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Venezuela Considering Criminal Charges Against Ford, Firestone

28 August 2000 Says: Venezuela Considering Criminal Charges Against Ford, Firestone
    ARLINGTON, Va., Aug. 25 Venezuela may be considering
criminal charges for involuntary manslaughter against both Firestone and Ford
for their mishandling of tire failures and Ford Explorer rollover problems in
that country, according to a report broadcast last night by KHOU investigative
reporter Anna Werner in Houston, Texas.
    Chief of Venezuela's Institute of Defense and Consumer Protection, Ruh
Rios told Werner that the companies "knew that this constituted a threat to
the lives of many Venezuelans who were riding on defective tires and in trucks
that had structural defects. And, they attempted to overcome this problem
without informing the users about what was happening."
    Rios claims that Firestone promised to put a layer of nylon on replacement
tires that they provided in Venezuela.  The replacement tires were labeled as
though they had a layer of nylon when they actually did not, he told KHOU.
    KHOU's Werner reported Ruh Rios also claims part of the problem with the
crashes lies with the Ford Explorer's suspension. He says Ford began a program
a year ago to improve the suspensions in Venezuelan Explorers.  "Ford admitted
that the shocks were extremely "soft" and that if the Explorers were equipped
with tires with 35 pounds of pressure, the truck became hard to handle, " Rios
    Ford recalled all Firestone Wilderness tires in Venezuela regardless of
their size and where they were made.
    "These reports confirm what we've been saying all along," said Little
Rock, Arkansas attorney Tab Turner.  "Firestone tire failures and the improper
design of the Explorer are inextricably interwoven.  They are one and the same
issue, sharing the blame.  However, there will be plenty of time to apportion
blame.  What we need to do right now is to stop pointing fingers and get these
tires off the road," Turner said.  Turner is's "Attorney of
Record" for tires.