Time to Forgive CubaI wonder how many people realize that...

SATURDAY MAIL BOX

April 16, 1994

Time to Forgive Cuba

I wonder how many people realize that the United States has been at war with Cuba for the last 32 years -- not with guns and bullets but with a trade embargo that prevents Cubans from buying anything from us. Food, fuel, automobile spare parts and even medicines.

In addition to our own embargo, we are now penalizing other countries if they trade with Cuba under the so-called Cuban Democracy Act of 1992. These embargoes violate international law and the charter of the United Nations. They have been condemned twice by the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Last year, Dr. Benjamin Spock, who was pediatrician to several generations of American children, traveled to Cuba at the age of 90 to see for himself what the conditions were. He found Cubans reduced to eating two meals a day with very little protein.

The children were showing evidence of malnutrition; lack of protein results in stunted growth. The adults are suffering from "optic neuritis," which is caused by a severe vitamin deficiency and often leads to blindness.

Cuban doctors have no medicines to treat illnesses nor vaccines to prevent diseases such as smallpox, polio, measles, etc.

Why are we treating the Cubans like this?

About 40 years ago Fidel Castro sought U.S. aid in overthrowing a corrupt and repressive dictator of Cuba. When our government refused, he turned to the Soviet Union, which did help. Part of the price he had to pay was to agree to let the Russians install missiles in Cuba.

As I remember, only a few were actually installed before a gigantic American protest persuaded Khrushchev to withdraw them. Not a single American was killed or injured, but for all these years we have refused to forgive them, although we long ago forgave Germany and Japan for starting World War II, in which thousands of American lives were lost. We even helped them to recover after the war.

Surely we have wreaked enough vengeance on the small island of Cuba for its "crime." The Cubans used to be one of our most friendly neighbors and good trading partners. They can be again if we would stop holding this grudge and lift the embargo.

Anne R. Broderick

Ellicott City

Evil in Gorazde

Thank you for publishing Daniel Berger's perceptive and provocative piece on international evil (April 9).

As we recognize the powerful historical lesson of "Schindler's List," shouldn't we expect our national and international leadership (if there is such a thing) to be more cognizant of the evils we are encouraging by turning our backs?

Yes, unfortunately, terror does pay.

Our government is not being asked to send troops, just to send money to help support the freedom of Gorazde from genocide.

But no: We have money for honey bee and tobacco subsidies, for profuse and redundant congressional staffs and junkets, but we have to repeat isolationist mistakes of the 1930s under the guise of budget balancing.

In the 1930s, we at least had the excuse of not knowing what was happening in the death camps. Now, we have no such excuse.

It is past time that the Clinton administration got its act together in international affairs. The U.S. has become a hand-wringing jerk on the international scene, and even the hand-wringing isn't too convincing.

Franklin W. Littleton

Baltimore

Telephone Charges

Has anyone noticed that long-distance telephone companies are routinely ripping off the public?

I was recently on a business trip to California, and I called home from Los Angeles airport before flying home, using a pay phone and a credit card.

The line was busy, and instead of using the AT&T message option I hung up. Five minutes later I tried again, and the line was still busy, but because my flight was about to leave I decided to utilize the message service.

After the flight took off I used the airborne telephone service, GTEAir, to verify that my wife received the message.

GTEAir charges by the minute, so I kept the call very short -- easily under a minute. The call was charged to the same credit card.

When I received my credit card bill I noticed that both calls from the airport were charged by AT&T, not just the one that got through. The GTEAir bill showed a charge for two minutes, not one.

When I called the credit card company they informed me that both AT&T and GTEAir charge for the use of the line regardless if the call was completed.

This means, according to the MasterCard representative, that they can charge from the moment the customer picks up the receiver even if the line is busy or no one answers. (This explains why my hotel bill showed telephone charges for long-distance calls that never got through).

The overcharge on GTEAir was approximately $2.50, and the AT&T overcharge was only $2.30. I debated dismissing these charges as insignificant, but I have changed my mind.

This billing practice, which may appear in small print somewhere but is not obvious, is outrageous. I'm sure AT&T and GTEAir overcharges nationwide amount to millions of dollars per year.

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