Elian Gonzalez belongs with his father
Poor Elian Gonzalez! My heart goes out to this 6-year-old Cuban refugee, who has been exploited by American politicians and Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, and jerked around by family members in both countries. This tragic case demonstrates what happens when family unification issues are left to politicians and bureaucrats.
You’ll recall that young Elian was found clinging to a makeshift raft on Thanksgiving Day after his mother and 10 more Cubans drowned off the south Florida coast in a failed attempt to seek political asylum in the U.S. Florida courts gave temporary custody of the boy to his great-uncle in Miami, and all hell broke loose in the media. Although Attorney General Janet Reno and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service ruled that Elian should be returned to his father in Cuba, Miami Cubans vowed to form a human chain to prevent INS agents from “seizing” the boy at his great-uncle’s home in “Little Havana.”
Meanwhile, in Cuba, “La Bestia” (The Beast) – the exiles’ pet name for Castro – organized massive public demonstrations outside the U.S. Interests Section in Havana and converted the “kidnapped” boy into a pawn in a bitter and long-running political struggle. Indeed, Castro has orchestrated the Havana side of the struggle every step of the way, even serving as Juan Miguel Gonzalez’ chief adviser in the custody battle.
But the situation changed dramatically on Thursday when Juan Miguel arrived in Washington and met with Reno and other Justice Department and INS officials. “I am truly impatient to have him (Elian) returned to me as soon as possible and to go back to Cuba together immediately,” the boy’s father said upon his arrival here. Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder said the U.S. government is eager to reunite the boy and his father. “It is simply the right thing to do,” he added. “The father and his son need to be together.”
And how did the Miami Cubans and the politicians who are pandering to them react? Why they simply shouted louder and concocted legal schemes to delay the reunion between this unfortunate father and his son. Miami Herald columnist Kathleen Krog described the plight of the Gonzalez family: “So pity this family,” she wrote. “The Gonzalez family is being mauled and manhandled – Elian’s father by Cuban authorities (Castro) and the Miami branch by an extreme segment of the exile community. At the heart of it all is one small child whose native country and adopted home have heaped an unbearable burden upon his frail shoulders.
“Elian isn’t a saint or an object to be adored,” Krog continued. “He is a child whose face, unfortunately for him, now is shown hourly on both U.S. and Cuban television. As the mother of two sons … I am appalled at what is being done to this child and to his future emotional well-being – be that here or in Cuba.”
Me too, Ms. Krog, because I’m a father and there is no way I would permit distant relatives to gain custody of my son. Even if I were a Communist (as some of my more extreme critics allege), I would still have parental rights in any court in the land, my obnoxious politics notwithstanding.
Unfortunately, however, this is a U.S. election year and some politicians just can’t help themselves. So they flock to the TV cameras outside the boy’s temporary home in Miami like so many moths drawn to a bright flame. First, we have the Cuban-American mayor of Greater Miami boasting that he’ll never let local police be used to enforce federal immigration law. And then there’s Vice President Al Gore breaking with his own administration to urge that the boy be permitted to remain in the U.S.
Gerald Seib of the Wall Street Journal commented on Gore’s hypocrisy. “(Gore) says he will keep mum on the Microsoft antitrust case for fear of politicizing a Justice Department proceeding,” Seib wrote. “But at the very same time he has interjected himself into the Elian Gonzalez case and wants the Justice Department to get out of the way so the matter can be settled in family court.” Essentially, Mr. Gore prescribed a remedy to resolve the Gonzalez impasse but said he wouldn’t prescribe a remedy in the Microsoft case. Say what?
And I simply must mention the smarmy “interview” of young Elian by Diane Sawyer of ABC-TV, who put on her most “concerned” expression as she shoved a microphone into the boy’s face. This is the same ABC that apparently cooked-up an environmental interview of President Clinton by none other than teen heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio.
Sawyer is a journalist who dabbles in the acting profession while DiCaprio is an actor masquerading as a journalist. It seems the principles I learned in Journalism 101 disappeared when the news and entertainment industries merged about 10 years ago.
Rep. Steve Largent, a conservative Oklahoma Republican, cut to the heart of the custody issue in a New York Times op-ed column last week.
“Politics is keeping Elian Gonzalez from his father,” Largent wrote in the New York Times, “and it’s time that he is returned … This is a family issue, first and foremost. To forget that and allow our hatred for the Cuban regime to keep us from doing what is best for the child is shameful.”
Yes it is, and our government should support family values by delivering this boy to his father without further delay.
Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat, resides in Carson City.