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Opinion

Letters to the Editor: A ‘coronavirus coup’ can happen here. We need to guard our liberties

William Barr and Donald Trump
Atty. Gen. William Barr, right, received push-back last month when the Department of Justice proposed sweeping new powers for federal judges because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Nicholas Kamm / AFP/Getty Images)

To the editor: An alarming report in the Los Angeles Times points out how authoritarian leaders in the Philippines, Brazil and Hungary are using the fear and chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to claim emergency powers and weaken the rule of law.

What came to my mind immediately is that our own Department of Justice last month proposed allowing federal court chief judges to halt all criminal court proceedings in this emergency. This would apply to “any statutes or rules of procedure otherwise affecting pre-arrest, post-arrest, pre-trial, trial, and post-trial procedures in criminal and juvenile proceedings and all civil process and proceedings,” according to the Justice Department.

This is an ominous development that would affect civil liberties, and it must be rejected. This is how democracies weaken.

Christopher T. Armen, Calabasas

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To the editor: Your article places Israel, a parliamentary democracy with lively discourse, in the same category as Hungary, whose leader Viktor Orbán secured powers to rule indefinitely by decree.

While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to postpone his upcoming criminal trial, he has stood in no fewer than three recent Israeli elections, having to form Israel’s present government with his opponent Benny Gantz.

Netanyahu is in a precarious position regarding his legal future. Gantz, now the powerful speaker of the parliament, is poised to take over.

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Israeli media are unrelenting in their criticism of Netanyahu. That would not be allowed in Hungary, where press freedoms have declined since 2017. Orbán has been called a dictator, whereas Netanyahu is a wily, possibly corrupt politician.

There’s a big difference.

Carrie Luger Slayback, Newport Beach

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To the editor: I find it interesting that voices on the left formerly condemning Trump for his “authoritarian” ways are now condemning him for not being authoritarian enough in his handling of the coronavirus crisis.

One might almost have concluded that, for all his characterization as a fascist or Nazi, he would have used this opportunity, like Orbán, to amass power and rule by fiat.

Jeff Denker, Malibu


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