New York Times
Meticulously typed notes on millions of index cards are confirming Mexicans' worst suspicions about their nation's recent past. The cards, part of secret archives opened this year by President Vicente Fox, reveal that during the 1960s and '70s Mexico's ostensibly democratic government waged a "dirty war" against leftist student activists, peasant organizers and other dissenters, one as ruthless as those prosecuted by South America's military dictatorships.
Seeking the truth about crimes committed by the government against its own people, and holding those responsible accountable, are crucial steps in Mexico's transition to real democracy. Before Mr. Fox's election two years ago, the country had been ruled for more than seven decades by a single dominant party -- the Institutional Revolutionary Party. Throughout that period Mexican courts lacked the independence to investigate and prosecute high government officials, even after they left office.
In a welcome portent of change, a federal human rights office acknowledged last November that at least 275 people who were detained illegally in the late 1960s and '70s had died, and handed Mr. Fox a sealed envelope with the names of 74 former officials possibly implicated in the torturing and murdering of dissidents.
Mr. Fox named a special prosecutor, Ignacio Carrillo, and has opened millions of secret-police documents for examination by government investigators and families of missing dissidents. A new freedom of information law, signed last month, bars the withholding of any documents that describe "grave violations" of human rights.
Mr. Fox must go further now and fulfill his earlier pledge to establish an independent truth commission to explore important events in the nation's history that are still overlooked in official school textbooks. ...
President Fox has rightly said that "the rule of law is not negotiable." He has now taken bold steps to back up this declaration, wisely disregarding the advice of close allies that he tread lightly in uncovering the crimes of past administrations.
In South Africa, the "Sesame Street" TV program for preschoolers will introduce an HIV-positive female character this fall, and a similar character for the U.S. program is under discussion.
Whatever sense this makes in South Africa, where one person in nine carries the HIV virus, it would be an abomination in the United States, where not even one person in 300 is HIV-positive.
Sesame Street vice president Joel Schneider said at the AIDS conference in Barcelona, Spain, that the South African character would "have high-self esteem. Women are often stigmatized about HIV and we are providing a good role model." HIV discussion would be "appropriate to the age group," such as "What do I do when I cut my finger?"
This is political correctness run riot.
Children who watch Sesame Street are usually 5 years old or younger. In the United States the risk of a 5-year-old getting HIV from a cut finger is vanishingly small. It is way too young to worry about what HIV is or how to avoid getting it. Sesame Street should stick to teaching kids numbers and letters.
Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf is a wanted man. Defending his pro-U.S. policies nearly cost an American-born Pakistani his life, and the Pakistani leader's own well-being has been threatened by the Islamic extremism that he has sought to defeat. The question is: How long the reformist leader will be able to survive in an environment where his policies against terrorism and partnership with the United States can be fatal?
On Tuesday, a paramilitary ranger assigned to protect the security of Gen. Musharraf was accused of trying to assassinate the general. He faces charges of attempted murder in connection with an April 26 attempted assassination attempt. He and accomplices used a remote-controlled bomb, which failed to detonate as Gen. Musharraf's car passed. The two accomplices, who also have been charged with the failed assassination, have been charged with another bombing. That one, which occurred outside the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, killed at least 12 Pakistanis and injured 50 others. The two accomplices used the same car that they had used to try to kill Gen. Musharraf. They are part of the outlawed Islamic militant group, Harkat-ul-Mujah, which has ties to al Qaida.
Such extremists have made it dangerous for those who are tired of the incendiary rhetoric against the United States and Gen. Musharraf. The other day, for example, a U.S.-born engineer named Faray Jawed was at prayers when a cleric made a speech that was critical of the United States and Gen. Musharraf's support of America's war on terrorism, United Press International reported. Mr. Jawed asked that the cleric stick to Islamic teachings as the general had urged Muslims to do. Instead, the cleric called the worshippers to kill Mr. Jawed, who escaped the mosque with a relative. Later, four dozen men with iron rods and sticks stoned the house where he was staying after the cleric requested that Mr. Jawed be punished. The police managed to eventually disband the violent group, but only after giving assurances that Mr. Jawed would be prosecuted for blasphemy.
Gen. Musharraf has recognized that a change in Pakistan will have to come from within, through a policy of zero tolerance for militancy in mosques and in schools. His speeches against extremism and arrests of terrorists have focused the minds of militants even more intensely on being successful in their war against the United States and the freedom for which it stands. It is now left up to the "blasphemers" in Pakistan to keep this militancy in check, and to ensure that Gen. Musharraf's policies gain momentum. May the Jaweds multiply.
