The U.S.Left and Elián González

Jose G. Perez jgperez at
Fri Dec 17 15:42:35 MST 1999

    [The following is a very long post, but for a reason. It is a fairly
comprehensive overview of U.S.-Cuba migration issues, which are constantly
lied about in the U.S. media, and of the Elián González case. Unless my
experience is atypical, I believe many friends of Cuba in the United States
shy away from taking up Elian's cause because they don't feel properly
prepared to respond to the arguments implicitly presented in the bourgeois
press. This is an attempt to arm people with the real facts about U.S.-Cuba
migration issues. Please feel free to repost.]

    It appears that the friends of Cuba and the U.S. left in general had yet
to embrace the case of Elián González, the 6 year old being retained in the
United States, as its own.
    This despite impassioned appeals by Cuba to people of good will
everywhere, and a personal appeal by President Fidel Castro especially to
the people of the United States
    And despite the most massive mobilizations ever of Cuba's fighting
people. A week of sustained demonstrations culminated Friday with local,
open-mike rallies in every one of Cuba's provincial capitals. All told,
2,200,000 participated in Friday's protests alone, fully 20% of the
    So why haven't more people on the U.S. Left responded?

    A lot of it, I believe, has to do with the absurdity of the U.S.
position that whether or not the boy belongs in his home, with his father
and with his family is something that is open to question and debate. Most
people hear it, and simply say, that's ridiculous, the place of a
six-year-old is with his family.
    On the face of it, the idea that the United States would officially
approve the kidnapping of a six-year-old seems so outrageous as to need no
opposition. This is dead wrong. Whether we want it or not, this battle is
ours to win or lose.

    The right-wing Cuban mafia in Miami through its domination of the local
media has managed to so manipulate the case of Elián as to win close to 90%
support among Miami Cubans for its position of keeping Elián here against
his father's wishes. This is a much, much larger percentage than those who
support the U.S. embargo or oppose normalization of relations between Cuba
and the United States.
    What accounts for this anomalous result?
    By politicizing the case, the right-wing exile groups in Miami have
presented the repatriation  of Elián as a repudiation of the choice made by
Cubans in Miami or their parents or grandparents to come to the United
States. They have succeeded through El Herald and other local media in
whipping the community into a frenzied anticommunist hysteria where saying
you are for Elian returning to his dad is equivalent to pissing on the
graves of your parents or grandparents who came from Cuba.
    The support for the kidnapping is largely restricted to the Cuban
community and the usual right wing fanatics for whom anything goes in the
struggle against Communism.
    Thus, even in the South Florida area, which has been subjected for four
decades to a constant bombardment of anticommunist propaganda, plus
saturation bombing for the past weeks, big pluralities among Anglos and
Blacks support Elian's right to be reunited with his father. And among
non-Cuban Hispanics --who are very much intertwined with the Cubans-- more
than 40% support Elian's repatriation, with a similar percentage opposing

    Most U.S. politicians including Democrat and Republican presidential
hopefuls have carefully tried to seem "neutral," straddling the fence,
claiming all they want is for the courts to determine what is in the best
interests of the child. But imperialism runs in their blood just as much
patriotism runs in the blood of the Cuban people. And despite trying to make
it seem like they're saying nothing, they legitimize the idea that Elian's
custody is an open question and that the place to settle it is some
courtroom in Miami.
    At the same time, some politicians make the slanderous statements like,
that they can't be sure of the true sentiments of Elian's father. They
demand that he leave Cuba, his job, his wife, Elian's little 3-month-old
brother, and come to the U.S. to somehow "prove" he is a fit father and
"prove" he really wants his son back.
    The whole thing is so silly as to not merit a response. The initiative
to involve Elián's great uncle was taken by Elian's father, in hopes of
getting news of his son and getting him back. It was Elián's father who went
to the Cuban authorities to insist on his right, under Cuban law, of having
the government take charge of assuring the boy's return. (Unlike the U.S.,
Cuba doesn't view the abduction of a child and his removal from the country
without the consent of *both* parents as a private matter). Elián's dad has
spoken, repeatedly and freely, with the U.S. press and with his son in
Miami. For understandable reasons he will no longer speak to his uncle, who
has kidnapped his child, but could do so at any time. There simply is no
reason to question the father's true sentiments.

