Cuban Isolation is Timeworn and Ineffective

The arrest of four prominent dissidents in Cuba, and the general reversal in Cuban openness since early 1996, hold lessons for the United States ("Cuba Backslides on Reform, Arrests Dissidents," Sept. 17).

Governments around the world throughout history, regardless of ideology, have taken hard stances toward internal dissent when they sense strengthened economic embargo, intense foreign political pressure, and, as in Cuba in recent months, an overt terrorist campaign aimed at tourism - a main source of foreign revenue.

As a US-based organization with close ties to the people of Cuba, we are concerned with the internal tightening in Cuba and the effects it has had on several of our Cuban partner organizations. At the same time, the policies of the Clinton administration toward Cuba have contributed to, rather than alleviated, the siege mentality in Havana. Indeed, some Cubans have taken to calling the latest attempt to tighten the embargo "Helms-Buton-Castro".

Engagement with the Cuban government is anathema to most in Washington. But rational analysis, informed by years of historical evidence, proves that isolation has not and will not encourage reforms in Cuba. The Cuban people, including most dissidents, say as much. After 37 years of isolation, it is time to listen to those people whom US policy is supposed to assist.

Michael O'Heaney

San Francisco

Global Exchange

Youths and guns

Regarding "Youthful Arms Race: Lawmakers Don't Get It" (Sept. 15): Perhaps the author doesn't get it! From 1984-94, more than just an increase in homicides occurred. Our country has seen the tax-free income of street gangs, fueled by drug syndicates, finance an impressive flow of guns to the streets. In this environment, the increase in homicides and a corresponding loss of human values is not surprising. Gang leaders and drug bosses have used violence as a marketing tool.

Consider, though, that in most cases cities with the most restrictive handgun laws have seen the greatest increase in youth homicides. Youth death rates in Washington are just one example. Furthermore, while safety precautions can reduce accidental death and woundings, how can trigger locks be considered a crime-prevention device? Trigger locks are a safety issue, not a security solution.

The problem with legislation that would ban Saturday Night Specials is it makes all handguns suspect. The term "cheap" is used to justify this legislation, but proposed "standards" are being used to eliminate a whole class of firearms, without addressing the basic problem of how guns get to youths.

Don't use "safety issues" as a Trojan Horse to promote politically motivated antigun legislation. While I don't wish to encourage youths to carry handguns where restricted by law, the article has me asking: "Just how many youths arrested for handgun possession are really violent criminals?" Maybe they are just as much victims as anyone else.

I'm offended that author Vincent Schiraldi of the Justice Policy Institute chooses to imply that the combination of young people and guns are a recipe for violence. This is a disservice to law-abiding youths who have an interest in firearms and who have learned under adult supervision to responsibly handle and shoot firearms. Nothing is gained by demonizing firearms and their law-abiding owners - or by pointing the finger of fear at all teenagers.

E. V. Reed

Tucson, Ariz.

Following a family's progress

My thanks to Robert Klose for his Home Forum articles about life with son Alyosha. Reading "Summertime, and the Leavin' Ain't Easy" (Sept. 4), I remembered how he went to Russia to pick up the little boy, whom he and we met for the first time. I followed with interest the growth of the young man slowly adjusting to a strange country, and Mr. Klose adjusting to fatherhood. It took a lot of love to make Alyosha feel at home and wanted. I am looking forward to more about those two men who managed to create a family for themselves.

Helene Maris

East Brunswick, N.J.

Your letters are welcome. Letters for publication must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. All letters are subject to editing. Mail to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com

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