Making Latin American leaders more accountable

The opinion piece "Latin Imperial presidencies: a questionable stability" (Dec. 14) neglects a key benefit that the so-called "imperial presidencies" offer Latin America: greater political accountability.

It has long been a custom in regional politics to blame the prior regime for all of the country's woes. As a Peruvian who came of age politically during the disastrous Garcia administration of 1985-90, I recall this tendency especially painfully.

Reelected presidents such as Cardosa, Fujimori, and Menem must now face the second-term consequences of their first-term policies. This new accountability explains why Menem will not run for a third term and why Fujimori faces many challenges to a second reelection. It may actually be healthy for Latin democracies that elected leaders reap what they sow.

Carlos Lozado


Support human rights efforts

Thank you for your coverage of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I was pleased to see "Tale of a business's rebirth as human rights activist" (Dec. 10) and "Human Rights at 50: a growing trend to intervene" (Dec. 9) reporting on an event so crucial to the development of global peace.

When Eleanor Roosevelt led the UN commission that drafted the declaration, this event marked a change in world attitude toward human rights from a primarily domestic issue to one of international concern. However, is the US government taking a strong enough stand against countries committing grave human rights abuses?

The article "Tale of a business's rebirth as human rights activist" uses the example of China to raise the point that the way to ensure human rights is to accelerate the grass-roots model of activism. This is a valid point, and to do this, organizations need support from the international community, specifically the US government. At the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva, the administration did not push for a resolution condemning China's human rights abuses. The president did call for the release of political and religious prisoners, including Tibetans, during his visit to China. However, there has been no progress on key human rights issues, and recently, the Chinese government has engaged in a renewed crackdown on basic freedoms.

Let us put pressure on the government to pass laws that will stop these atrocious abuses of human rights. And let us support organizations worldwide that are actively working to eliminate human rights abuses.

Kathryn Friedman


Performance reviews

Your coverage of performance reviews in "They're back ..." (Dec. 7) was surprising for its lack of mention of the very negative aspects of traditional annual reviews, which include: the creation of fear and anxiety; their focus on the individual instead of group processes that are more critical to performance; their emphasis on rewards at the end of the process rather than a development plan at the start of the process; their judgmental orientation to the past rather than planning and supporting future performance; their emphasis on management's view rather than the total (client) viewpoint; and their frequent lack of connection to monetary reward.

A worker's focus should be upon pleasing the clientele, not the boss. A boss concerned about future performance should focus back on last year's performance about as often as you check the rear view mirror while driving. Keeping eyes on the road ahead means communicating, rewarding the accumulation of skills, preparing workers with knowledge and training for the changes and challenges in the year ahead, and replacing performance review with performance planning.

Steve Marquardt

Brookings, S.D.

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