June 28, 2004: Headlines: Investigative Journalism: Speaking Out: Safety and Security of Volunteers: Dayton Daily News: Dayton Daily News says Peace Corps safety bill tests Bush's resolve

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Special Reports: July 17, 2004: Director Vasquez speaks out: June 28, 2004: Headlines: Investigative Journalism: Speaking Out: Safety and Security of Volunteers: Dayton Daily News: Dayton Daily News says Peace Corps safety bill tests Bush's resolve
Director Vasquez Speaks Out Director Vasquez Speaks Out
Last month we reported on the Senate hearings on Peace Corps Safety and Security. Now Director Vasquez speaks out in an op-ed piece and says that Dayton Daily News portrayal of Peace Corps doesn't jibe with facts. Has DDN provided "slanted coverage" and "misinformation?" Read the editorial from the DDN, the Director's reply and leave your opinion.




By Admin1 (admin) (pool-141-157-22-73.balt.east.verizon.net - 141.157.22.73) on Saturday, July 03, 2004 - 11:12 pm: Edit Post

Dayton Daily News says Peace Corps safety bill tests Bush's resolve

Dayton Daily News says Peace Corps safety bill tests Bush's resolve

Dayton Daily News says Peace Corps safety bill tests Bush's resolve

Peace Corps safety bill tests Bush's resolve

By the Dayton Daily News

This time last year, President George W. Bush told the U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduating class he was "determined" to double the size of the Peace Corps over next five years.

"Interest in this program is greater than ever before," he said.

But in the months since, the agency has been shown to be troubled in ways that may render President Bush's ambition unattainable unless he pushes for reform.

Former Peace Corps volunteers and their families, security officials, government inspectors and information in the agency's own records make a convincing case that the Peace Corps has failed to adequately protect the safety of its volunteers. Even at current staffing levels, too many idealistic and inexperienced young men and women have been placed in high-risk settings ill-prepared and often alone for months at a time with no one to turn to and no place to go when troubles arise.

The agency's ability to communicate with volunteers has been spotty, compromising volunteers' well-being and leaving their families bewildered. When volunteers return from abroad with health problems, they may be cut loose without health-care benefits.

The Peace Corps has made some improvements. But only after the agency was hammered by outside investigators. Without legal mandates and stepped-up congressional oversight, there's no way to assure that the problems won't persist and be repeated.

The House of Representatives passed legislation that would establish a permanent ombudsman to investigate volunteers' complaints about safety and issue a semiannual report to Congress. The agency also would be served by an independent inspector general, and separate safety and security and medical-services offices would be created.

The bill doesn't mandate other desirable safety measures, such as requiring that volunteers be assigned as teams and receive periodic visits by supervisors in high-risk regions. Still, it represents a solid start.

But the Peace Corps opposes even these modest, common-sense reforms. Director Gaddi H. Vasquez told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the legislation will not "significantly improve volunteer safety," that the Peace Corps already does enough.

The families of the more than 250 volunteers who have died in the field might think differently. So might the much greater number of volunteers needlessly exposed to similar dangers who have survived.

Safety problems at the Peace Corps, in other words, are nothing new. Past criticisms have been met with assurances like those Mr. Vasquez offered Congress promises that haven't been fulfilled.

The Peace Corps' unyielding posture in response to even basic reforms proves the need for firm congressional action. The House did so swiftly, with a remarkable bipartisan effort. An identical bill co-sponsored by Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine is pending in the Senate, but is unlikely to be brought a vote any time soon.

That leaves it up to President Bush. If he pushes the legislation, it would pass in a heartbeat. And if the president allows it to languish, he sends another message: that his stated resolve to promote the Peace Corps shouldn't be taken seriously.




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Story Source: Dayton Daily News

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Investigative Journalism; Speaking Out; Safety and Security of Volunteers

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