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Some of Columbus's Contributions Deserve Credit

The author of the Opinion page article "Putting Columbus In His Place," March 11, entirely misses the point. He appears to have overlooked the main focus of the quincentennial, which is not the figure of Columbus, but the tremendous consequences of his voyages to the Americas.

The author glibly dismisses the biological and cultural exchange initiated by Columbus. However, this attitude flies in the face of the facts. The introduction of potatoes to the Irish, horses to the native Americans, and corn to Africa, among hundreds of other examples, has profoundly affected humanity.

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It is true that atrocities were committed. What the author fails to recognize, however, is that these acts were not encouraged or condoned at the time. Even Columbus was censured by Queen Isabella for his ill-treatment of Indians. The same society that produced admittedly greedy conquistadors also gave birth to the whole concept of human rights. Distinguished churchmen and thinkers like Antonio de Montesinos, Francisco de Vitoria, and Bartolome de las Casas decried the abuses and successfully pushed for legislation to safeguard the Indians. The author hangs a crooked picture when he leaves out men like Fray Toribio de Benavente, whose selfless devotion earned him the Taino nickname "Motolinea" (the poor one).

The next time the author looks for eggs to throw at poor old Christopher Columbus, he would do well to remember that chickens are a European import and that tired stereotypes are a poor substitute for thoughtful, balanced arguments. John-Marshall Klein, Washington Latin America's economic role

The article "Latin American Economies Shed Old-World Past," March 18, is based largely on ethnic and religious bias. This article states that much of Latin America's economic woes can be attributed to the unethical and undisciplined characteristics of Hispanic peoples, and that these characteristics are the result of their Iberian-derived culture and Catholic religion.

The author attempts to explain complex problems with ethnocentric platitudes and inaccurate stereotypes. With the United States economy in dire straits, moral standards declining, and violent crime rising, suggesting that Latin Americans adopt our culture and values is absurd. R. J. Kerian, Dallas

I read with interest the articles on Latin America. I feel the US has ignored the economic importance of Mexico, Central America, and South America. We have always been more comfortable dealing with our neighbors to the north, the Canadians. I am sure it is because we are more culturally alike and (excepting Quebec) speak the same language.

Now it is time for a reality check. Let's stop the bashing, protectionism, and isolationism and work to improve and increase our linkage with Mexico and Latin America, as the Bush administration is doing with the North American Free Trade agreement. Margaret A. Ahler, Rensselaer, Ind. The CIA's role in Chile

The article "Latin American Leftists Rethink Their Role," March 6, is enlightening. But the reference to Chile's 1973 military coup, which overthrew President Salvador Allende, gave me a jolt. The author omits the fact that, although two Chilean generals carried it out, it was the US that suggested, planned, and paid for the removal of a democratically elected leader.

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This has been general knowledge since 1975 when the Senate Intelligence Committee investigated Central Intelligence Agency covert activities. Joan Sanders, Flossmoor, Ill.

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