[Marxism] Elian Gonzalez was rescued four years ago today

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Thu Apr 22 21:41:59 MDT 2004

by Walter Lippmann, CubaNews list moderator.

During the time I was on my first visit to Cuba as an
adult, in November 1999, Elian Gonzalez made his tragic
trip from Cardenas, Cuba to the United States. After the
death of his mother and most of the other individuals on
the boat, the Clinton administration turned Elian over 
to the family of some distant relatives who'd never seen
the child before. They turned him into a poster child for
their hostility toward the Cuban Revolution. I cannot take
time now to recount the entire episode. Elian knew the
telephone number for his dad and had clearly had a strong
bond with him. The Miami exile rightists tried to break
his bond and to brainwash the child. They even put this
traumatized child on television and had him wag his finger
at his father and say he didn't want to return to Cuba.

Juan Miguel Gonzalez, Elian's father, together with his
wife and new child came to the United States to get his
son, but the child was kept tied up in the court system
of the US. Juan Miguel was interviewed on television and
spoke out to the people of the United States asking for,
and clearly receiving the overwhelming support of people,
especially parents, in this country. Modest political
demonstrations occurred in support of Elian's being sent
back to his father, but the main struggle was for the
hearts and minds of the American people. After a period
of time, as the hysterical misbehavior of the rightist
Cuban exiles in Miami became more and more apparent to
the people of the United States, they came to see that
Elian belonged with his father. The Cuban people came
out in overwhelming numbers in frequent mobilizations.
Virtually all institutions in Cuban life spoke out in
favor of family reunification, though the Catholic
Church stood aside and said nothing.

I've always believed that the rescue and repatriation
of Elian Gonzalez was the greatest single victory that
Cuba has won in asserting simple family values and the
island's right to national sovereignty since the defeat
of the US invasion of the country at the Bay of Pigs.
(Cubans call it Playa Giron.)

A few weeks before Elian's rescue, Fidel Castro gave a
detailed report on the issues on the Mesa Redonda:

Here are some of the photos taken in Maryland shortly
after Elian was rescued and returned to his family:

Here's the way the story is recounted in a recent book
CUBA, THE UNTOLD STORY (Editorial Captain San Luis,
Havana, Cuba, 2003). The book was released to buttress
the Cuban explanation of why the island's government 
felt it had no option, due to decades of attacks on the
island from rightist Miami exiles, but to send Cubans to
the US to monitor the behavior and activities of these
rightist exiles. This was the origin of the Cuban Five.

The Elian Gonzalez website isn't being well-maintained,
so the twenty-seven page chapter on the Elian Gonzalez
story in this book is the best single place where it is
possible to read this narrative through. I've recopied
this by hand to share with you those amazing moments.

Please take the time to read this story. Even I learned
a few new things on reading this story yet again.

I'll add a few additional documents from that struggle
in separate messages following this one.

Walter Lippmann

On Monday, November 22, 1999, fourteen illegal emigrants
capsized in a fragile vessel just a few miles off the coast
of Florida, and a five-year old Cuban boy was discovered
clinging to the inner tube of a car tire, not far from

For six months, against the will of his father, relatives
who were manipulated by the Cuban American National
Foundation kidnapped him.

Following a legal process that reached the U.S. Supreme
Court and with the support of eighty per cent of the
population, according to polls, the child was able to
return to Cuba.

During the months in which his father fought for the
return of his son, the name of the child appeared day I and
day out on the pages of the world press and on
international TV news reports. His name was Elian Gonzalez.

THE CUBAN ADJUSTMENT ACT It is the cause that such a
delicate problem was created with a child kept back in that
country thaw was given for his care to a person who did not
have the minimum ethical requirements for that task.

"Law to adjust the status of Cuban refugees to that of
lawful permanent residents in the United States and for
other purposes.

"...Without prejudice to that stipulated in 'section 245 of
the Immigration and Naturalization Act...the status of any
foreign native or Cuban Citizen...inspected and
accepted...after January `,1959...may be adjusted...in
accordance with the regulations prescribing that a
foreigner legally admitted to reside permanently...will be
applied to their spouse and children...

...admitted legally...to reside permanently...

Clinging to a stretcher, as he had done to the inner tube
of a car tire, his dehydrated gaze cancelled the interest
of the world in any other event.


