US Proclamations of Peace and Democracy in Latin America

In the Opinion page article "The US Can Be a Constructive Force in Latin America," Nov. 2, the authors make several dubious arguments, the most dramatic of which is the claim that opening United States markets to Latin American goods provides the best way to overcome the "economic slowdown, sharp inequalities, and pervasive poverty" that undermine democracy.

After living in Central America for 3 1/2 years, I saw that many of the wealthy elites own the best land, on which they produce export crops such as sugar, bananas, and coffee. Their wealth multiplies and their political power is immense. The majority must work as unskilled labor for petty wages. They lack basic food, housing, education, and medical care.

This semifeudal economy fosters the oligarchic politics sadly typical in Latin America that occasional elections can only disguise. The responses of the US Agency for International Development and the International Monetary Fund are to promote diversification of the agro-export model and not to replace it. We need to encourage land reform. Historically, we have opposed it. Perhaps with the cold war's passing, we can leave red-labeling behind. But until we are ready to promote change, US proclamations rem ain meaningless. Steven J. Bovingdon, Seattle Homosexuals in the military

President-elect Clinton is expected to issue an executive order overturning the ban on gays in the military as early as his first day in office. It is the right thing to do. Keeping the ban does not keep gays out. They are already there by the tens of thousands, doing a professional job like everyone else. Eliminating the ban would let them live their lives without fear of being discharged.

A June report from the United States General Accounting Office called the ban too costly and said "experts believe the policy is unsupported, unfair, and counterproductive; it has no validity according to current scientific research and opinions; and it appears to be based on the same type of prejudice once used to discriminate against blacks and women."

Some argue that we have to keep gays out of the military, and let private employers have the right to fire gays, since some people are prejudiced against them and it could create work problems. That's unfair. Some people call gay rights "special privileges." No one is seeking special rights, only a guarantee of equal rights. Anti-gay discrimination penalizes men and women for who they are even though they do not infringe on the freedoms or liberties of others. Gay rights legislation does not exempt gays from laws and obligations that govern Americans. Alan L. Light, Iowa City, Iowa `Loose with history'

Regarding the Opinion page article "Don't Be Talked Out of Boldness," Nov. 9: The authors play loose with history, stating that President Bush is now the "fifth president seeking reelection to be toppled by the voters this century." Among those mentioned is Gerald Ford, who never sought reelection. Mr. Ford sought election in 1976 and was defeated.

The authors also state that "every innovative president this century has won reelection." Among the six presidents mentioned are three who succeeded to the presidency due to the death of their predecessors and were elected only once: Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Lyndon Johnson. Bob Shickler, Town and Country, Mo.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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