    Any illusions that this case would receive judicious consideration by
solomonic judges is entirely misplaced. Elian's continuing presence in Miami
is the result of an absurd and cruel policy and blatantly illegal actions.
    Elián was rescued on the high seas. Under U.S..-Cuban migration accords,
which Cuba fought for PRECISELY to avoid the kind of tragedy that took the
lives of Elián's mother and 10 others, he should have been returned to Cuba.
The U.S. government says that the boy needed medical attention, and had to
be brought to dry land, which, under the Cuban Adjustment Act, a special law
that applies ONLY to Cubans, entitles him to "parolee" status and permanent
residency one year later.
    The law, on its face, is absurd. If the U.S. wants to take in as many
people as wish to leave the island, then the logical way to do it is simply
to give a residence visa to any Cuban that wants to  come to the United
States. But the U.S. does not do this. It hands out visas --even simple
tourist visas to come visit a relative-- with an eyedropper and only after a
long and complicated procedure. The U.S. even routinely denies tourist visas
to parents whose grown sons or daughters have chosen to come to the U.S.,
giving only one parent permission to visit, while the other must remain in
Cuba, and this to discourage these people from taking advantage of the Cuban
Adjustment Act, which LEGALLY would entitle the couple to stay in the U.S.

    However, if someone steals a boat, or hijacks one at gunpoint, or
organizes a $1,000-a-head alien smuggling operation (as Elian's stepfather
is accused of doing with his 17-foot craft, overloading it with 14 people so
that it capsized), THEN the U.S. government receives them with open arms as
"political refugees" fleeing from "communism." This is done DESPITE the
provisions of U.S. immigration law, which prohibit granting legal status to
people who have committed crimes. Alien smuggling and entering the U.S.
without a visa are crimes. And people from every other country --except
Cuba-- are routinely and automatically barred from obtaining legal status if
they come into the U.S. illegally, even if they are otherwise entitled to
legal residence.
    The Clinton administration claims its hands are tied by the Cuban
Adjustment Act but this is a lie. Simply by enforcing the law against
illegal entry, they could put a stop to these insane crossings in which at
least 69 people so far this year have lost their lives. And if they want to
encourage people like Elián's mom to come here, they can just hand out
tourist visas liberally in Havana, and have the INS meet the planes in Miami
handing out the form for requesting permanent residency to everyone as they

    So this is a totally cynical policy to keep the news media full of
images of "boat people" and "rafters" who are "fleeing" from the horrible
Communist dictatorship. The blood of hundreds of Cubans who have died trying
to cross the Florida straits is on Bill Clinton's hands. He murdered them
just as surely as if he had personally thrown them from a boat on the high
seas into shark-infested waters.
    Cuba's policy on emigration has always been absolutely clear: the
building of socialism is a task for free men and women. Anyone who wishes to
leave, whether it be for political, economic or family reasons, is free to
do so.
    What's more, the revolutionary government has waged battle after battle
to FORCE the U.S. government to ACCEPT through safe and legal means the
migration it constantly encourages. If there are so many Cubans in Miami it
is because Fidel has pushed and even trapped the U.S. government into
accepting them, and NOT AT ALL because the United States Government has
facilitated their arrival.
    Now, in looking at Elian's status under the Cuban Adjustment Act, it is
important to note that the granting of "parolee" status is not automatic.
Scores of people come from Cuba to the U.S. every week on family visits or
business of one kind or another, and they are not "paroled" for permanent
residency. You have to ASK for parolee status.
    Thus the question immediately arises: who presented Elián's petition for

    Elián, of course, could not have done so. He is a minor, and his parents
or legal guardian would have to act on his behalf. His mother who had taken
him from Cuba without the father's approval in violation of Cuban law did
not, for she was dead. His father did not. And his great uncle could not,
for, unless Elián was first paroled into the U.S., the local courts who
assigned the uncle temporary custody of the child would have had no
    Elián was illegally paroled into the United States, or, put another way,
instead of following its only LEGAL option, which was to return the child to
his father, the INS handed him over to persons who had no legal right to
have the child. There is a name for this. It is kidnapping. It is a criminal
offense in every country in the world, and in the U.S., it is a capital
    Thus all the rigmarole about legal procedures and due process of law
and INS interviews is so much cant and hypocrisy. The U.S. government is
perfectly aware that Elian's admission to the U.S. was illegal, as is shown
by the fact that it is relying on that fact in keeping its options open.
    That's the meaning of the INS's request to interview Elian's father so
that his interest can be taken into account. There would have been no legal
basis for the INS to do this if the child has been legally admitted to
residence in the United States, for his custody would be beyond INS
jurisdiction, and any issue would be handled by the local courts.
    The lawyers hired by the right-wing Cuban exile organizations to
"represent" Elián on behalf of his great uncle are also aware of this.
That's why they have filed a petition for political asylum on Elián's
behalf, because, while such a petition is pending, Elián cannot be
repatriated, no matter what his legal immigration status.
    Normally, Cubans do not file such petitions because they're
AUTOMATICALLY let in. The Cuban Adjustment Act says that any Cuban who asks
to stay here is ipso facto a political refugee.
    And obviously this petition is even more absurd, has been filed in bad
faith as an abuse of process and constitutes a concrete action in pursuance
of a criminal conspiracy to kidnap a minor. It is also an insult to the
thousands of people who come to the U.S. every year fleeing political,
religious or racial persecution only to be sent back on some technicality or
for a supposed "lack of evidence."
    If U.S. judicial processes had even one scintilla of integrity left,
this outrageous asylum petition supposedly based on a six-year-old's
"well-grounded fear" or persecution in a country where MILLIONS are marching
for him to RETURN would have been tossed out of court so vigorously the
lawyers would still be searching the gulf stream to find their papers. But
what can be expected of a system so cynical that it routinely, in the vast
majority of cases, negotiates "justice" with those considered "criminals" so
as not to overburden the honorable judges with too many trials?

