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MONDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Boycotting Aruba won’t solve the Holloway case

Suppose that during the 1950s or '60s, after any one of several horrible crimes committed against black people and civil rights activists, someone had called for an economic boycott of Alabama until state authorities brought the perpetrators to justice.

Would this have whipped the police, prosecutors and courts into line? Probably not. They would have become more defiant than ever, railing against Yankees and carpetbaggers trying to tell Alabamians what to do.

What a boycott might have done, had it worked, was hurt those Alabamians, white and black, who were not to blame — including those who were trying to overcome racism and change attitudes from the inside.

Natalee Holloway's stepfather, Jug Twitty, made a similar point Aug. 4 when he wrote a letter to Gov. Bob Riley and the Alabama Legislature. He thanked them for their concern about Miss Holloway, a 2005 Mountain Brook High School graduate who has been missing in Aruba since May 30. But he asked them not to pursue an Aruba boycott.

"Aruba and its people should not ... be harmed for the actions of others over which they had no control," Mr. Twitty wrote. "This boycott could bring severe economic repercussions to the people dedicated to helping us through these trying times."

But last week, with Miss Holloway still missing and her family distraught and frustrated, her mother, Beth Holloway Twitty, joined Gov. Riley at a press conference where he called for a travel boycott.

The boycott got the Aruban government's attention. It protested publicly and complained to the U.S. State Department. U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Birmingham, said later that Aruba would send its chief investigator to the United States to answer questions about the Holloway case. Maybe this resulted from the boycott effort; maybe not.

The State Department has declined to embrace the boycott, and so far the only elected officials who have endorsed it, as far as we know, are in Alabama. Travel industry experts say it won't hurt Aruba much, although tourism accounts for 70 percent of that island's gross domestic product.

From what we can see, Aruban officials have botched their investigation. Tragically, it appears unlikely that Natalee Holloway will ever be found. If a boycott would miraculously change that, we'd support it. But it won't, and it certainly won't promote cooperation between Americans and Arubans in continuing to pursue the case.

Every tourist is free, of course, to stay away from Aruba for this or any other reason. But the boycott strikes us as an empty and perhaps harmful gesture.

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