Rancor, a Time-Honored Religious Tradition
It's too bad John Lantigua's article "Holy War, Inc." (April 9) on Florida's Santeria community chose to focus on name-calling and infighting -- which all religions suffer from -- rather than on why thousands of people follow the ways of this beautiful tradition to uplift their lives and find spiritual fulfillment.

I'm a priest of Obatala and I think both sides in the fight would agree with me when I say that all those human foibles pale when we are engaged in the act of worshipping God and the orichas. That's where the power and profundity of the religion lies.

Ian Scott Horst
Brooklyn, New York

A Special Kind of Pet Shop
The thing least understood about Santeria is its tolerance of animal cruelty. And it isn't just the actual slaughter of goats, roosters, and pigeons, but the condition in which the animals are kept while awaiting death. I recently visited a "pet shop" in Hialeah. It was tiny, filthy, dark, and full of pigeons crammed in small wire cages from floor to ceiling waiting to be bought for sacrifice. The authorities were called and the shop was cited for many violations. Americans do not accept animal cruelty and do not accept religions that practice it.

Sabra Brea

Beware Teenagers with Automatic Weapons
Kathy Glasgow's article "Machine Gunners Are People Too" (April 2) only reiterates the insanity behind these people's actions. Here you've got architects, contractors, computer programmers. I would venture to guess that between them they probably have a few offspring. Don't they fathom that their children change over time? Today's eight-year-old child, who might be mildly curious about guns, can easily become a reckless thirteen-year-old.

Unless these parents put a 24-hour security guard on their collection of guns and ammunition, it's a given that at some point their kids will obtain access for just a moment and will experiment. These are the children who will invite my son to their houses to "see something really cool," and I'm totally helpless to do anything about it. Daily news flashes of gun accidents and ambushes prove it.

Luimar Saides

Not in Praise of Machine Guns
Considering that kids are getting blown away by all kinds of weapons, I don't think this is the time to be praising machine gunners. Let them continue with their hobby, yes. Praise, no. After all, when these weapons fall into the wrong hands, it doesn't matter how nice and respectable their owners are.

Despite all the statistics cited in the article, one pair of wrong hands is one pair too many. Anyone who has had a kid accidentally shot by one of these sleek instruments of death would do anything to get that kid back, including voting to put a ban on the whole friggin' slew.

Manny Losada

Noriega: Required Reading
New Times's March 26 issue contained two superb articles. Sean Rowe's insightful and well-written piece "Big Chief Moneybags," about Seminole leader James Billie, shows us a dedicated leader who clearly works very hard for the people he represents -- unlike most elected officials. The U.S. Senate is pushing legislation to reduce or eliminate the sovereignty of Indian nations across the country. The Indians' newfound economic success threatens the tax-and-spend Republocrats in Congress and statehouses. And so the American tradition of breaking treaties with Indians is not yet ended. I wish James Billie and the Seminoles the best of luck.

Peter Eisner's "Uncertain Justice," which explored the many shady elements surrounding the arrest, jailing, and prosecution of Manuel Noriega, should be required reading for every American concerned about media, government, or the future of the Western Hemisphere.

One statement by Eisner's informant, Armando, sent chills through me: "I was shocked at how absolutely easy it is to manipulate the news media." I've known that for the politically correct this is true, but to see it in print gives some hope that Americans will wake up sooner rather than too late.

Dennis P. Quinn
Miami Lakes

Noriega: Not Guilty but Good Riddance
I covered the Noriega trial from gavel to gavel for the Panamanian media, and I must agree with Peter Eisner that the evidence presented by prosecutors was mostly circumstantial. I honestly did not believe they made their case. But in light of the Panama invasion and the pressure brought to bear by the U.S. government, I can understand why the jury found Noriega guilty.

Like Peter Eisner and other journalists, I would have voted not guilty based on the evidence and the shoddy witnesses. None of the convicted drug dealers could ever place Noriega with the drugs they alleged he moved. If the jury had known that key witness Ricardo Bilonick was being paid for his testimony, the result would have been different.

Noriega just did not understand how America works, and now he is paying the price. As to the merits of the case and his guilt or innocence, only time will tell. The only true reality is that Panama is better off without him, and that most Panamanians welcomed the American invasion.

Tomas Cabal
Panama City, Panama

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