In TIME's interview with Philippine President Gloria Arroyo, she called herself "the agent of change" and, in answer to a question about the accusations of corruption that have been leveled against her husband and son, declared, "My attitude is that family comes last" [June 13]. Arroyo must rise above the political turmoil and the government's instability and show her true worth. The cure for this government's malady is not a constitutional convention or new tax laws. The country will be stable only when graft, nepotism and all forms of corruption are tossed into the waste bin. Arroyo has the makings of a great President if only she would act with faith, honesty and patriotism.
Makati City, the Philippines
Your story encapsulated what the President is facing right now: dipping popularity, growing military and civil unrest, simmering corruption charges and worsening economic problems. Although she says "faith and trust in divine providence" are what keeps her going during difficult times, that's not enough to save the nation. She has to maintain the integrity of her office. President Arroyo and her family have to shape up or she may have to tread the same path as her disgraced predecessor.
A Constitutional Crisis
Re "Brussels Burnout" [June 13]: by voting against its ratification, the people of France and the Netherlands did not reject the European constitution. They rejected the fat cats sitting in Brussels who get rich at Europeans' expense and tell us how to live. The E.U. has the most undemocratic political system, but it could work very well if national leaders of member countries would keep their hands off it and let the European Parliament, which is elected by the people and therefore has the mandate, make decisions regarding the E.U. The only way the E.U. will work is to get rid of the Brussels bureaucrats and have a civil service that is responsible only to the elected government of Europe.
Have we gone mad? Right now I feel ashamed to be a European. The French and Dutch "no" votes won't help our fragile and relatively undefined political and economic situation in the world one little bit. The rejection of the constitution solved no problems, and it wasn't a demonstration of the power of the people. It shattered the dream of a strong, unified Europe that would counter U.S. supremacy.
The E.U. constitution is dead, but it would be fatal for Europe if Brussels continued with business as usual. We don't need another constitutional convention with myriad special interests complicating the process. Let's have each member state provide a representative to a committee to produce a draft constitution containing only the fundamentals of the Union, its aims and basic rules of cooperation. One of the major flaws of the current draft was that it was not digestible by ordinary people. After sufficient public promotion, the new draft should be submitted to a referendum in all member states on the same day. That would hand Europe back to Europeans and rejuvenate the ties between the Union and its citizens.
You point out that those who voted against the E.U. constitution did so for vastly different reasons. That's true, but it doesn't mean their reasons were incoherent. The "no" votes prove that it is absurd to force vastly different countries into the same economic and social straitjacket. If different nations have different ideas as to what kind of economy they want, they are united in believing that they should be allowed to decide for themselves instead of having a one-size-fits-nobody solution imposed from above. The constitution would remove power from national governments in almost all policy areas, making national elections little more than a sideshow while decisions are made elsewhere by an unelected politburo. Not surprisingly, the people voted to keep their right to choose who governs them.
The New Iran
"Fast Times in Tehran" [June 13] reported that since Iran's young people have been able to enjoy Western-style pleasures, they are no longer interested in politics. As a practicing Muslim, I was deeply saddened by the repression and intolerance of Iran's post-1979 regime. Now I am equally saddened by the lifestyle of young Iranians described in your article. I do not know which is worsethe fanatical fascism of the mullahs or the alcohol-soaked hedonism of today's Iranian youth.
Cherry Hill, New Jersey, U.S.