The Guardian May 10, 2000


Elian Gonzalez
Captured two nations' hearts

by Terrie Albano

Why would a no-brainer, like reuniting a loving father with his son, become 
an intense saga involving two governments, two countries and a whole 
community? The commonsense position of letting a father take care of his 
son, of putting a child's needs above all else, was undermined by the 
reality of politics dominated by a profit-driven system.

Welcome to the 41-year class struggle between US imperialism and socialist 
Cuba.

The majority of the American people  more than 73 percent favoured a 
reunion  breathed a sigh of relief when they learned about the early 
morning April 22 raid to reunite Elian Gonzalez with his father, Juan 
Miguel Gonzalez.

When Juan Miguel spoke to the press the day before the raid, he appealed to 
the American people "to help me, to send messages ... to the President ... 
Attorney General ... to act immediately to bring my child together with me 

Attorney General Janet Reno's office was flooded with over 7,000 calls. The 
majority of American people saw this for what it was  a handful of right-
wing extremists holding a boy and a nation hostage for their own anti-
communist purposes.

They understood the threat to democracy and decency.

The pressure was building for Attorney General Janet Reno to act. Reno had 
bent over backwards in her negotiations with the Miami family and time as 
well as patience was running out.

A leading New York pediatrician had written a letter to the INS 
(immigration service) insisting Elian was in "imminent danger to his 
physical and emotional well-being".

Feelings were running high. One on-line opinion summed it up: "Come on, 
Janet Reno, bite the bullet and do your job. Take the boy away from those 
thugs and give him to his father. And arrest and prosecute that bunch of 
lawbreakers!"

The support for the Attorney General's decision to act is evident, not only 
in opinion polls, but in the large number of bouquets sent to her office.

One signed by three members of the Cuban-American League, said, 
"Congratulations on a job well done." Another read: "We strongly support 
you. The staff and management of the Watergate Florist."

A card signed "a friend in Miami" said: "To thank you and congratulate you 
on having the courage to make a difficult decision. May God bless you."

On April 24, more than 12,000 supportive calls came in to Reno's office. 
Seeing the happy faces of a reunited father and son helped reaffirm the 
decision.

Was there a choice?

The decision to use government agents to enforce the law and reunite a 
child with his father was forced on the government by the Miami family and 
the Cuban exile right-wing fanatics.

Elian's great uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez, clearly stated he would break the law 
by not turning the boy over to "Opa Locka or any Locka", referring to the 
airport selected for the transfer.

Lazaro said the Government would have to take the boy by force.

Senator Robert Torricelli, a well-known ally of the anti-Castro lobbyists, 
was involved in the negotiations. He said he had advised the Justice 
Department that a peaceful settlement was not possible.

In a style reminiscent of the racist segregationist, Alabama Governor 
George Wallace, the mayors of Miami-Dade County and the city of Miami 
declared Little Havana above federal law.

Right-wing chorus bellows

As soon as the Government acted to uphold the law, an amazing conversion 
happened. All the die-hard law-and-order boosters changed their tune.

New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani condemned the federal agents, calling 
them "storm troopers". This from a man who arrogantly defends the NY Police 
Department whenever they kill an unarmed civilian.

New York Daily News columnist Lars-Erik Nelson put it best: "[On 
April 22], a miraculous transformation occurred. Giuliani became a 
criminal-coddling, bleeding heart liberal."

The ultra-right is trying to use Reno's actions in a bizarre, red-baiting 
attempt to tie President Clinton to Fidel Castro and communists.

The Republicans will rattle their sabres for a Congressional investigation, 
trying to waste taxpayer dollars for their own political advantage.

"The CANF [the right-wing Cuban American National Federation] should have 
warned this somewhat naive family about the power of the state. After all, 
they're the same people who planned the Bay of Pigs, trained with the CIA 
and are linked to the Kennedy assassination", Communist Party USA Vice 
Chairperson Lee Dlugin told the People's Weekly World.

Chickens come home to roost

How could this drama drag on for five months? Why didn't the family and the 
US Government immediately return Elian to Juan Miguel?

