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We, the People, Must Reclaim Role in Governing

Regarding the opinion-page article "How Americans View Their Leaders," March 22: It's interesting that we view the people we have elected so poorly. It makes me wonder how those people got elected. I also find it interesting that most people feel that the responsibility to find solutions to government problems rests wholly with our elected officials. It's always nice to be able to pass the buck and say that it's not our fault; unfortunately that's not true! The federal deficit, the increasing centraliza tion of our federal government, and all other problems with government are our fault. We, the people, are to blame. But it's not too late to take back our role in government. First, take the time to read the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and come up with your own opinions on them. You might be surprised at how many problems could be solved by returning to their principles. Next, act on your opinions: Write your elected officials at all levels of government, share your views with friends and neighbors, vote, and most of all, don't give up. It's taken almost a century for our government to reach i t's current state; it will probably take as long to get it right.

Leo J. Krajewski, Lower Burrell, Pa.

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Benin's election The otherwise informative article "Benin's Presidential Vote," March 21, misses a few points.

First, that Mr. Nicephore Soglo, the new president, used to be a World Bank official does not automatically make him a good, effective administrator, the reputation of that institution notwithstanding. The author compares Soglo's "program" (a set of vague goals, according to those who have read it) to that of presidential candidate Albert Tevoedjre, who finished third. The author says Mr. Tevoedjre "lured voters with the promise of creating 20,000 jobs a year." The implication is clearly that this was n ot only unrealistic, but designed exclusively to gain votes. Having studied Mr. Tevoedjre's program, I can assure you that it was devoid of either lies or unreachable objectives: there are some 5,000 villages in Benin; the plan was to create four new jobs a year in each village.

Second, Mr. Soglo was chosen early in 1990 to head a transitional government to allow for the organization of national democratic elections. He was not supposed to use his position to run for the presidency. Calls were made for him to step down, but Soglo managed to keep his post as a caretaker while running for the highest office.

Since in Benin the government often exerts total control over the most visible media, Soglo's strategy directly undermined the fairness of the democratic competition. Unfortunately, the author did not choose to highlight this important point.

Eric Tevoedjre, Baltimore

(The writer is the son of Benin's former presidential candidate.)

Double standard on debt? Regarding the article "US Debt Write-Offs May Set Precedent," March 26: It's very disturbing to read of the ease with which the Treasury Department can "write off" $64 billion of foreign debt when US taxpayers face cut-backs and increased tax burdens. The "senior Treasury official" calls it unreasonable that the growing debt should remain on the books. Why is the US so ready to forgive foreigners while demanding every pound of flesh from its own citizens?

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Robert McGowan, Hamburg, N.Y.

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