    The whole idea that there is some issue to be decided by the Miami
courts is a phony. If there is one point on which the family codes of
virtually every country are in agreement, it is that parents have custody of
their children. A balancing test of "what is in the best interests of the
child" might come into play when, for example, a couple is divorcing and
there is a dispute as to which parent should have primary custody. But to
take custody AWAY from parents, the essence of the legal standard is
UNIVERSALLY a different one (although how it is expressed in the laws vary):
those seeking to take custody away MUST PROVE the parent is unfit. That is
the ONLY way to overcome the universal legal presumption that what is in the
best interests of a child is to be raised by the parents that brought him
into this world.
    No one has even dared to suggest that Elian's dad is anything but a fit
and loving parent, and moreover, the one who looked after him the majority
of the time in Cuba, due to the mother's work schedule. The idea that
Elian's dad must somehow "prove" this to an elected Miami judge beholden to
the right-wing exile mafia is an outrage.
    And even if a claim about the father's fitness were to be made, it would
have to be made IN CUBA, for it is in Cuba that one would have to get all
the evidence and all the witnesses about the matters in dispute. A Miami
court has no competence, no authority, and, in reality, no practical way to
adjudicate a dispute about whether someone in Murmansk, Johannesburg, London
or Cuba is a fit parent. Indeed, if asked to adjudicate such a case arising
in another county a few miles away, the Miami courts would refuse for lack
of jurisdiction.
    And there is one more point about the Miami courts. Family court judges
in Florida are elected. Does anyone for one minute believe there could be
such a thing as "impartial justice" for Elián and is dad in a city whose
local politics are dominated by the right-wing exile organizations?

    So what this case is really about is the idea that distant relatives
and --why not?-- complete strangers with an obvious political agenda and
unlimited financial backing are entitled to, have a right to, challenge
parental custody in any venue of their own choosing because the parents are
communists, because the parents are poor, because they send the children to
the wrong school where the child is taught about Che Guevara and Marx and
Fidel, because they don't send the children to Church or send him to the
wrong church -- any pretext whatsoever.
    This is a direct, frontal attack on the right of parents to have custody
of their children and of the right of children to be raised by their
    This is NOT a "complicated case" as the bourgeois TV commentators and
the writers of newspaper thumb-suckers insist. There is nothing for the
courts to adjudicate, no "clashing interests" or "conflicting rights" that a
judge needs to weigh. Even the question of whether the father is really the
father has ALREADY been settled, because the father's uncle has been given
temporary custody based on the blood relationship. Thus whatever
requirements the U.S. authorities had for determining the child's parentage
and relatives had been satisfied by the second day  the child was in the
    This is a perfectly simple and straightforward case -- of kidnapping.
    Apart from the U.S. government's endemic corruption and hatred of Cuba,
the only thing unusual involved is the Miami mafia's monstrous arrogance and
dead-end viciousness towards Cuba, its revolution, its people and its
children. In their rabid delirium, these bloodsuckers rejoice at tragedies
like that of Elián and his family, not caring one whit about how many people
they kill and how many children they traumatize in their "struggle" to turn
Cuba once again into an American colony.