Cardenas, November 28, 1999
40th Anniversary of the Revolution

Comrade Felipe Perez Roque
Minister of Foreign Affairs

Dear Felipe:

I, Eleodora Raquel Rodriguez Rodriguez, mother of Elizabeth
Brotons Rodriguez, write to ask you to do all that is
humanly possible to ensure that my little grandchild
Eliancito Gonzalez Broton return to our family...my husband
and the paternal grandparents, who are also suffereing...he
has had with us attention, love and everything he has

Eleodora Raquel Rodriquez Rodriguez


Immigration authorities handed the boy over to distant
relatives who have been living in the United States for
fifteen years, nine years prior to the birth of Elian. The
authorities did not demand any documentary proof of the
distant family relationship. Subsequently, a Miami judge,
Rosa Rodriguez, awarded the great uncle, who had seen the
child only once before in his life, the custody of the boy.

1--Right to retain nationality 
2-Right not to be separated from the parents 
3-Right to remain in the child's cultural Context 

The note continued by saying that Juan Miguel Gonzalez,
born I Cardenas, and father of the five-year-old child,
Elian Gonzalez, had contacted the Foreign Ministry,
requesting that procedures be initiated for reclaiming his
son. Elian had miraculously survived the disaster at open
see after being illegally taken out of the country, without
prior consultation, by his stepfather and Juan Miguel's
former wife, who had custody of the boy, both of whom died
at sea.

The Cuban-American extremists were intent on putting Juan
Miguel under strong pressure. They offered him two million
dollars if he traveled to Miami and remain in the United
States with the child.

Elian's relatives closed him off in a house in Little
Havana. Terrorists belonging to the Cuban American National
Foundation, let by Jorge Mass Santos, Nicosia Perez,
Congress members Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Lincoln Diaz-Balart,
Jose Basalt and the Miami mayors Alex Pinellas and Joe
Carole, and other individuals from the Cuban-American Mafia
world and the U.S. far right wing were the main figures
behind the abduction.

A simple case of acknowledging the parental authority of a
loving father would have been resolved in any other part of
the world, except for the United States, in relation to
Cuba. A routine procedure became a nightmare for Elian, and
a political, commercial and publicity show for his captors
in Miami.

The kidnappers bedazzled him with expensive toys, clothes
and jewelry; he was given a new bicycle and a huge Mickey
Mouse cartoon figure, but the child showed an astonishing
ability to resist and became increasingly aggressive.

One evening, while he was playing in the kidnapper's
garden, he heard the sound of an aircraft flying over the
place. He lifted his arms to the sky and cried out, "I WANT

To attempt to uproot a child, to try to buy him off with
toys, to make him forget his mother tongue, the love of his
father, his little brother, cousins and grandparents, to
wrench his identity away from him and to paw his innocence
is an outrageous crime, committed right in front of the
television cameras. The U.S. People reacted immediately:
The child must be returned to his father and the rest of
his family.

"There is no question that Mr. Gonzalez is in fact Elian's
father. Furthermore, Mr. Gonzalez has maintained a close
paternal and ongoing relationship with his son. During
interviews with the INS, Elian's father provided clear
details about his paternal relationship with his son and
about the nature of their father-son tie. He gave abundant
information about Elian's education, about his health
record, and showed photos of him, and other family members,
together with Elian frequently taking part in different
activities. This atmosphere and the level of details
provided by Mr. Gonzalez helped the INS to understand the
nature and the closeness of the relationship between Mr.
Gonzalez and his son Elian."

This was the INS conclusion after several of its officials
traveled to Cuba and interviewed Elian's father, Juan
Miguel Gonzalez.

Elian's grandmother met in Washington with Janet Reno and
Doris Meissner, Attorney General and Immigration and
Naturalization Service Commissioner respectively, on
Saturday, January 22, 2000. They informed both officials
that they wanted to see the boys for a few hours at least,
while they were waiting for the U.S. government to take the
logical decision.

...He hardly spoke, he wasn't expressive and he had never
been like that. He was always very affectionate; he used to
kiss me, hug me and tease me all day long...

...They have changed him completely; he has to be saved,
saved right away, and taken back to his father and his

...I feel real terrible because the reason for the visit
was to see the boy and take him back with us...

Our grandchild is entirely different. He has changed
utterly; we have got to save him as quickly as possible.

...The farewell was very sad. When we went to say goodbye
to him, they came and told us that the visit was over. Put
yourselves in our place, imagine you go to see a family
member who was being kept prisoner and you are told: the
visit is over, you have to go; they took the child and led
him away....

"But eyes are sightless; 
you have to seek with your heart."
   --Antoine de Saint-Exupery


"The harassment, the manipulations, the pressure and
invasion of privacy and innocence must cease.

