- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 27, 2000

Some have forgotten Cuba didn't fall with the Wall

In Washington, New York and Chicago, we have been driving cars and riding on trains for a century. But the horse and buggy lives on in Amish villages.

We make our cake batter with electric mixers and light our kitchens with electricity. But that's not the case in some hill towns still without power and dependent on hand mixers and candlelight.

We urban Americans like to think all the world is moving forward at the same blinding rate of speed as we are, that everyone and every country on earth is more or less just like us some richer, some poorer but it's not that simple. Many places resist the march of time, for good or ill.

People with differing viewpoints on the Elian Gonzalez case can be divided into two groups: those who naively think that Cuba is pretty much like the United States, only poorer, and those who correctly recognize that Cuba is frozen in a tragic time capsule, one of the last vestiges of the many tyrannical dictatorships that covered the globe for much of the 20th century.

In the wake of the Iron Curtain's fall, many Eastern European countries successfully put their days of tyranny behind them. We act as if communism is dead, as if the fall of the Berlin Wall was a universal awakening. It was not. We cannot think of Cuba as we think of Poland and the Czech Republic. Cuba isn't there.

In Cuba, it is always the 1970s, when Fidel Castro sent guerrilla soldiers all over the world, fomenting revolution from Nicaragua to Mozambique. Most other countries have changed their governments many times since then, but Cuba has not. The same killers still hold absolute power over their island, from Castro himself to his judges, generals, spies, psychiatrists and teachers.

Castro's Cuba is an anachronism. The tyrannies of the "Killing Fields" and the KGB-like police live on in Cuba. Ten-year-olds are taken from their families to virtual slave labor in the sugar and tobacco fields. It is a hell in which the government assigns your job and your housing, where a public statement contrary to the party line lands you in prison, where trying to swim to freedom gets you shot. That's how it will be as long as Castro is in power.

Today's debate on Elian's fate is written in American English. We discuss fathers' rights as if Mr. Gonzalez were a Canadian or an Englishman as if such rights exist in Cuba. We ask for Elian's father to tell us his true wishes, as if we didn't know that anyone with family in Cuba risks his family members' lives if he speaks contrary to Castro's official policy. Mr. Gonzalez still cannot speak his mind on this matter. He has been surrounded by a Cuban staff since his arrival. It is as if he never left Cuban soil.

In an ideal world, should a child be with his father, if possible? Of course. In most of the world, your father is the family's breadwinner, a child's teacher and role model. In most of the world, a child should be with his father. But in Castro's Cuba, the only breadwinner, role model and teacher is Castro. Your father is just another comrade, just another slave.

Elian's mother gave her life that her son might breathe free; we must not give Castro custody of this innocent child.

JOHN F. DI LEO

Lake Zurich, Ill.

'Expensive and wasteful national missile placebo'

Your April 19 editorial "Don't deal away missile defense" ignores two key components of the national missile defense (NMD) debate: cost and feasibility. As shown by top scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, potential enemies can make NMD useless with cheap and simple methods.

This stark revelation calls into question why U.S. taxpayers are spending billions to deploy a system independent experts claim won't work. Furthermore, the Pentagon recently revealed that the NMD price tag has skyrocketed to more than $30 billion.

U.S. taxpayers demand a strong military, dependable research and development for better weapons and the best equipment and training for our soldiers.

Taxpayers do not want an expensive and wasteful national missile placebo.

PAUL SULLIVAN

Director

National Security Project

Taxpayers for Common Sense

Washington

U.N. secretary-general did not call for global taxation to level field

It is gratifying to know that Oliver North is taking seriously the negotiations for a special session of the U.N.'s General Assembly aimed at advancing social development ("Annan's 'Global New Deal,' " Commentary, April 23). After all, one of the aims of the forthcoming special session, which will be held in June in Geneva, is to reduce the ranks of the 1.2 billion people around the world living in abject poverty. This can be done by creating jobs and financial conditions that allow people to work their way out of poverty. This is not a matter of diminishing the prosperity of the prosperous. It is simply a matter of social justice and of elementary fair play among people and countries.

Regrettably, Mr. North's sources seem to have provided him with an inaccurate view of the negotiations, which were not called for by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, but rather by agreement of the membership of the United Nations in the General Assembly. Furthermore, the secretary-general has not advocated global taxation. Rather, governments are exploring methods for curbing financial instability and economic crises that so often produce widespread poverty and social turmoil.

If the Geneva special session is successful in developing practical solutions for some of the world's most pressing social problems, it could save the taxpayers of the world a bundle in peacekeeping costs.

JOHN LANGMORE

Director

Division of social policy and development

United Nations

New York

Liberals get up in arms about gun control again

Why is it that every time a shooting occurs liberals decide to call for more gun control? How many more laws will it take to satisfy them?

The shooting at the National Zoo is an example. D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton held a news conference in which she blamed the incident on Congress for not enacting gun-control laws. How is it Congress' fault? Mrs. Norton represents the city that has among the tightest and strictest gun-control laws on the books.

The D.C. laws say that any person, excluding law enforcement, is forbidden to carry any handgun within the city. If a person is found to have a handgun in his or her possession, regardless of knowledge or ignorance of the statute, that person is subject to arrest and prosecution.

It appears that the suspect in the zoo shootings was a teen-ager roaming the zoo grounds and engaging in fights with other teens. He had a handgun in his possession. He couldn't have bought the gun and ammunition in the city because it is unlawful to sell those items there.

This teen-ager couldn't have bought this gun himself because he was not old enough to do so. It is proper to ask where he got the gun. Did he steal it? Did someone else buy it? Those questions will be answered in time, but there are laws on the books under which this suspect could and should be prosecuted.

Virginia and Maryland have laws that allow their law-abiding residents to carry concealed weapons after they pass a certified course. If Mrs. Norton wants the residents of the District to feel safe in their homes, it is time to let law-abiding residents protect themselves and their neighbors.

DREW GALLAGHER

Waldorf, Md.

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It is a felony to possess a handgun in the District. It is a misdemeanor to possess an unregistered firearm. It is a misdemeanor to possess unregistered ammunition. It is a felony to shoot a person. It is a felony to kill a person.

The District has among the most stringent gun-control laws in the nation.

I knew I would not have to wait long to hear President Clinton espouse even more restrictive laws on law-abiding citizens that fail to address the issues that caused the National Zoo shootings ("Zoo gives Clinton, Gore way to push gun control," April 26).

I guess laws such as "thou shalt not kill," codified by the District, are not enough.

DAVID SCHLOSSER

Arlington

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