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

Noriega: Eyes Wide Open
Peter Eisner's fascinating article contained an error that was probably overlooked by almost every other reader. Eisner mentioned "Seymour Hersh, the renowned investigative journalist who first reported on the My Lai massacre in Vietnam for the New York Times." In fact, Hersh broke the My Lai story while working for the Liberation News Service, a left-wing version of the Associated Press and United Press International. Hersh did not leave Liberation News Service for the Times until a year or two after he first reported on My Lai.

All in all, Eisner's article was quite an eye-opener.
David Miller

Noriega: Not Quite Erroneous
Peter Eisner's story contained a factual error I must correct. In writing about Arnulfo Arias, he stated that Arias was president twice. He was actually president four times, in 1940, 1948, 1964, and 1968. After the second term he spent almost twenty years in exile, but because of his popularity, he was elected again in 1964, when he came out of the long exile. The fourth time around, in 1968, Torrijos overthrew him, and it became one of the shortest presidential terms in history. He was ousted after just eleven days in office.

I worked for ten years as a reporter for the Panama American, an English-language newspaper owned by Arnulfo's brother, Dr. Harmodio Arias.

Hindi Diamond, vice president
Miami International Press Club
North Miami Beach

Peter Eisner replies: My story did not fully describe the late Panamanian president Arnulfo Arias's terms of office. In fact, Arias never served a full term. He was elected outright twice, in 1940 and 1968, and was ousted in both cases by military coups. He took office after a dubious recount of the 1948 election but was then impeached. Arias also claimed that fraud blocked his victory in the 1964 and 1984 elections.

Killian Nine: A Bunch of Obscene Brats
They were crude. They were racist. They were obscene. Now will someone tell me where the creative part comes in the Killian Nine pamphlet ("Reading,Writing, and ... Ohmygod!" March 5)? When I read it, I was offended -- and surprised that so many people were rallying for those brats. Killian has a school paper. If those kids were as smart as everyone says they are, they would have been able to write powerful editorials to voice their concerns. I don't see how drawing a threesome and using every four-letter word in the book could help them influence anyone.

Gariot Louisna


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