"My son is being harmed in such a way that, unfortunately,
could have life-long consequences. Every day that passes,
the damage grows. Those who can prevent it are under the
moral obligation to act with extreme urgency.

"The boy's distorted face, bloodcurdling grimaces and a
vacant look in the direction of a home video camera were
the diabolical prelude to images of the boy who was to say,
"Dad I don't want to go to Cuba. Dad, you saw, that old
woman who went to the nun's house wants to take me to
'Cuba. I tell her, and I am telling you now that I don't
want to go to Cuba. If you want to tires yourselves out
that's up to you, but I don't want to go to Cuba."


"On Friday, when Juan Miguel Gonzalez went to the school to
collect his son Elian to spend the weekend together, he was
told that Elizabeth Brotons, his former wife and the mother
of the boy, had taken him away at mid-day and not returned
him in the afternoon. This seemed normal to Juan Miguel in
his divorced lifestyle. Since he and Elizabeth ha separated
on the bet of terms, two years previously, the child had
lived with his father and spent his days between his father
and mother's homes. However, given that Elizabeth's door
was padlocked, not just the whole weekend, but on Monday,
too, Juan Miguel investigated the matter. That was how he
got the bad news that had begun to become public knowledge
in the town of Cardenas: Elian's mother had taken him to
Miami, together with 12 other people, in an aluminum vessel
of 5.5 meters long with a decrepit engine that had been
repeatedly repaired, and without life preservers.

"It was November 22, 1999, 'That day my life was over,'
said Juan Miguel fourth months later. Since their divorce
he had maintained a stable and cordial relationship with
Elizabeth, that was, however, somewhat unusual as they
continued to live under the same roof and share dreams in
the same bed, in the hope that, as lovers, they would have
the child that they had never been able to have while
married. It seemed impossible; Elizabeth conceived but
miscarried continuously in the first four months of the
pregnancy. After seven miscarriages, and with the help of
medical specialists, the much longed-for child was born,
for whom a unique name had been thought of since the time
of marriage, Elian.

"It should be pointed out to those who are mistaken about
the name of the boy: it does not com from the Bible nor was
it a discovery by Ruben Dario. Far from thinking about the
lives of the saints, the couple did what so many others do
in Cuba: they linked the first three letters of the
mother's name and the last two of the father's name.

"Elizabeth was 28 years old when she took the boy to Miami.
She had been a good student for hotel waitress and was
always friendly and helpful as a first-class waitress in
the Hotel Paradiso-Punta Arenas in Varadero. In love with
Juan Miguel since she was 14 years old, she married him
when she was eighteen. 'We were like brother and sister,'
said Juan Miguel, a calm and good-natured man who also
worked in Varadero as a cashier in Josone Park. Following
the divorce and with the child...they continued living in
Cardenas, with the brother-sister relationship he mentioned
still intact...until she fell in love with a man who cost
her her life, Lazaro Rafael Munero, an unemployed flashy
type, a womanizer who learned judo not as part of a
physical education program, but rather to fight. He had
been sentenced to two years imprisonment for robbery with
violence at the Hotel Siboney in Varadero. In the meantime,
Juan Miguel married Nelsy Carmenate, with who she currently
has a six-month old son, who was the center of Elian's life
until Elizabeth took him to Miami.

"...the one who was behind it and led the whole operation
was Lazaro Munero, who had taken part in two clandestine
trips to the United Sates to make the preparations. In this
way he had the right contacts and a lot of pluck to take
not just Elizabeth with her son but also a younger brother,
his own father, who was over seventy, and his mother, still
recovering from a heard attack. His partner in the
operation took his entire family: his wife, his parents and
his brother, and a neighbor that lived opposite, whose
husband was waiting for her in the United States. AT the
last minute, via a payment of a thousand dollars per
person, a young woman of twenty-two, Arianne Horta, her
five-year old daughter Esthefany, and Nivaldo Vladimir
Fernandez, a friend's husband, boarded the vessel.

"The vessel was finished. The final product was a boar that
was no longer than a car, roofless and without seats,
meaning that the passengers had to travel sitting on the
bottom of the boat at the mercy of the sun. It is believed
that the board had been ready since the previous September,
awaiting the end of the hurricane season. The engine was
not the most suitable; rather it was what they had come up
with after years of shipwrecks in the Florida Straits.
Three =lifebelts for fourteen people....the majority of the
passengers used intravenous Dimenhidrinate to avoid

"...they had set out on November 20 from a mangrove swamp
in the environs of Jacque Grande, close to Cardenas. The
engine failed, so they returned...meanwhile Juan Miguel
believed his son was already I Miami....

