The illusory nature of Vietnam's progress

Regarding your June 18 exhibit review "Cultural lens on Vietnam": US-born Americans believe Vietnam is a better place today than during the war. It is an illusion that the communists have succeeded in propagandizing as truth. From your review: "Vietnam now possesses a market economy and a culture that includes 54 ethnic groups."

I'm not sure where you received the information for your article, but I encourage you to verify that the only "market" in Vietnam today is still the black market. And although ethnic diversity exists today, it consists mostly of various minorities from the highlands and along the border of Laos and Cambodia, who are completely illiterate and unskilled. Today, education is basically nonexistent for the majority of Vietnamese children. Vietnam today is a corrupted authoritarian country. I am merely interested in conveying the facts - facts that explain why many South Vietnamese such as my family and I risked our lives to escape communist Vietnam.
Hung K. Tang

Welcome, bienvenida, welkom

Regarding your July 23 article about Farmingville, N.Y. "One town's struggle to accept immigrants": When will we finally rid ourselves of such hate? I am acutely aware of the difference between legal and illegal immigrants. In most cases, however, people flee their countries out of desperation. We should not be condemning immigrants for wanting to look out for their families' well-being.
Carol Seischab
Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.

Your article manages to totally ignore the fact that the issue is not immigrants per se, but illegal aliens. By conflating "immigration" and "illegal immigration," the article covers up the illegality of the immigrants by crying "racism" at those of us who object to illegal immigration (I am, by the way, an Arab American). It is a shoddy attempt to manipulate our legal system.
Mara Alexander
Lansing, Mich.

'Plan Colombia' not going as planned?

Your July 21 editorial "Winning in one terrorist war" misstates the success of President Uribe and Plan Colombia. According to State Department figures, although Colombian coca production fell slightly in 2002, it is still above the level of 2000, when Plan Colombia was introduced. Coca production in the Andes has remained virtually steady at 200,000 hectares since 1988 despite repeated fumigation efforts. Furthermore, there has been no substantial impact on availability of cocaine in the United States, with prevalence of cocaine among 12th-graders slightly increasing in 2002, according to the White House drug czar.

In March of this year, the State Department reported continued collaboration between the Colombian military and the AUC "right-wing militia," classified as a terrorist organization and in control of about 40 percent of the Colombian drug trade. Just last week, Colombia's leading weekly news magazine documented how the AUC paramilitary terrorists are strengthening their presence in regions regained by the military. Many fear that the peace process will simply allow AUC members to formalize their status within the security forces by entering the newly created "peasant soldier" division. If the AUC peace process is to provide greater protection for Colombian civilians, then it must do more than just disarm these illegal fighters. It must help create an accountable, transparent, and professional Colombian military, and must demonstrate that those who commit mass murder and torture, or who profit from drug trafficking, will be brought to justice.
Neil Jeffery
Washington Executive Director, US Office on Colombia, Colombia Human Rights Committee

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