I commend Roger E. Hernandez for his Jan. 15 op-ed column, "Elian's Life in Cuba."

It is unfortunate to watch the U.S. media dismiss the efforts of the Cuban American lobby as a trivial vendetta motivated by an "endless feud" with Fidel Castro.

Living conditions in Cuba are dismal and getting worse. There is no freedom of expression, unless it coincides with the government's expression. Journalists may ask: If everything is as bad as they say, why are all those people demonstrating on behalf of Castro and Elian's father? The reason is everyone was given the day off work and told to go.

Although Cuba is supposed to have "universal health care," Cuban Americans spend thousands of dollars every month sending family members such basic things as aspirin, Band-Aids and syringes, along with underwear, blankets, even wheelchairs.

More fundamental, most of us cannot understand what it is like to live in fear that you will say something wrong or do something to make the local communist leader think that you are anti-Castro. That is reality for every Cuban citizen.

The fact that Cuban Americans are able to organize our community and exert influence over policies that affect our families and friends living on the island should be commended, not dismissed.

S. M. AVELENDA

Washington