Questioning US stance toward Cuba

I found of particular interest the April 16 editorial "Castro shows his colors" which stated, "Like any Communist, [Fidel Castro's] main interest is preserving power."

I would like to know of any politician, whether communist or democratic, that isn't interested first and foremost in the preservation of personal power.

Isn't this why it is nearly impossible for our elected leaders to agree on the necessity of, let alone legislate, meaningful campaign finance reform? If incumbent politicians gave up the largely unbridled campaign contributions that they receive from special interests, it would level the campaign playing field, thereby diminishing the likelihood of their retaining their seats and their power base.

It is human nature to desire to preserve the perks of power and influence, not one's political ideology.
David Schmidt
Arlington, Va.

The recent Cuban crackdown reveals a continuing fear of American intentions. The US government claims that it has not engaged in military action against Cuba for some time (beyond its occupation of Cuba's Guantánamo Bay), so from an American perspective, the Cuban government's reaction to political activists' engagement with US diplomats, among other foreigners, may seem like paranoia. But the unrelenting US hostility toward Cuba during the past 40 years makes it difficult to distinguish between when the "Yankees" are a real threat and when they are not.
Nicholas Trott Long
Providence, R.I.

In the April 17 opinion piece "New Cuban rights abuse: no excuse to slow US outreach," Brian Alexander adopts the causality principle that if the US only eased up on foreign tyrannies, the tyrants would reform and go away. This is a fallacious argument.

Being tyrants, Fidel Castro, Kim Jong Il, the fallen Saddam Hussein, and others, all have one priority: to hang onto their absolute power. This means that normalization or relaxation efforts from abroad, such as those supported by Mr. Alexander, constitute threats to the dictators' hold on the population. Reform in this insidious way will thus not be tolerated by the given regimes.

The most that can be hoped for is the continued rise of popular disaffection, as was seen, for example, in Romania, in 1989. Nicolae Ceaucescu was toppled from power by a popular uprising.
Albert Weeks
Sarasota, Fla.

Political asylum, not prison

Regarding the April 3 article "Drawing the line between asylum seekers and safety": Thank you for spreading the word that refugees are not criminals, but are people in desperate need of protection.

The only people who benefit from Operation Liberty Shield are those in the prison industry whose buildings are being stuffed with vulnerable individuals and whose wallets are being filled with America's tax money.
Katherine Pettit
Half Moon Bay, Calif.

Imposing democracy

Why is it considered either appropriate or consistent for the US to proclaim that its goal is to bring democracy to Iraq or any other country? How can we legitimately dictate one particular form of government to a people whom we are "freeing"?

Whatever happened to the principle of self-determination? Why doesn't that represent a truer application of freedom? Of course, this position would imply an acceptance of whatever type of government they chose; that may be too politically risky and idealistic a stance for our leaders to assume.
Carolyn Dain
Golden, Colo.

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