Letters to the Editor
S.F. Examiner

Admiring sentenced protester of Pentagon training operation I was happy to see the Charlie Liteky story on the front page ("Sacrifices for a better world begin at home," July 23), especially now that the School of the Americas (SOA) is about to be renamed the Defense Institute for Hemispheric Security Cooperation (which even SOA supporter Sen. Paul Coverdell, R-Ga., calls a "cosmetic" change).

It is important to point out that Liteky and the other nine protesters sentenced to serve time are not simply mourning the loss of past victims of SOA graduates. The Defense Department school continues to make the news today.

In February 2000, Human Rights Watch released a report on military-paramilitary ties in Colombia (the SOA's biggest client), citing at least seven SOA grads for connections with Colombia's violent paramilitary groups and linking the grads to killings committed as recently as January 2000.

The 1999 U.S. State Department Report on Human Rights in Colombia confirms that SOA grads are still involved in human rights abuses - yet Congress just approved a $1.3 billion military aid package for Colombia.

The SOA says it primarily promotes democracy via military-to-military contacts, but in actuality the school is an instrument in the enforcement of decidedly undemocratic economic policies in Latin America.

The SOA trains students in combat skills that are used against those, including non-combatants, who would challenge their governments.

It is shameful that, this year, our tax dollars are going toward running the SOA, toward military aid to Colombia and toward keeping non-violent protesters such as Charlie Liteky behind bars.

Krissy McGivney
San Francisco

Thank you for Stephanie Salter's article. It had never occurred to me, Nor I suppose to the general public, that peaceful demonstration against our government, its Army and its human rights abuses would be punished so harshly.

It is very sad how hypocrisy can lead to incarcerating normal citizens who see through it.

Is there any way the rest of us can help courageous people like Charlie Liteky? Isn't there a way to appeal the unfair judgment?

Guy Tiphane


Cuba's humane deeds

Regarding the editorial "Reopening Cuba" (July 24): Allow me to offer another reason why the blockade on Cuba should be lifted.

Since the Cuban revolution in 1959, the government has promoted a policy of humanitarian internationalism, sending thousands of trained professionals to serve in poor countries throughout the world, the largest beneficiary being sub-Saharan Africa.

From 1963 to 1998, 24,714 Cuban medical doctors, nurses and dentists served on the continent. The Cuban government has also trained thousands of young Africans in the medical and technical fields. From 1961 to 1997, 25,967 African students received diplomas from Cuban institutions.

Unfortunately, these international programs were dramatically reduced when Cuba entered into its economic downturn in the early 1990s as a consequence of the fall of the Soviet Union (the island's primary trading partner) and the tightening of the U.S. blockade.

Despite the country's depression-style recession, Cuban doctors can still be found in Africa. In Zimbabwe, the only nephrologist working in public health is Cuban (there are only two others in the entire country), and the only dentist in the entire Masvingo province is also Cuban. Currently there are more than 500 Cuban doctors working in rural South Africa. Each on average treats 120 patients per day.

At independence in 1975, Mozambique had 75 doctors to serve a population of 14 million. Since independence 300 Mozambicans have received medical degrees from Cuban institutions. Pedro, who graduated from medical school in Havana in 1998, told me he was so poor before studying in Cuba that the first pair of shoes and pants he ever owned were given to him as part of his school uniform. Pedro says that his mother still has trouble believing her son is actually a doctor because he is the first one she has ever known.

Because of Cuba, there are thousands of beautiful stories like Pedro's. Imagine what Cuba could do for the rest of the world if the U.S. government would end the blockade and simply let the island live.

Marla Ruzicka
San Francisco

H-1B story not all rosy

Your article "Tech beckons Indian workers" (Business section, July 23) totally ignored the issue of the large number of Americans and permanent residents from abroad who are unable to get interviews - never mind employment - in the industry.

The H-1B program has nothing to do with "a labor shortage," as the media dutifully reprint uncritically from press releases issued by the high-tech industry. It has everything to do with indentured, cheaper labor and campaign donations.

Ralph Nader is right that "we have one corporate party with two heads."

There are many reports of H-1B visa holders who are abused by employers, such as in delays of payment, lower pay than is first offered, and overwork. H-1B holders earn 30 to 50 percent less than their American or permanent-resident counterparts, and they get nothing like the same benefits.

Your article also gives the impression that it is easy for H-1B visa holders to change employment, with your example of Jayanta Bhowmik. He "came to the United States on an H-1B visa five years ago. He was hired by IBM in Silicon Valley, but within a year he was plucked away by Oracle."

The reality for the vast majority of H-1B workers is very different. They do not enjoy the benefits of the free market unless they have the support of a major corporation with power in Washington, and thus have the Immigration and Naturalization Service in their corner.

It is no surprise that agencies that recruit H-1B visa employees, some of whom have been accused of falsifying applicants' credentials, are known in the industry as "body shops."

Do some good old-fashioned investigative journalism on the issue instead of spouting the industry spin.

Ian Roberts
San Francisco

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