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Saturday, July 5, 2003

24-year-old wins fight for her eye-- Anti-drunken driving campaign with Jacqui centers on July Fourth, Rodolfo Gonzalez AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Jacqueline Saburido sits on the lap of her father, Amadeo Saburido, during a visit to Austin on Monday. Jacqui, who was burned in a drunken driving wreck in 1999, is taking part in a Texas campaign against it for July Fourth. Read Jacqueline and Amadeo: Chasing Hope

By David Hafetz AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF Tuesday, June 24, 2003

In May, doctors removed the bandages over Jacqueline Saburido's left eye.

Since 1999, when the young student from Venezuela was severely burned and disfigured in a drunken driving wreck in Austin, Jacqui has undergone dozens of operations -- skin grafts, finger amputations and countless other procedures. Many of the most desperate battles involved attempts to save her eyes and eyelids.

The cornea transplant on her left eye was an uncertain but potentially critical step to improve her vision. Jacqui and her father, Amadeo Saburido, waited tensely for the bandages to come off.

"I can see; I can see," Jacqui said she remembers shouting. The 24-year-old looked in the mirror and out the window during the drive home to their apartment in Louisville, Ky. "I can see all the cars."

"It was an incredible moment," Amadeo said. "Her life has changed completely."

The Saburidos recalled the operation in Austin on Monday during a visit to lend support to a campaign against drunken driving in Texas featuring Jacqui. Last fall, posters and other materials with images of her face from before and after the wreck began appearing.

Television spots featuring Jacqui aired in major media markets in October and March and will be shown again as part of a broader Texas Department of Transportation effort to clamp down on drunken driving for 17 days around July Fourth. The spots will alternate with radio and television announcements warning: Drink, Drive, Go to Jail. Officials say the target audience is men ages 21 to 34.

The $400,000 campaign, part of a national effort, includes extra patrols by state and local police.

"I wish this campaign had happened before my accident," Jacqui said.

Jacqui came to Austin in 1999 to take a break from college and study English. On Sept. 19, just three weeks after she arrived, she got a ride home from a party with four friends. A drunken driver struck their car.

Two of the passengers died, and two survived. The drunken driver, now in prison, was unscathed. Jacqui, pinned in the front passenger seat, was trapped in a fire that burned her beyond recognition.

She stayed in a burn unit in Galveston for five months and has been recovering since then. Jacqui's father, Amadeo, 50, left his family's air-conditioning factory in Venezuela to take care of her.

They now live near a team of doctors in Louisville. Between operations, Jacqui has been taking advanced English classes.

Jacqui said she is contemplating a face transplant but does not want to be the first one to try it. In the meantime, she is planning to have a cornea transplant on her right eye.

When she left the burn unit, Jacqui barely could see shadows. She had no idea what she looked like. Over and over, she stood before the mirror in her bathroom, peering at her face for details. To write an e-mail to her friends back home, she had to hover against the computer screen.

Now she can read better and cook more. One day, she said she may return to school. She wants to drive and travel, and perhaps write a book. She also wants to help her father run the business.

Amadeo said that if Jacqui's sight improves and stabilizes, he might begin traveling without her so he can expand his business. After the wreck, he spent month after month putting drops and lubricants in Jacqui's eyes at regular intervals. He barely rested at night.

Jacqui estimates that the vision in her left eye was once 20/400 and now is near 20/100. The improvement has brought disappointments. Recently, she studied the grafts on her right arm and concluded that they looked like chicken skin. She had thought her skin looked better.

Still, she said she feels a big improvement in her life. Before leaving Austin, Jacqui wants to take her father to watch the sunset over Lake Travis.; 445-3616

Ambassador tells The Washington Post that Chavez Frias is committed to democracy in Venezuela

<a>Venezuela's Electronic News Posted: Tuesday, June 24, 2003 By: David Coleman

Venezuela's Ambassador to Washington, Bernardo Alvarez Herrera has told the Washington Post that President Hugo Chavez Frias "has no trepidation about allowing the people to decide through a recall referendum who their President should be ... he has never tried to restrict the conditions of the referendum, and he has followed the guidelines for it outlined in Venezuela's Constitution."

Alvarez Herrera was commenting a June 12 Washington Post editorial "A vote on Mr. Chavez" which had said that "Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez continues to behave as if he has no intention of giving up his attempt to push through a quasi-totalitarian, quasi-socialist 'revolution,' regardless of what his people may want."

The Washington Post mentioned "various maneuvers" to illustrate Mr. Chavez' supposed reluctance to help those who oppose his government gather the signatures they need to trigger a recall referendum.

Alvarez Herrera adds: "But if the opposition fails to attract the number of signatures the Constitution requires, it won't be the fault of the Constitution ... or of Mr. Chavez ... implying that he should do more to help the opposition is like asking California Governor Gray Davis to help Republicans with their recall petition in that state."

"The Chavez Frias administration is committed to democracy in Venezuela ... many factors are involved in our country's turmoil; The Washington Post's simplistic and unreasoned argument does a disservice to its readership and to democracy itself."

