Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Ask a Cuban-American

Dear Cuban-American,

[Regarding] Elian – you [Miami Cuban-Americans] turn a human a drama into a political statement. What’s up with that? Why couldn’t you see that the little boy belong with his father?
Ah, my friend, that's a complicated question with many answers. First of all if there's a country in the world that constantly uses the human drama of immigration to make political statements, it's Castro's Cuba. Here's a few examples:

Hilda Molina, Cuban neurosurgeon is not permitted to leave the island because she abandoned and denounced the Revolution. She has family (including a son) in Argentina but she is not allowed to leave Cuba, only because Mr. Castro holds legendary grudges and he felt personally insulted when she gave back her commendations.

How about the case of Yuliet Rodriguez Jimenez? She is a Cuban cyclist that fell in love with and married American cyclist Joe Papp. Problem is that Castro's government doesn't want her to live in America with her husband. She defected from the Cuban cycling team and was trying to make it to Mexico when she was detained in Spain and sent to Venezuela. Now she has been detained in Venezuela and will be extradited to Cuba. Her crime was also wanting to get out of the worker's paradise.

You may be familiar with José Contreras, the major league pitcher. When he defected, his wife and children were not allowed to leave the country. Told that they'd have to wait for 5 years until the country forgot about Contreras, they were forced to leave on a boat (probably a smuggling vessel).

Now what's the common thread here? Restrictions on movement of the Cuban people, which by the way is violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of which Cuba is a signatory (yet carrying a copy of the document will land you in a Cuban jail).

But you asked about Elian Gonzalez and I'm obligated to share my thoughts with you. There's a lot of misconceptions and little-known details of the case, so I'll enlighten you.

1. The Miami relatives were Juan Miguel's (Elian's Father's) relatives, not relatives of the deceased mother. It was Juan Miguel's uncle and his cousin that were taking care of the boy. This was not a custody battle between two families.

2. Juan Miguel spoke to his Miami relatives on the phone during the days immediately after the boy was rescued at sea but before the Castro regime got wind of the story and decided to make it into an international spectacle. His words to his Miami family were to take care of the boy, not to request that he be sent back to Cuba.

3. We have no way of knowing what Juan Miguel's true feelings were because he was never allowed to meet with his Miami relatives and discuss the matter freely. Juan Miguel was surrounded by Cuban state security agents every minute that he was on U.S. soil. A meeting between Juan Miguel and his uncle seems to be the minimum that President Clinton should have insisted on. Instead he opted for an armed home invasion to enforce a bogus warrant. Simply put, Clinton did not want any kind of agreement between Juan Miguel and his uncle that would allow the boy to stay in the U.S.

4. It's hard for us to imagine a separation from our children under any circumstances. But that's because we live in a free country. If you were in prison, for example, would you want your child to "be with his father" or free in the outside world? The choice of separation for the better of the child is exactly the choice many Cubans made when they sent their unaccompanied children out of Cuba in the early 60's during operation Pedro Pan. Again we don't know what Juan Miguel's true feelings were because he was under extreme duress during the entire episode. He may have had a desire (as most Cubans do today) to come to the U.S. himself. He was never informed of his rights to political asylum. Even when he was on U.S. soil however he had close relatives (his mother, for example) in Cuba that would have had to stay behind an face the wrath of the unforgiving Castro (as outlined above).

Simply put, to most of us Cuban-Americans, the Elian affair was an insult to us because the Clinton administration simply refused to recognize this for what it was: a political stunt by Fidel Castro. And what's worse, our own government resorted to tactics that would not be uncommon in Cuba.

Since the boy has been in Cuba he has appeared with Fidel at countless communist rallies and Fidel Castro himself says that Elian is a "close friend." So who is using the boy for political statements?

Another thing, according to the State Department:
As of May 31, 2003, the Office of Children's Issues was aware of 904 open abduction cases and 156 access cases initiated by U.S.-based parents seeking a child''s return or access to a child currently located in a foreign country.
I wish our government did as much to get those kids back home to their parents as it did to send a boy (who was not abducted) back to a totalitarian dictatorship.

And finally, Cuba is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. So for a country that claims it prioritizes the welfare of children, it sure has a funny way of showing it.

Note: This feature is complete rip-off of the wildly successful and much more funny "Ask a Mexican" column by Gustavo Arellano.

If you have a question for this Cubiche send it in via email.


Val Prieto said...

Excellent post, Henry.

El Gusano said...

you ate it with that answer.

Alex said...

On the other hand:

Juan Miguel most likely did know about asylum, like most Cubans especially those who keep regular contact with their families in Miami. He could have made a statement about wanting to stay any of the thousands of times cameras were on his face. He could have even made that request to Janet Reno (I know, the devil incarnate) when he met with her, and if you think Cuban security agents were present or they would have jumped on him in the Justice Dpt. building, then you have a vivid imagination. He, finally, may be one of those other many Cubans who do not want to emigrate and do not consider Cuba a prison. Especially if he knew he was going to be part of the priviledged few in Cuba afterwards.

Regardless, the boy belongs with his father unless he's declared unfit. The premise that just because he is growing in Cuba he's in danger is simply untrue. When Elian is 16 he can decide where he wants to live.

Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

Alex I have to disagree strenuously with your comments. For one thing, we don't know what Juan Miguel was told before being brought to the U.S.

He could have been threatened. Of course Juan Miguel knew about political asylum, but if you were Castro's agent (responsible for making sure that the outcome Fidel Castro wanted would come true) wouldn't you tell him things like "you are a member of the Communist party, you will not be given asylum and when your petition is denied and your return to Cuba you will have a nice bunk waiting for you at el combinado del este, etc." It's hard to believe that "a estas alturas" that you could not imagine that conversation taking place. I don't think those types of tactics are the product of a vivid imagination but the reality of the Castro regime.

Also he could have been offered rewards. Either way those are mitigating factors that should have been considered by a family court. You didn't respond to the fact that Juan Miguel was never allowed to meet with his uncle in private.

Of course what you say is true Juan Miguel may have had ZERO desire to emigrate to the US. His claims for his son could have been 100% legitimate. I don't discount the possibility, but the tragedy is that we will NEVER know (at least not until the regime finally collapses). It was within the president/Reno's ability to find a more reasoned and civil solution to the problem starting with that meeting they never allowed to take place.

Yes Elian will be an adult soon. One thoroughly brainwashed and threatened adult. He can choose to risk his life on the high seas (and face the sharks AGAIN) to come to the US but the idea that he'd get an exit visa while FC is alive is highly improbable given the track record I mentioned in my post with regards to high visibility Cubans trying to leave the country.

Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

Oh and Alex, anybody that's ever watched TV for more than 5 minutes know they "have a right to remain silent" but it's so important that people know this right that their arrest can be thrown of court if they aren't advised of it. The act of telling someone their rights removes all doubts.

Anonymous said...


I am not sure what you do for a living, but if doesn't involve writing or history, you better reconsider. Great post!

Val Prieto said...

I often wonder what Elian must think as he looks around and begins to understand things a bit better as he matures. What does he see around him and what does he truly think about it? He has, after all, been to Walt Disney World.

AmandaDufau said...

Te la comistes, my freng!