The Guardian January 26, 2000


Elian Gonzalez must go home!

Elian Gonzalez, the six-year-old Cuban boy who is at the heart of an 
international custody or kidnapping row since being rescued from the sea 
off Florida, is still being used by the rightwing in the US to score cheap 
political points with no consideration for the mental anguish of his father 
or the effects of this prolonged psychological abuse on the boy 
himself.

Elian's parents in Cuba were divorced, his father having custody. His 
mother remarried, to a man Fidel Castro said "never worked a day in his 
life!"

Her new husband illegally entered the USA and lived there for three months 
before returning  again illegally  to Cuba.

Arrested and jailed, he promised to find work and was released, but instead 
he built a flimsy boat and charged other would-be immigrants to the USA 
US$1,000 to join him on the boat.

It is believed he was the driving force in persuading Elian's mother last 
November to take the boy from his father and make the run to the USA. The 
boat went down off the Florida coast in bad weather. Elian's mother, her 
husband and nine other Cubans drowned.

The boy was rescued by the US coastguard and taken to the home of distant 
relatives who claimed that, despite his father having legal custody, it was 
his dead mother's wish for him to be brought up in the USA.

Cuba demanded the boy's immediate return to his father, from whose care he 
had in fact been kidnapped, but US officials, under intense pressure from 
right-wing lobbyists, prevaricated.

Thousands of Cubans demonstrated daily in Havana against the US use of a 
six-year-old boy as a political weapon.

With the White House keeping a deliberately low profile, the US Immigration 
Service (INS) eventually (on January 5) decided what everybody who was not 
fanatically anti-communist already knew: that his father does have the 
right to custody and the boy should be returned to him.

Nevertheless, distant relatives among the emigre community in Florida are 
resorting to every legal trick in the book in an attempt to block the 
return and make the boy an anti-communist icon.

The latest move is a Bill introduced into the US House of Representatives 
by four Republicans to give Elian immediate US citizenship, thus 
complicating any attempt to repatriate him.

Even after the INS decision, which outraged rightwingers, the US Government 
tried to get the boy's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, to come to the US to 
"collect" him. If he had, Gonzalez senior would no doubt have been 
subjected to intense pressure and bribes to get him to "choose freedom" and 
stay in the USA together with his son.

Unfortunately, Juan Miguel had already received death threats from Cuban 
exiles and was not prepared to take the risk. Legal challenges from the 
anti-Cuba forces in Miami and Washington have delayed the lad's return, but 
as the Clinton administration is all too aware, while the anti-Communist 
bigots of Miami want to "save" Elian from socialism, public opinion 
elsewhere is overwhelmingly of the opinion that the boy should be speedily 
returned to his father.

Spontaneous "Committees for the Repatriation of Elian Gonzalez" were set up 
in parts of the USA, and petitions circulated, the organisers noting 
"people on the streets have been extremely supportive".

The INS decision was clearly based on legal advice  and overwhelming 
evidence provided by Cuban officials and the boy's father  that any legal 
challenge would ultimately be decided in favour of the father, who can 
prove that he can provide the loving, family environment the boy needs.

The continued challenges and delays serve only to prolong the anguish of 
both child and father, while exposing for all the world the callousness 
that lies at the heart of capitalism.

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