Writing Letters

After five years of working with Amnesty International writing
letters to foreign leaders asking for the release of political prisoners,
I finally got a response. It is from a general in Uruguay.
Reading the letter, I can see the general in his wood paneled office suite
In the old section of Montevideo. The balcony opens to the Isla de Flores.
His crisp dress shirt is open at the collar. It is the season of llamadas,
and the riotous sound of a neighborhood Candombe band drifts up through the open balcony doors.
He sits at his desk in front of a pile of papers. At his elbow,
A whisky decanter of Laphroaig scotch rests on a silver tray.
He is feeling generous, the music has made him so.
He picks a letter at random from the pile and decides to answer it.
He is not a bad man. Why do so many strangers around the world think otherwise?

It is dark in his office, but the balcony is sunny. He walks to the railing and looks down.
A street vendor is selling melons. She is striking in her flower print dress
As she carefully arranges her wares for the morning. She reminds him
Of his daughter, Francesca, away at college in Boston. She wants to be a journalist!
What puts such ideas in a young woman’s head? Does she listen to the lies
In the streets about the mistreatment of Tupamaros dissidents?
And what is a lie anyway except a truth that is stillborn and must be buried
To make way for the future. The woman in the street looks up at him and looks away.
He walks back to his desk, puts down his drink and picks up my letter.
Dear Mr. Brandis, he writes. Thank you for your concern about senor Mujica.
We are proud of our people. We treat everyone fairly.

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