Bulent Ecevit, Turkey's sickly 77-year-old prime minister, is getting politically weaker by the day, and so is his country. This week seven cabinet ministers resigned from the government; Finance Minister Kemal Dervis, considered crucial to sustaining Turkey's precarious financial health, remained in office only after a special appeal by the Turkish president. Coming as it does in a nation that hosts U.S. warplanes, borders on Iraq and is one the few secular democracies in the Islamic world, the crisis could pose serious problems for the Bush administration. But it also may offer the United States and Europe an opportunity to nudge a key ally toward crucial political and economic reforms.
Mr. Ecevit's government is crumbling just as Turkey and its region face a daunting series of tests. In addition to the financial crunch, which has had Turkey teetering on the edge of default, the country faces a moment of truth with the European Union. After repeated disappointments in seeking full EU membership, Brussels has delivered a list of reforms that Turkey must complete; these include abolishing the death penalty, liberalizing freedom of speech and easing controls on the long-persecuted Kurdish minority. If they are done by the next EU summit at the end of the year, Turkey may finally be invited to begin formal negotiations on membership. At that same meeting, the EU will decide on membership for Cyprus, creating enormous pressure for the settlement of a 28-year conflict between the Turkish-controlled rump state on the northern end of that island and the majority Greek community.
To all that must be added the looming possibility of confrontation between the United States and Iraq. Pentagon planning for a war counts on Turkey's cooperation in serving as a base for U.S. forces; Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz is due in Ankara for consultations this weekend.
Mr. Ecevit, whose health has been failing along with his political support, manifestly lacks the strength to deal with these multiple challenges. Hardly anyone believes his government can endure until the next scheduled election in April 2004; the question is how and by whom it will be replaced. Some of the possibilities are unnerving -- these include right-wing nationalists who oppose EU membership or political liberalization, and Islamicists whose success in any new elections would raise the risk of another political intervention by the Turkish military.
Yet one of the strongest possibilities is also the most encouraging one. Yesterday in Ankara an alliance of pro-Western liberals, including just-resigned foreign minister Ismail Cem, announced the formation of a new political party dedicated to carrying out political and economic reform and leading Turkey into the EU. If Mr. Ecevit can be removed from office, the reformers have a chance to assemble a majority in the current parliament and push through reforms before holding elections. The result could be a decisive shift by Turkey toward the West, at a crucial moment in the region. The Bush administration should do its best to encourage this outcome; it can do so both by pressing Turkey's pro-Western forces to unite and by urging European governments to respond quickly and favorably if they do.
Los Angeles Times
The suicide bombings we hear most about these days are in the Middle East, but the nation in which such atrocities have occurred most often in the last two decades is Sri Lanka. Over that time, a Tamil terrorist group in the island nation off the southern tip of India has sent out more than 200 teenagers with explosives-filled suitcases or belts, slaughtering perceived enemies and innocents alike. The victims include a president of the nation, Cabinet ministers and a former prime minister of India.
Since March, the killings have mostly stopped, thanks to a Norwegian-brokered cease-fire. Peace talks may begin in a few weeks, offering hope to a country exhausted by more than 64,000 deaths since the separatist violence first surged in the nation of 20 million. The cease-fire is the most promising sign in years. However, past agreements to stop the violence collapsed, and this opening will need careful tending. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe won election last December on a platform promising to negotiate with the guerrillas commonly known as the Tamil Tigers. The group has sought autonomy or independence for areas in the north and east of Sri Lanka that are home to most of the country's Tamils, who make up nearly 20 percent of the population. Nationalist elements of the Sinhalese, the majority ethnic group, oppose talks with the Tigers. But the stalemate that has developed between the warring forces demonstrates that negotiations are needed to forestall many more years of bloodshed.
Sri Lanka's president, Chandrika Kumaratunga, was unsuccessful in trying to make peace with the Tigers eight years ago but has carped at Wickremesinghe's attempts. Her objections have the aura of political posturing aimed at gaining advantage over the prime minister, who is from a different party. Kumaratunga should support Wickremesinghe in the peace process. There would be ample credit due both politicians if the violence ended. ...
To help peace talks succeed, the government should rescind its order making the Tigers an illegal organization. Then, as talks begin, it will be important to reach agreement on what kind of interim government will be put in place in Tamil areas.
(Compiled by United Press International)