US Proclamations of Peace and Democracy in Latin America

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In the Opinion page article "The US Can Be a Constructive Force in Latin America," Nov. 2, the authors make several dubious arguments, the most dramatic of which is the claim that opening United States markets to Latin American goods provides the best way to overcome the "economic slowdown, sharp inequalities, and pervasive poverty" that undermine democracy.

After living in Central America for 3 1/2 years, I saw that many of the wealthy elites own the best land, on which they produce export crops such as sugar, bananas, and coffee. Their wealth multiplies and their political power is immense. The majority must work as unskilled labor for petty wages. They lack basic food, housing, education, and medical care.

This semifeudal economy fosters the oligarchic politics sadly typical in Latin America that occasional elections can only disguise. The responses of the US Agency for International Development and the International Monetary Fund are to promote diversification of the agro-export model and not to replace it. We need to encourage land reform. Historically, we have opposed it. Perhaps with the cold war's passing, we can leave red-labeling behind. But until we are ready to promote change, US proclamations remain meaningless. Steven J. Bovingdon, Seattle Homosexuals in the military

President-elect Clinton is expected to issue an executive order overturning the ban on gays in the military as early as his first day in office. It is the right thing to do. Keeping the ban does not keep gays out. They are already there by the tens of thousands, doing a professional job like everyone else. Eliminating the ban would let them live their lives without fear of being discharged.

A June report from the United States General Accounting Office called the ban too costly and said "experts believe the policy is unsupported, unfair, and counterproductive; it has no validity according to current scientific research and opinions; and it appears to be based on the same type of prejudice once used to discriminate against blacks and women. …