[Marxism] Elian, 16, not angry with relatives who fought his return to Cuba

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Thu Jul 1 07:49:42 MDT 2010

June 30, 2010
10 Years on, Elian Not Angry at Miami Relatives
Filed at 11:52 p.m. ET 

HAVANA (AP) -- Elian Gonzalez says he's not angry at his Miami relatives who
fought to keep him in the United States during a nasty international custody
battle a decade ago, and is thankful ''a large part of the American public''
supported him being reunited with his father in Cuba. 

Now 16, Gonzalez's first comments to foreign reporters in years came after
President Raul Castro attended a state celebration Wednesday night marking
the 10th anniversary of the famous ex-castaway's return to the island. 

''Even though they didn't help me in every way possible, they didn't help me
move forward, they are still my own family,'' Gonzalez said of his South
Florida relatives, speaking in a shy, almost timid voice. 

''I don't have anger for them,'' he said. ''It's only that it wasn't the
best effort possible, and thanks to a large part of the American public, and
our public, today I'm with my father and I feel happy here.'' 

When asked about the family's Miami relatives, however, Gonzalez's father,
Juan Miguel, shot back that he was still angry, ''because, at any moment,
having the boy there and with me giving them opportunities so they can
reunite the family, they let themselves get carried away with other

He added that bringing his son back was still the right thing to do, saying,
''today I'm more sure than I was then.'' 

Elian was a photogenic 5-year-old when a fisherman found him floating off
the coast of Florida in an inner tube on Thanksgiving Day 1999, after his
mother and others fleeing Cuba drowned trying to reach American soil. His
father, who was separated from his mother, had remained on the island. 

U.S. immigration officials ruled the boy should return to Cuba over the
objections of his Miami relatives and other Cuban exiles, creating a
national furor that caused even presidential candidates George W. Bush and
Al Gore to weigh in. Many believe Cuban-Americans' outrage at how the case
turned out helped cost Gore the White House. 

Elian's Miami relatives refused to give him up, while in Cuba, Fidel Castro
and religious leaders led constant marches calling for his return. State
television crated a nightly ''round-table'' program that provided updates on
the Gonzalez case and it endures today, though it now discuss all sorts of

U.S. federal agents raided the Little Havana home of Elian's uncle with guns
drawn on April 22, 2000, and seized the boy from a closet to return him to
his father. 

It took the pair another two-plus months to return to Cuba, and when they
did, men, women and children jammed the road from Havana's airport,
cheering, waving Cuban flags and throwing flowers as the motorcade carrying
them passed. 

The younger Gonzalez was celebrated as a hero and his father, a restaurant
employee, was elected to parliament. Cuba has worked to play down the public
persona of both since then, but the latest anniversary of their triumphant
return proved an exception. 

The evening marked the first time Cuba's current president stood in for its
former leader at an event in Gonzalez's honor. Fidel Castro personally led
major celebrations cheering Cuba's most-famous youngster in years past,
marching in parades or delivering lengthy speeches. 

But the 83-year-old has not been seen in public since undergoing emergency
intestinal surgery and giving up power -- first temporarily, then
permanently -- almost four years ago. 

The latest event was organized by Cuba's Council of Churches, which includes
all major Cuban religions except the Roman Catholic Church, and was held at
the Episcopal Santisima Trinidad Cathedral in Havana. The council staged a
celebration in the same church days after Gonzalez's return in 2000. 

''It was a triumph, not only of love and justice, but of logic over
indecency of spirit, truth against evil,'' Rev. Marcial Miguel Hernandez,
president of the Council of Churches, told those assembled Wednesday night. 

A bit later, parliament head Ricardo Alarcon said that ''for many in the
United States, Elian's case was the discovery of the reality that the
imperial propaganda, the industry of deception, tried jealously to hide.'' 

A large screen behind all who spoke showed video footage from Gonzalez's
return in 2000. 

Gonzalez wore a red-stripped dress shirt and sat in the front row next to
Raul Castro, who was in a white Guayabera shirt and embraced him and patted
him on the back before the event started. His father sat a row behind them,
and his stepmother, two younger stepbrothers and grandmother, a faithful
churchgoer, were in nearby rows. 

''It's the land where I'm from,'' Gonzalez said of Cuba. ''Here I feel good,
and, thanks to my education and the strength my people have given me, today
I'm almost a man.'' 

Though the ceremony came two days after the actual anniversary, it also was
unusual for Cuba to commemorate June 28, 2000, when Gonzalez arrived in
Cuba, instead of his birthday on Dec. 7, which officials have often
celebrated in Gonzalez's hometown of Cardenas, in Matanzas province east of
the capital. 

As he has grown up, authorities have shielded Gonzalez from foreign
reporters and, before the ceremony, his only recent photograph appeared in
April, when he sported closely cropped hair and a military school uniform
during a Young Communist Union congress. 

Government media marked the 10th anniversary last weekend, reporting
Gonzalez is studying to become an officer at the Camilo Cienfuegos military
school in Matanzas. 

''The boy of yesterday is now a Cuban like any other,'' said the Communist
Youth newspaper Juventud Rebelde, adding that ''a decade after being used as
a toy by the enemies of the revolution ... he is preparing to be a future
officer of the Revolutionary Armed Forces.'' 

The revolution is what Cubans call the popular uprising that swept the
Castro brothers to power in 1959. 

The state news agency AIN wrote that Gonzalez ''enjoys music, is a
partygoer, although not a good dancer, who spends hours in front of the
computer or weightlifting with his friends.'' 


Associated Press writer Andrea Rodriguez contributed to this report. 

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