Global Exchange

Effect of NATO expansion

Regarding the opinion-page article "Going to War Over Warsaw" (July 3): No matter what commitments the US government makes now, it is not likely in the future to engage in a war that would be against its own national interests. No country knows better than Poland that guarantees on paper mean very little. In 1939 Poland had very strong and unambiguous guarantees from France and Great Britain. None were honored.

Poles are not so naive to think that Americans will ever be willing to fight for Poland, nor do they want it or expect it. What NATO guarantees may do, however, is to discourage Russian imperial ambitions against its neighbors, and thus prevent any future hostilities from taking place.

Tomasz M. Dadlez

Saginaw, Mich.

To address an issue raised by the essay on NATO: A far more tempting target [than Warsaw] would be Germany, with its reborn capital of Berlin about an hour's drive from the Polish border. The people of central Europe want to live in peace with all their neighbors. They seek membership in NATO to maintain peace and stability for their new democracies. Two world wars that cost millions of lives were fought largely in central Europe. An expanded NATO is the best guarantee for peace both in this area and in Europe. To belittle President Clinton's efforts in this regard as "feel good" diplomacy pandering to ethnics is inappropriate.

Edward M. Cynarski

Holyoke, Mass.

Mighty in size and population

I am referring to the opinion article "Brazil and the US: Key Partners" (June 27) and I quote: "United States and Brazil, the two largest countries of the Americas " Please take note and stand corrected. The largest country in the Americas is Canada.

Herbert Misik

Thornhill, Ontario

Editor's Note: We stand corrected with regard to territory. If population is the measure, Brazil and the US are the largest.

Your letters are welcome. Letters should be mailed to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, faxed to 617-450-2317, or e-mailed (200 words maximum) to oped@csps.com.

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