    Elián is not the first Cuban child that the U.S. Government has
separated from his family.
    In the early 1960s, through the kind offices of the Catholic Church in
Cuba and the United States, the CIA carried out "Operation Peter Pan" in
which nearly 15,000 children were brought to the U.S. without their parents
and basically given to anyone who would have them.
    As usual, the United States was systematically encouraging people to
leave Cuba -- and systematically refusing them visas to do so. The Kennedy
administration decided to vary this policy a little bit, and hand out "visa
waivers" for all children whose parents wanted to send them to the U.S. --
but NOT FOR THE PARENTS. (Peter Pan -- get it?) And to encourage the
parents, a handbill was printed up purporting to reprint a draft law that
had been "removed from the office of the Prime Minister," i.e., Fidel,
titled "Law on the Nationalization of Children", which eliminated Patria
Potestad --the right of parents to raise their children, and made all
children wards of the state.
    The irony of course is that the charge the CIA fabricated against Cuba
was, in fact, what the U.S. was working towards, taking the children away
from their own
parents care and making them wards of a quasi-governmental organization,
CIA's Catholic Charities
operation. Many Peter Pan children were taken in by Cuban relatives or
friends, others by well-meaning American couples, and others still
warehoused in places that can only be described as concentration camps, the
most notorious of which was Matacumbe in South Florida. So dark was
Matacumbe's reputation that some parents would threaten mischievous Cuban
boys in Miami in the 60s with a truly terrifying prospect: "I'm going to
send you to Matacumbe."

    Operation Peter Pan was the beginning of the Cuban revolution's struggle
to FORCE the U.S. to facilitate the emigration of Cubans from Cuba to the
U.S. In 1965 or so, "someone" in Miami (the gusanos insist it was one of
Fidel's agents) announced they would take a boat to Cuba to pick up
relatives whose children were in the states. The revolutionary government,
in effect, welcomed the initiative and designated the port of Camarioca for
the pick-ups.
    The United States had no choice but to negotiate with Cuba, and out of
that came the so-called freedom flights, which lasted into the early 70s, in
which the U.S. government chartered airplanes to go to Cuba two or three
times a week and bring to Miami parents and eventually other relatives of
Cubans in the United States.
    It is well worth thinking about what Fidel did. By 1965, the revolution
was fairly consolidated. The bandit bands in some rural areas and the urban
CIA networks had been rolled up. The opponents of the revolution in Cuba had
been crushed, those who were disaffected were under the watchful eye of the
Committees for the Defense of the Revolution and an ever-more-efficient
intelligence service. Under those circumstances, and given the American
attitude, the revolution could well have decided to force these tens of
thousands of doctors, technicians, professionals, administrators and so on
to stay and work for the revolution. Instead, Fidel used all his political
skill to outwit Johnson and force open the door to the United States so that
the families of all these people who hated the revolution could be reunited
and could plot against him with impunity from Miami.
    At a time when others were building Berlin Walls and barbed wire fences
to PREVENT people from leaving, Cuba was fighting so that its own
"dissidents" could simply walk out the door.
    This is the policy Cuba has always followed.
    The Mariel boat lift during the Carter administration and the "rafter"
crisis which led to the current immigration accords represent two other
major battles waged by the revolution to force the U.S. to accept
responsibility for the results of its policy of constantly encouraging
emigration. Under the current accords, the U.S. committed itself to grant up
to 20,000 visas for permanent residency a year, and discourage illegal
immigration by sending those who tried to cross by boat back to Cuba.
    This is, in many ways, a distasteful issue for many Marxists who do not
know the facts. Given the constant barrage of imperialist propaganda, it is
hard to explain to people that the blood of Elian's mother is on Clinton's
hands, that it is the CUBAN government that has insisted and fought for the
right of Cubans to emigrate and the U.S. government that has stood in the
way. Everyone has seen the pictures of the rafts, and a picture is worth a
thousand words. It is our job to tell people that every one of those words
is a lie.
    As to WHY so many people would want to emigrate, the real wonder is that
so many choose to stay. In addition to the fact that some people are
disaffected with the revolution, there simply is no question that the U.S.
has a vastly higher standard of living. Even without the powerful magnet of
full legal status, there are millions of undocumented immigrants from
Mexico, the Dominican Republic and other Latin American countries in the
United States. If the U.S. were to treat other immigrants as it does Cubans,
the number of those who come here without visas would be in the tens of

    In terms of Elián, we need to hammer away at two essential points. One
is, the boy belongs with his father, with his family, with his friends, and
schoolmates. The second point is equally important. And that is, if they can
do this to Elián's dad, they can do this to anyone. What's at stake is
nothing less than  the right of parents to raise their children, not
allowing the rulers to use the threat of taking one's children away as one
more tool in political, racial, religious or other forms or persecution.


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