Conditions for Africa debt relief: serpent in the grass

It is laudable that the G-8, of which the United States is a member, offered debt relief to 18 poor countries (14 of which are in Africa). However, in the June 13 article "What debt relief means for Africa," and in John Hughes's June 15 Opinion piece, "Meeting Africa's genuine need," the writers' eyes are lifted so high in praise that they fail to see the serpent in the grass at their feet: the number of conditions imposed on those countries in order to qualify for debt relief.

According to a statement made by G-8 finance ministers, these countries must "tackle corruption, boost private sector development, and attract investment; [put in place] a credible legal framework; and... [eliminate] impediments to private investment, both domestic and foreign."

This seems to require the selling off of water and natural resources to international bidders before these developing countries have the skill and experience to wrangle a fair price; to let foreign investors in before regulations are in place to prevent fraud; and to allow imports to compete with domestic products with no provision for protection of local producers.

This is indeed good governance but only for foreign corporations, not for the countries receiving debt relief.

Debt relief should mean the relief of debts, not the addition of conditions that are to the benefit of the giver.
Jane Ronca-Washburn
Albuquerque, N.M.

China will rise by economics, not might

In response to the June 22 editorial "Playing the Vietnam Card": The concern that "Beijing's hefty diplomatic and economic body weight might turn into real military muscle in the region" is ill-placed. Thankfully, "military muscle" is almost outmoded.

In the cold war, the real battles between the US and the USSR were more subtle, psychological, and economic. The US won by economic strength and superior resources, not "military muscle."

Engagement in weapons development, real and bluffed, drew the Soviets into un-sustainable consumption of resources and economic collapse. The Chinese leaders seem to have watched, studied, and learned. The Chinese, too, are not without global aspirations. They will probably use the most effective tools to further their undeclared intentions - capitalism's tools.

The West is being drawn into economic balances that are fragile and threatened by potentially catastrophic disruptions. "Military muscle" is becoming anachronistic and unnecessary. How we choose to strengthen our economy and sustain our resources should be our concern.
Charles Laws
Couvet, Switzerland

Mississippians represented?

In response to the June 23 article, "Mississippi verdict greeted by a generation gap": After reading the comment made by University of Alabama's Joshua Rothman that "most people will never set foot in Alabama or Mississippi" because of the negative association related to those states, one cannot help wondering if there is still an integral reason why those beliefs are so widespread.

I am referring in particular to two missing signatures on the lynching apology issued by the US Senate - those of Mississippi's senators.

Mississippi is taking regressive steps in its attempt to change its image when the state's representatives refuse to acknowledge the atrocities that were committed in the South only a few decades ago.

Most other senators in the US have recognized the need to apologize. I cannot help wondering - what does one lose in saying sorry for the crimes committed by previous generations?
Anjali Grover
San Jose, Calif.

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