Jorge Haider, Elian Gonzalez and the Euro's Fall

Last week, a lawyer named Richard Baumhammers went on a shooting spree which killed five people. He shot up two synagogues, killed a woman member of one, fatally shot two workers at Ya Fei Chinese Restaurant, a person of Indian descent at an Indian grocery store and a black karate student. He critically injured a sixth person.

Did this happen in Mauthen or Pörtschach in Jorge Haider's Carinthia? No, it happened in Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh, U.S.A.

The killings happened in the same week that Senator John McCain, a defeated candidate for the Republican Party's presidential nomination, went to Vietnam and said that the wrong side won the war. Who was on the right side? Former Premier Nguyen Cao Ky, an avowed admirer of Adolf Hitler.

Taking children away from their parents for political reasons was one of the more reprehensible aspects of both Nazi Germany and Stalin's USSR. Yet, in the United States today there is an intense political debate over whether Elian Gonzalez should be reunited with his father and returned to Cuba, merely because many Americans, including both major party candidates for president, object to the political regime in that country.

Where are the calls for sanctions against the United States? Where are the freezing of diplomatic contacts and the withdrawal of ambassadors for consultations? How did this happen?

In political affairs, leadership counts. That is the logic for the sanctions on Austria. Austria had the audacity to include, as a minor party in the ruling coalition, Jorge Haider's Freedom Party which ran an anti-immigrant election campaign, not so different from the one being waged by Patrick Buchanan in the United States.

In Miami, the forces seeking to take Elian Gonzalez away from his father are led by Mayor Joe Carollo. Like Hitler, Carollo holds office legally, though not democratically.

On November 4, 1997, the voters of Miami, Florida went to the polls to choose a Mayor. Miami's election law provides for a run-off election if one of the candidates fails to secure an absolute majority of the votes cast for Mayor.

In the election, Joe Carollo received 21,882 votes to Xavier Suarez's 20,638. Other candidates received 1,560. Carollo got 49.64% of the vote for Mayor. Carollo defeated Suarez 20,198 to 17,690 in the voting machines, but lost 1,684 to 2,948 in the absentee ballots. A run-off was held nine days later.

In the November 13 run-off, Carollo was decisively defeated. Suarez received 23,735 votes to Carollo's 20,821. The next day, Carollo filed suit in Florida alleging absentee ballot fraud in the first round of the election, and asking that he be declared the winner on the basis of the machine vote alone.

Corollo alleged that as many as 300 illegal absentee ballots had been cast, and that another 480 votes collected by "ballot brokers" should not be counted. On March 3, 1998, Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wilson ruled that a new election should be held. Corollo appealed and the appeals court decided to throw out the run-off, throw out all the absentee ballots (absentee ballot voting isn't a right, it's a privilege) and declare Corollo the winner based on the machine vote.

The run-off provision of Miami's election law disenfranchised the 2,101 voters who cast ballots in the election, but declined to vote for any of the mayoral candidates. The purpose of run-off provisions (in the popular mind) is to secure majority representation in elections. The run-off provision did not do that. Even accepting Corollo's claims and eliminating all 780 allegedly tainted ballots, Carollo's 21,854 votes in the first round were still only 48.2% of the votes cast in the election. But they were 50.54% of the votes cast only for Mayor.

Even accepting all Corollo's allegations, the Miami mayoral election was 98% honest. The courts called the 780 contested ballots or 2% possibility of illegal votes "massive fraud". and as a remedy proceeded to throw out almost 46,000 votes of the run-off and 4,799 absentee ballots in the first election. Then the courts allowed the wording of the run-off provision to disenfranchise the incontrovertibly legal 2,101 voters in the first round who did not for mayor. Majority rule? Only 38% of the registered voters even cast ballots in the election.

In the end, the Federal Bureau of Investigation determined that there were 160 illegally cast absentee ballots, not enough to change the outcome of the first election and give Corollo more than 50%. Nevertheless, the courts made Carollo the Mayor.

So, Mayor Carollo's subsequent misbehavior in the Elian Gonzalez affair by threatening to withhold local police cooperation from executing federal court decisions is not surprising. Knowing that local court decisions are influenced by political pressure more than the law, Carollo felt free to do as he pleased.

Is Jorge Haider or any public official in Austria trying to take a child from his parent, or threatening to prevent the local police from cooperating with federal authorities? So, why the sanctions against Austria?

The sanctions against Austria are illegal. Austria was never given a chance to respond to the charges before the sanctions were imposed. So, the explanation that Austria is in danger of violating democratic principles is all the more hypocritical. According the Stalin, even the USSR was democratic. Also, Austria's recent history as the refugee station of first resort makes the EU's sanctions, with their own domestic xenophobic politicians, all the more mind boggling.

That is why the Euro is falling. Anyone who understands the importance of the rule of law and the enforcement of contracts would have faith in the currency of an organization that violates its own rules. Some legal scholars consider the property right the basis of all the other rights. When people see the EU imposing sanctions for political reasons, outside the norms of due process, only an idiot would trust his or her assets to such an organization. That is why the euro has fallen by more than 10% in value since the sanctions were put on Austria.

From the vantage point of an American baby boomer who grew up during the cold war, I could never understand how Europe descended into carnage twice within a quarter century. The sanctions on Austria have given me a glimpse of the parochialism which, given free reign, could easily lead to conflict.

No objective observer of the facts can doubt the racism and xenophobia of large parts of the both the Austrian and American populations. My father, grandmother and great aunt had to run for their lives from Vienna in the 1930's. When we honeymooned in Vienna 20 years ago, anti-semetism was clearly evident from the behavior of some people.

Jorge Haider's political philosophy toward immigrants is both reprehensible and wrong. But the issue is, what is the best way to fight it? Is it, in the fascist tradition, to exert physical pressure to prevent people from expressing unpopular opinions? Is it to force the Freedom Party underground, to deny it the legitimate share of the power it won at the ballot box?

Politicians are merely instruments for the expression of the will of the voters. As such, each one embodies both solutions and problems. Richard Nixon, for example, built his political career on a virulent anti-communism. Yet, it was President Nixon who made the crucial first step toward abandoning the United States's policy of not recognizing Communist China. Much of Nixon's transformation was caused by the necessity of extricating the United States from the Vietnam War. Governing has a sobering effect on politicians.

Hopefully, Jorge Haider's free market principles are the solutions he brings to the new government, while his immigration policies are, like Nixon's anti-communism, the problem. Certainly, including the Freedom Party as a minority in a governing coalition is a good way to find out, with minimal risks.

Until the sanctions against Austria are lifted by the EU, the euro, and indeed Europe, has no real future.

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Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf