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US government respected Elian's privacy

April 25, 2000



Your article "In Miami, free speech is selective" (April 21) was a welcome breath of fresh air in an otherwise one-sided media presentation of the issues surrounding the Elian Gonzalez case.

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As a former resident of Miami who has experienced firsthand the violence and threats that befall anyone who dares express opinions unapproved by the self-appointed leaders of the Cuban community, I am struck by the media silence on the abuse heaped upon that little boy by a family and community bent on pushing its ideological agenda at his expense.

Despite the manner in which the government recovered the boy and returned him to his father, it is the government, not the Miami family, which has shown far more respect for his privacy and for his family values than any of the politicians or distant relatives who now heap abuse on Janet Reno and Bill Clinton.

The Miami family placed Elian on exhibit day and night, subjecting him to the constant and certainly confusing attentions of both the media and the public. Rather than respect him as a child who has just experienced the trauma of losing his mother and nearly losing his own life, they turned him into a virtual religious icon for a community desperate to maintain its political and social relevance regardless of the cost.

There is nothing Fidel Castro could do to or with that child that could be any more egregious than that which was inflicted upon him by the Cuban community in Miami.

Thomas W. Elliot, Guffey, Colo.

Democratic progress in Turkey

Your April 10 article "Is Turkey fed up with Europe?" neglects fundamental features of Turkey's democratic dispensation and reform initiatives. Turkey has recently relaxed prohibitions on political speech and parties, strengthened punishments and prosecutions for human rights abuses, and removed the military judge from state security courts. A spirited debate on pluralism, democracy, and ethnicity is now under way.

Contrary to implications made in the article, Turkish Kurds are not second-class citizens. They are widely represented in the Turkish parliament, civil service, judiciary, and business. Wide-spread intermarriage has made it difficult to separate these two ethnic groups in Turkey. The vast majority of Turkish Kurds see their future in Turkey and seek to address their concerns and demands through political and social processes.

Secularism is enshrined in the Turkish Constitution not to suppress religion, but as a safeguard against a fundamentalist theocracy scornful of democratic customs and practices.

Turkey's democratic strides are impressive, and would be solidified and advanced by admission to the European Union, while serving the interest of peace, prosperity, and stability in the region and beyond.

Guler Koknar, Washington Director, Assembly of Turkish American Associates

Why do we need elephants?

In response to Andrew Dobson and Renee Kuriyan's opinion column "US must help save elephants": The continued existence of elephants is not vital to the US economy, nor will they be a military threat unless another Hannibal should appear. Dinosaurs became extinct and the world still goes on. With no real predators to fear, the mature elephant could continue living a good life in the absence of his tusks. If the individual nations of Africa could be persuaded to legalize tusk farming and hunting industries, then the level of production could be kept under strict control. Penalties exacted from poachers and black-market traders could be set high enough to entice them to operate within laws.

Irwin S. Booth, Renton, Wash.

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