Readers Write

Helping Algeria by Honoring Its Victims

Your editorial "Help for Algeria" (Jan. 16) brings to mind the old saying that "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." It's obvious that you make the Algerian government appear to be part of the problem and not of the solution. Prompted by some legitimate emotion raised by the escalating killings of innocent civilians, the editorial seems to have accepted the premise that the crisis is to evolve at the killers' whim, according to their schedule and to their benefit.

Such a premise is wrong because it ignores the considerable progress made by Algeria in the area of democratization, economic reforms, and restoration of security.

The editorial recommends "fact-finding efforts." Average Algerians, who know that it's the GIA terrorist group that's behind the killings, will certainly appreciate the fact that that's the way "the wider world cares about their plight." You have chosen to ignore the existence of multipartisan institutions elected between 1995 and 1997 and the acceleration of history in a country painfully emerging from a multi faceted crisis.

Furthermore, history teaches us that "the temptation to accommodate" is not always the best advice, above all when it's stimulated by weariness and submissiveness facing the criminal resolve of an extremist minority to impose its retrograde vision of society. To bow now to terror and its use as a political leverage will not put an end to the Algerian crisis: Indeed, the help that you recommend would be the moral equivalent of assisted suicide for Algeria. That's not your intent and that's certainly not our project.

Everyone knows that, when there's a reluctance to choose between good and evil, it is easy to ignore the reality and preach about morals. But who would really believe that it took six years of barbarous terrorism for an international inquiry to be deemed necessary to understand what's going on in Algeria?

For want of really helping the young Algerian democracy defeat terrorism, maybe she can be spared the added insult to the existing injury. Under the circumstances, the best "help for Algeria" would be to honor the memories of the victims by not suggesting they all died in vain.

Ramtane Lamamra


Ambassador of Algeria

Cuba defector 'hands line'

Regarding Howard LaFranchi's article on Orlando Hernandez' recent defection from Cuba ("How Cuba Benched a Star Pitcher," Dec. 5): As a reader of many defectors' accounts (from China, Russia, East Germany, Iraq, etc.), I would like to emphasize that any prominent, intelligent person residing in a communist or similarly controlled country would never dream of publicly denouncing his country (especially to a reporter). To do so would place him or her at great risk.

Any person considering defection usually leads a strenuous double life - outwardly proclaiming loyalty but inwardly considering ways of escape. Mr. Hernandez was most certainly "handing a line" to Mr. LaFranchi. What else could he have done in his situation, especially after his half-brother defected?

Family members left behind are in a precarious position. Mrs. Hernandez is fortunate she was able to escape with her husband.

Most (but not all) defectors genuinely love their homelands. They leave because of an oppressive government and the opportunity to live, grow, and contribute in a freer society. Do your homework on communist societies! Of course he was handing everyone a line! He had no choice!

Erica J. Burull

Colorado Springs, Colo.

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