U.S. begins to backtrack on Elián

Jose G. Perez jgperez at SPAMfreepcmail.com
Wed Dec 8 07:45:23 MST 1999

    Under the pressure of the massive wave of protests and informational
campaign launched by Cuba over the weekend, there are clear indications that
the United States Government is beginning to backtrack on its initial
decision to let right-wing Cuban exiles in Miami have their way with Elian
    He is the first-grader abducted by his mother and alien-smuggling
stepfather* and found floating on an inner tube on the high seas on
Thanksgiving Day.
    Instead of arranging for his immediate reunion with his father, the U.S.
Coast Guard and Immigration Service gave him a residence permit and turned
him over to the local courts and a great aunt and uncle who the boy had
never met. In cooperation with Brothers to the Rescue, the Cuban American
National Foundation and other right wing groups, Elián's Miami relatives
have turned him into a poster boy for illegal immigration and cheap
propaganda against Cuba.
    Last night, the state department announced that the United States, of
course, recognized the rights of Elián's father to demand that his son be
returned to him and said the INS wanted to talk to him about he could assert
this claim.
    Talk to the father is, of course, precisely what the American
authorities should have done the instant they picked up Elián.
    In Miami, the talk this morning is of an impending "betrayal." El
Herald, the Spanish language edition of the Miami daily which functions as
the all-but-official organ of the gusanería, has this headline on its web
page "Washington cracks open the door to returning Elián." Pictures of the
huge mobilizations in front of the U.S. interests section in Havana dominate
El Herald's front page, and under them there is a similar headline.
    In addition, the U.S. government has decided to return to Cuba several
boat hijackers and the crew of a small motorboat who were forced to head
towards the United States two days ago.
    As  in the case of the boat on which Elián was traveling, the Cuban
Coast Guard spotted the boat as it was leaving and immediately notified the
U.S. authorities. But unlike in Elian's case, in the second case the Coast
Guard intercepted the craft in short order, took both kidnappers and crew
aboard a cutter, had the FBI talk to them on board, and announced in short
order the decision to send them all back.
    This rapid response by the Clinton administration, at the same time it
is "inviting" Elián's father to assert his parental rights, is confirmation
that the U.S. is retreating.
    Another sign is that major American news media have changed their tune
on Elian's case. Instead of the tendentious coverage glorifying an act of
piracy, outlets such as CNN and major newspapers have lifted the blockade on
Cuba's arguments for the return of the boy.
    One AP dispatch last night went so far as to state flatly in the first
sentence that if the boy had been from any country BUT Cuba, he would have
been reunited with his father and grandparents immediately. The article even
recognized that Cuba's position of refusing to accept the jurisdiction of
the "venal and corrupt" Miami courts was justified, as Florida judges are
elected and to defy the right-wing Cuban groups in Miami would be political

    Clearly, the militancy of the international campaign for Elián's freedom
is having an impact, and the tide of battle is turning. But there must be no
let up in the protests until the U.S. authorities clearly and unambiguously
commit to immediately repatriate Elián.


*  There has been some discussion on whether the alien smuggler was really
the boy's stepfather. Apparently what happened is this:  the man went to
Florida a year or more ago, then returned to Cuba a few months ago. In the
recent period he had been living with Elián's mother.
    It is not clear whether the man actually "married" Elián's mother but it
is irrelevant. The Cuban family code recognizes such defacto relations as
marriages, and indeed, the marriage ceremony in the law is called something
like "formalization of marriage." Thus under Cuban law by establishing a
permanent cohabitation arrangement the man became Elián's mother's husband,
and thus Elian's stepfather. This, of course, imposes certain
responsibilities on the stepfather, but under Cuban law (and American law
too, by the way) this is in no way diminishes the parental rights or
responsibilities of Elián's father.
    The Cuban press stresses that the smuggle was Elian's stepfather to
highlight the outrageous nature of his actions, risking not only his own and
his companion's lives, but also that of an innocent five-year-old.

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