What path forward?

Venezuela is a mess. The big question is, what next? A continuation of failed economic policies under a kleptocracy, or a peaceful transition to a new government and restoration of hope?

I lived and worked in Caracas from 2001 to 2004, and my heart breaks for what has happened to that beautiful country and people. Hugo Chavez was democratically elected when he began his grand experiment in 1999 and he started many programs that improved the lives of the poorest Venezuelans. Chavez subsequently won multiple elections, including one in 2004 that President Jimmy Carter certified as meeting international standards for transparency, something Carter could not say about the Florida elections for president that same year.

When Chavez died in 2013, Nicolas Maduro inherited the presidency and was then elected by a slim majority. But the economy got worse as the price of oil plummeted and government funds could no longer support all the social projects as well as the increased levels of graft and corruption by military and government officials.

Then in 2015 ,the opposition won control of the National Assembly. This made governing more difficult for Maduro, and by 2017, he replaced the National Assembly with a Constituent Assembly of handpicked supporters.

The death knell for Venezuelan democracy was the May 2018 presidential elections, when opponents were intimidated, exiled or jailed, and election fraud and vote rigging was rampant. The proud, democratic tradition of Venezuela no longer exists — except in the members of the National Assembly. They elected Juan Guaido as their leader and he waited until he could legitimately declare himself as interimpresident under Article 233 of the Constitution.

The governments supporting Guaido as interim president are not supporting a coup, but rather the first viable path to a peaceful transition in years. But what really matters now is what side the Venezuelan military chooses. The military supported and ended a coup in 2002. If they continue to support Maduro, the economic misery and unrest will continue. If they choose to support a transition to new elections, there is hope for a brighter future for Venezuela.

Leanne Hogie

Hood River

Feral, stray cat services available

If you know of a feral, stray or barn cat that needs to be fixed, contact the Feral Cat Coalition. The organization is offering free spay and neuter surgeries through the month of February. Although based in Portland, they will perform surgeries on cats from anywhere in Oregon, and even from Washington. These services are for feral cats that have people feeding them.

In case you didn’t know: It’s possible to spay a female cat while she’s in heat, and kittens can start breeding at five months old.

The Feral Cat Coalition would appreciate a donation of $30 per cat, but will not turn anyone away for lack of ability to pay. Their free services include spay/neuter surgery, vaccines, treatment for fleas, ear mites, pain relief medication and an ear-tip for identification.

Space is limited. Call 503-797-2606 or visit feralcats.com.

Tracie Hornung

Mt. Hood-Parkdale

Rise of Baal

Some states have been allowing the sacrifice of babies through 40 week abortions. That was the practice of the worshippers of Baal. If you do a little research into Baal worship, you will find the details. Our society deserves better than that.

Dave Phelps

Hood River

‘Public health emergency’

Dear Senator Chuck Thompsen and Representative Anna Williams,

Like most of my friends, including every other doctor and every nurse I know, I am extremely frustrated by the low vaccination rate in Oregon.

I have spent countless hours trying to convince my patients and parents of my patients to get lifesaving vaccinations. I think with this measles outbreak in Washington beginning to spread into Oregon, it is pretty clear that our current lax regulations regarding immunizations are not adequate. Doctors and public health officials have been predicting this for years, and we would be foolish not to learn from this experience. We need our legislators to pass laws limiting the exemptions for vaccinations now!

This is not a personal liberty issue. It is a public health emergency. When parents base their decisions to not vaccinate their children based on lies propagated on the internet, it doesn’t just effect their children.

Like clean water, sanitation, seat belts and car seats for children, is obvious that there are some public health issues that should not be left to personal choice. I am asking you to lead the way by introducing legislation to eliminate personal choice exemptions for vaccinations.

Erin Burnham, MD

Hood River

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