- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 2, 2003

Keep Cuba travel ban

Stephen Dinan reported that the Senate just joined the House in voting to end the four-decade-old restrictions on travel to Cuba (“Defiant Senate OKs end to ban on travel to Cuba,” Nation, Oct. 24). Some members of Congress who voted to lift the travel restrictions, many of whom represent constituents who want to sell agricultural and other products to Cuba, stated that the current policy is more harmful to U.S. interests and allows the Cuban government to blame the United States for all its hardships. Nothing is further from the truth.

Considering the purported highly acclaimed educational achievements of the Cuban revolution, it would be demeaning to think these highly educated Cubans would not be able to figure out by themselves that the U.S. travel ban has nothing to do with their current economic hardships. They understand very well that despite the heavy investments in the Cuban economy by Canadians, Latin Americans and Europeans, the living conditions and human rights of the Cuban people have gotten worse. They know American investments would benefit the Cuban government, not its people.

It is questionable whether U.S. firms that want to sell agricultural and other products to Cuba would benefit from the lifting of the travel ban. According to a speech Dennis Flannery, executive vice president of the Inter-American Development Bank, gave in Miami in August, Cuban foreign debt amounted to $12 billion in hard currency, plus another $20 billion that Russia claims is owed to the former Soviet Union. Mr. Flannery indicated that rating agencies had classified Cuba among the world’s riskiest investments, along with Iraq and Angola. Where would Fidel Castro get the cash or credit to buy American products when he lacks the financial resources to pay those countries that have helped him all along? In the end, it would be the American taxpayers who would have to be called to the rescue — a highly unfair and unpopular proposition.

Lifting the travel ban on Cuba would threaten the national-security interests of this country and make it more difficult to fight the global war on international terrorism. To begin with, according to the annual Patterns of Global Terrorism report, released by the State Department in April, Cuba has sent agents to U.S. missions on numerous occasions, providing “false leads designed to subvert the post-September 11 investigation.” Moreover, the FBI arrested 10 Cuban agents on Sept. 12, 1998, on suspicion of spying on U.S. military bases, as well as a Cuban spy at the Defense Intelligence Agency just 10 days after the September 11 attacks. Finally, Mr. Castro made the following statement at Tehran University in May 2001: “Iran and Cuba, in cooperation with each other, can bring America to its knees.” Who needs friends like these?

Rather than providing assistance to keep the terminally ill Cuban revolution on a life-support system by lifting the U.S. travel ban, the U.S. government should be assisting anyone who tries to pull the plug. It is up to the president to keep the best interests of the nation at heart and veto the entire bill with the travel provisions to Cuba.

JORGE E. PONCE

Burke

Just say no

In Friday’s Op-Ed column “High politics,” Vanda Felbab-Brown argues that attempting to eradicate cultivation of illegal drugs in poor countries alienates the local population and tends to strengthen terrorists who pretend to protect them. Also, she argues that crop substitution does not work. So, while a few people make colossal fortunes selling drugs that poison the minds of addicts in the United States and other Western countries, and poor countries must import food while their own land is wasted on growing poison, does this mean nothing should be done?

It is undeniable that terrorists, warlords and dictators can benefit from the huge amounts of money that can be made selling illegal drugs, just as some of them have benefited by selling oil in the Middle East and diamonds in Africa. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that we should throw up our hands and let our young people be driven to addiction and suicide. Crop substitution can work if the substitute crops are well-adapted to the soil and climate of areas that now grow drug crops and if growers are given an incentive to switch to food production. Military and police intervention can help persuade local people that growing and selling illegal drugs is a dangerous business and not worth the trouble. People who grow illegal drugs still need food, so efforts to prevent food shipments to areas known to produce illegal drugs could persuade them to grow their own food. We also need to educate our young people to know that drug addiction is a one-way street to despair and help them realize they will be much happier without ever taking drugs.

Maybe, as the author charges, the current anti-drug strategy is ineffective. If so, it should be changed and adapted to the situation; it should not be abandoned.

STEVEN ZELL

West Hartford, Conn.

Protecting our forests

Regarding Audrey Hudson’s Tuesday article “Fires lend urgency to forest-thinning act” (Nation), I have to agree that something needs to be done to protect the people and homes in Southern California.

However, implementing President Bush’s Healthy Forests Initiative is not the way to go. It is important to keep our forests clean and clear of debris, deadwood and other combustibles, but the initiative reaches far beyond what is needed to keep people safe. The Bush plan seeks to use our taxpayer dollars to help build roads in our national forests, opening areas around the country to timber and paper companies, thus subsidizing the profits of these private-sector industries. In addition, the Bush plan seeks to impose a 45-day window on the amount of time that is allowed to bring a suit against prospective logging projects. Allowing such a law to pass could prove devastating to those working to protect our forests, as it often takes time to build up enough public support to provide opposition to the plans of timber and paper companies.

In the coming weeks, it will be important to focus our efforts in supporting the amendments to the initiative offered by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, and Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, which seek to lessen the far-reaching effects of the Bush plan. Letting logging industries run free in our national forests would prove devastating to the landscape of our country. We need to not let panic get the best of us so that we can instead open the door for a more comprehensive plan that better addresses the issues at hand.

MAC GILLESPIE

Washington

Fond memories of SpeedGolf

I loved your article on SpeedGolf (“Running score,” Sports, Friday). I immediately called my dad, Marlin Schmidt, who was an early fanatic/inventor of the sport.

In the early ‘70s he used to play early mornings at our country club, Morris Park, in South Bend, Ind. Armed with a 6 iron, two balls, (one to play and the other as a spare tucked into his jock strap), he’d run the course. Without any help on teeing up or fetching from the hole, he had a “running buddy” document his nine holes at 16 minutes, 20 seconds.

He wrote Golf Digest at the time — regrettably he can’t remember the year — and they printed his record as the fastest round of nine holes. A few years later, well before Steve Scott came on the scene, Golf Digest reported the 16-minute, 20-second record was broken by a man in a cart. They just didn’t get it.

Anyway, Dad swears it was the best golf he ever played in his life. Getting in the rhythm, running after the ball while it was still in the air. He rarely plays at all anymore because it’s so slow, with novices playing the same strict etiquette as the pros they see on television.

So, thanks for giving me a chance to reminisce with my Dad. At 67, he’s still a triathlete.

NANCY (SCHMIDT) KYME

Woodbridge, Va.


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