The complexities of the 41-year US embargo and the ultimate interests of US 
imperialism are in play. Even with a straightforward issue like father and 
son, US imperialist policies prevented a straightforward solution.

The Cuban people have been subjected to four decades of an unholy alliance 
between US foreign policy and terrorist Cuban exiles trying to destabilise 
their country because the majority of people have chosen the socialist 
path.

Now they are holding a Cuban citizen, Elian Gonzalez, hostage.

The proud Cuban people and Cuban Government did what they were forced to do 
 they fought back. They insisted that Elian be allowed to come back to 
Cuba with his father. The Government has worked incessantly for Juan 
Miguel's rights.

"I'm sure any American parent, whose children were being held in another 
country, would want their government to intervene on behalf of their 
interests", said Michele Stone Artt, a member of the US Peace Council.

CANF & threats to democracy

Juan Miguel Gonzalez is a supporter of the Cuban revolution. He is a member 
of the Communist Party of Cuba. He does not share the views of other family 
members who came to the United States.

The CANF, the rich, powerful and infamous anti-Castro, anti-socialist 
group, was involved from the beginning.

CANF representatives and elected officials who owe their political life to 
them rushed to meet with the Miami relatives while Elian still lay in the 
Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital after his rescue at sea.

CANF gave Lazaro Gonzalez a job at a Ford dealership owned by one of its 
directors and the family started to live off the exploitation of this young 
child.

They needed to build a movement for their flailing anti-Castro campaign 
because, in the last few years, support for these zealots has waned.

Public opinion, including in the Cuban-American community, has shifted.

Ending the embargo and normalising relations with Cuba is the majority 
opinion. According to a Gallup poll conducted last May, 70 percent of 
Americans were in favour of lifting the embargo.

Many US corporations, especially in the tourist and medical field, want 
trade with Cuba.

US farmers see Cuba as a potential market for their goods.

CANF and the Miami relatives embarked on a shameless campaign, their "last 
hurrah" of sorts, to build an anti-Communist, anti-Castro majority opinion.

Red-baiting and anti-Communism have been used all along to justify the 
Elian kidnapping. It was used to try to create mass hysteria, especially in 
Miami's Cuban-American community. But the attempts fell flat.

The impact of anti-Communism has sharply declined. The fact the Government 
had to intercede on behalf of a Cuban Communist will cause the Clinton 
administration to be red-baited by the ultraright but it will not resonate 
with most people.

The fanatical anti-Communism interwoven with a nationalist and religious 
frenzy made for a potent ideological cocktail. This seems to have led many 
to the edge of insanity.

Republican Congressman Lincoln Diaz (of Florida) said the US Government is 
"drugging [Elian] in order to brainwash him".

Fanatical protesters, frothing with anti-communism, blame Castro. One sign 
in Tallahassee said, "Red Alert, Castro has a grip on Clinton's mind."

It's all too easy to laugh at this craziness, but, unfortunately, it's 
these same corporate-promoted ideas that have led to destructive anti-
communist and anti-socialist policies in US  and world  history.

In November 1999, Elian's mother Elisabeth Broton took off with her 
boyfriend, Lazaro Munero, and Elian in a homemade boat with Munero's two 
brothers, their parents, a friend of Broton's, her husband and his family, 
and a young couple with a five-year-old girl.

Their first attempt to leave was aborted because of engine trouble. When 
they came back for repairs, the young couple had second thoughts and left 
their five-year-old behind. Broton did not.

Many have argued that Elian should stay in the United States because his 
mother died "trying to bring him to freedom". But can a boy ask for asylum 
based on a bad decision by his mother? No.

The Gonzalez family should be allowed to return to Cuba whenever they want.

What now?

It's time to end the US embargo on Cuba and normalise travel, trade and 
diplomatic relations. It's also time to repeal the 1966 Cuban Adjustment 
Act, which grants legal residence to any  and only  Cubans who reach US 
soil.

This law encourages dangerous, illegal and profit-driven human smuggling 
and discriminates against refugees trying to flee right-wing regimes and 
dangerous economic and political conditions.

Swept up in history's events and complexities, a small child captured two 
nations' hearts. It's now time to let him get on with his life.

* * *
People's Weekly World, paper of Communist Party, USA

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