"While they were repairing the engine, Arianne Horta
decided to leave her daughter with the family; she did not
know that this would save her life. It is said that Elian
also became aware then of the dangers of the crossing and
he cried out loud to be left behind. Munero, fearing that
the boy's cries would be heard, threatened his wife,
'Either you shut him up, or I will.'

"Finally, they set out at dawn on the 22nd, with a calm sea
but a troublesome engine. This was the end for them, I a
black night and a nightmare of panic. The older people that
did not know how to swim should have drowned immediately. 
A factor that sealed the fate of the majority was the
Dimenhidrinate, which in effect prevents seasickness, 
but causes drowsiness and slows down reflexes.

"Arianne and Nivaldo clung to one of the inner tubes;
Elian, and perhaps his mother, too, held on to another. No
one knew what happened to the third inner tube. Elian knew
how to swim, but Elizabeth didn't, and probably let go in
the midst of confusion and terror.. 'I saw mom when she got
last at sea,' the child would later say to his father by

"November 25.. Juan Miguel received a call from a doctor in
Miami to find out what illnesses Elian had suffered from,
which medicines he could not take, and whether he had ever
been operated on....The castaway child had given the name
of his father, and his address and phone number while in
the hospital....The following day the child and his father
talked by phone, during which time Elian spoke of how he
had seen his mother die. he was concerned about his
knapsack and school uniform...days later, when he spoke to
his teacher, "take care of my desk."

"The mobilization of the Cuban people and the outpouring of
ideas within the country demanding the return of the
abducted child were spontaneous and spectacular. There was
a novel aspect to this new development: massive
participation on the part of young people and children. The
Catholic poet Cintio Vitier, astonished by the clumsiness
of the United States, wrote in a poem for Elian, "What
fools! They have united us forever."

The kidnappers played for time so that their allies in the
Chamber of Representatives and the Senate could present a
draft bill awarding U.S. citizenship to the child.

On March 21, 2000, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno
indicated that it is time that this little child who has
suffered so much be returned to live with his father.

The Attorney General and the director of the immigration
and Naturalization Service remained steadfast...the
position of the president of the United State with respect
toward those who have the true and inalienable right to
parental authority of this tormented child has not changed.

On April 22, Janet Reno ordered that use of force be
employed to carry out the rescue and on the morning of
that day the much longed-for reunion between the child and
his father took place in Washington.

...At that moment his mind registered and recorded an
affectionate voice, certainly unknown to him until then, a
voice that when, in his adolescence, he puts together the
jigsaw puzzle of those days, he will recall as that of a
policewoman. maybe he will even get to know her when time
has passed, a woman who in those minutes of expectation,
violence and fear, when he was freed from his captors, in
the key moment of the rescue, carried Elian out and,
hugging him tightly to her, said with tenderness "It's ok,
we are going to see your father. Don't cry, don't cry,
we're going to see your father. I am taking you to see your
father. Now you are going to see your father, your father."

But the time to return to Cuba had not arrived. Extremists
stamped their feet on the U.S. flag in Miami and provoked

On June 28th, the Supreme Court decided that Elian should
return to Cuba. Over seven months had gone by since the
child had arrived in the United States. The nightmare was

U.S. television showed the world an image that puzzled
viewers. Looking up to the sky, this Cuban-American woman,
resident in Miami, shouted out, while the aircraft that
was taking the child home flew over the city, "FATHER

"Cuba has never offended a U.S. national symbol."

The most publicized terrorist kidnapping of a child in 
the world had come to an end.

This picture is then shown.


After the rescue, the child was returned to his father,
but wasn't yet free to return to Cuba. He had to wait
until the US court system went through its procedures.
Ultimately, the court decided the child could return
home and within a day, he did so.

The Cuban-American right, and the rest of the far right
orchestrated a giant publicity campaign claiming that
the rescue violated democratic and privacy rights, but
they were ignored by most people. 

Perhaps the most bizarre sidelight of these events was
the role of the Socialist Workers Party of the USA who
echoed the ultra right's denunciation of the rescue:

The most import thing which came out of these events
was that the broad public in the United States, who had
heard nothing but bad publicity about Cuba for over forty
years, began to get a sense of what kinds of fanatics 
have been dominating the Cuban-American community for so
many decades. People in the United States came to see at
last, and to make the elementary decision that no matter
what they might have thought of the Cuban political system,
a child whose mother has been killed belongs with his father.
This was a profound step in understanding for the people of
the United States.

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