Rulings won't alter area colleges' admissions policies

Matthew Daneman and Ben Rand Democrat and Chronicle

(June 24, 2003) — Local college campuses don’t foresee changing how they do business in light of Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court rulings regarding the role race can play in admissions. And they doubt the decision would have affected them if it had gone the other way, either. “It’s not going to impact us at all,” said Adrienne Collier, affirmative action officer at the State University College at Brockport. “In fact it’s pretty clear-cut. The criteria (we) use in admissions doesn’t take race into account.” None of the area campuses has affirmative-action admissions programs similar to the University of Michigan. There, being a member of an underrepresented minority group means a number of points on a scale, with students needing a specific number of points to get in. And it was that approach that the Supreme Court struck down in its decision. A number of area schools, however, give some weight to an applicant’s race if that person is close to some type of cutoff. And the justices, in a 5-to-4 decision, upheld using affirmative action in such decisions. “The court appears to have upheld the principle of “narrowly tailored” affirmative action programs, such as those used in the admissions processes at the University of Rochester,” university spokesman Robert Kraus said in a statement. Rochester Institute of Technology puts its focus on creating a wide pool of students who apply to the university, but is race-blind when selecting from the pool of eligible students, said President Albert Simone. While RIT won’t be changing its admissions practices because of -- or to take advantage of -- the Supreme Court decision, Simone said he applauded the ruling. “When it comes to affirmative action, I see it as what’s best for America,” he said, pointing to the low numbers of nonwhites attending college, even as they make up an increasing percentage of the total population of the nation. Some local businesses also applauded the decision. “We believe it’s essential to our success to be able to hire individuals of all backgrounds who have been educated in a diverse environment, where they are exposed to diverse people, ideas, perspectives and interactions,” said Xerox Corp. spokeswoman Kara Choquette. Xerox and Eastman Kodak Co., two of Monroe County’s largest employers, joined 63 other companies in urging the high court to ratify racial and ethnic diversity as a key criterion in university admissions. The companies filed a “friend of the court” brief in February arguing that employees -- in order to be successful -- must know how to interact with diverse people, cultures and ideas. Poll after poll has shown that Americans are strongly divided on affirmative action. And local college students are no different, especially when it comes to the matter of what role race should play in deciding who gets into school. While nonwhite people often don’t have the financial and educational advantages that white people do, college admissions still should be based on educational merit, said Maryrose Mason, 23, of Batavia and a graduate student in RIT’s communications department. “People are so much more complex than numbers and statistics,” she said. But, she added, “it’s a tricky question. I understand sometimes you went to an (underperforming) high school and that wasn’t your fault.” RIT industrial design major Luz Zambrano, 21, said that while she backed the notion of having a more diverse campus, she also felt sympathy for white students who might lose out when diversity becomes an emphasis. In her native Venezuela, she said, “everything is by your grades. Nobody cares where you’re from. I hope I was accepted because of my grades.” But RIT international business and marketing student Denishea Flanigan, 20, of Cincinnati, said that since diversity is increasingly a corporate goal, it also should be a goal for colleges -- at least if those schools want their students to be marketable to employers. E-mail

Police's anti-Chavez mood causes ructions in Venezuela, June 24, 2003, 09:15

Outgunned by criminals, dodging bullets, stones and fireworks at protests, Caracas's Metropolitan Police are under fire from another enemy: the government of Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan President.

Chavez, a progressive, is threatening to take over control of the 9 000-strong autonomous force for the second time in seven months after officers used tear gas and shotgun pellets on June 13 to disperse a violent stone-throwing mob of Chavez supporters.

The populist president regularly pillories the city police force, run by anti-Chavez mayor Alfredo Pena and known by its Spanish initials "PM", as a murderous, subversive band of coup plotters bent on trying to topple him.

State 'has monopoly of force' Other regional units controlled by opposition state governors, who under the constitution can run their own police forces, are also viewed by Chavez as hostile. "If I have to take over these police again, I will ... We, as the state, hold the monopoly of force," Chavez said recently.

Venezuela's police and security forces have been sucked into the political maelstrom over Chavez's rule that has kept the world's No. 5 oil exporter in turmoil for over a year. Opponents of the soldier turned politician, first elected in 1998, have attempted a coup, a gruelling two-month strike and waves of street protests to try to unseat him. They accuse him of amassing dictatorial powers in a bid to install a Cuban-style government.

In this topsy-turvy world of polarised politics, Venezuela's police and security forces often appear to operate as rival armies instead of allies in preserving law and order.

Out of control Chavez ordered the Metropolitan Police force to submit to military control last November. He accused Pena of running the force as a private army and blamed city officers for shooting dead several Chavez supporters during protests.

Opponents condemned this militarisation of the force as a move by the president to neutralise hostile armed groups in the wake of an April 2002 coup that briefly toppled him.

The Supreme Court overturned the takeover five weeks later but the Caracas force is still "policed" by army detachments embedded in their stations. Police officers say their vehicles and heavy weapons have been confiscated, leaving them with only revolvers to confront heavily armed criminals.

Government 'going too far' "I think the initial move by the government may have been justified because the Metropolitan Police were a bit out of control and had weapons like heavy machine guns and even rocket launchers. But now the government may be going too far," one European diplomat observed.

With the rival security forces all nervously eyeing each other instead of fighting lawbreakers, crime has increased by 30% in Caracas, already one of Latin America's most violent cities. Killings, kidnappings and robberies are rife. - Reuters

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