MARCH 2000 | VOL. 4, NO. 3
ANTHONY MARCIANO, a native of North Providence, Rhode Island, holds a masters degree in political science from Suffolk University. He has worked on various campaigns including that of current Rhode Island governor Lincoln Almond. Marciano lives in Boston, MA.
Why don't we just send him home? That is what we have heard from those who support the decision of our INS to return 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez to Cuba. On a very superficial level, their argument does make sense. After all, the boy's father and only living parent, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, wishes for him to be returned to Cuba. Additionally, Elian has lived in Cuba all of his short life. However, those who support his return to Cuba are overlooking one important factor.
Cuba, unlike the U.S., is not, by any means, a free society. If we send this boy back to Cuba, we will be ending what may be his one chance at freedom. Let us remember how it was that he ended up on American soil last November in the first place. His mother, Elisabeth Brotons; and stepfather, Lazaro Rafael Munero; along with Elian and 10 others; hopped on a raft and attempted to escape the dictatorship that has ruled Cuba for over 40 years. Elian, and two adults, were the only survivors of this voyage; his mother, stepfather and eight other passengers died in their attempt to gain freedom.
To forcibly return this child to Cuba would be a betrayal of their brave attempt to escape tyranny. We must keep in mind that the end of the Cold War does not mean that the end of governments who repress their own citizens, all the while trying to convince their people that the United States is the real oppressor. We have seen this during the current controversy over Elian, a first-grader who has been living with relatives in Miami since Thanksgiving. Castro has engineered many "spontaneous" demonstrations against the United States for "kidnapping" the young boy.
Interestingly, he has also refused to allow Elian's father to come to the United States to see his son. Of course, he has had Mr. Gonzalez say that he would fear for his own safety if he were to come to our country. The fact is, if Juan Miguel Gonzalez came to the U.S., he would have reason to be afraid, but not of anything that any Americans would do to him. Rather, he would have reason to fear that if he expressed a desire to remain in the U.S., his relatives in Cuba would face reprisals.
On Friday, January 28, Castro, one again, demonstrated that he is the ruler of a repressive society. Speaking to a conference of economists, he alleged that Elian's mother was intimidated by her boyfriend into leaving for the United States. Munero, who also died in the shipwreck, apparently organized the trip. This is how the Cuban government treats people who seek freedom.
"The mother was practically kidnapped along with the boy," Castro said, adding that she "was taken in conditions of intimidation." He went on to call Munero a "ruffian" on whom Cuban police had amassed "100 pages of reports." Think about that for a moment. If Castro has amassed "100 pages of reports" on Mr. Munero, think of the "reports" on other members of the Gonzalez family that may surface if Elian's father were to say anything other than what Castro wanted him to say.
It is offensive to American notions of freedom to say that Mr. Gonzalez' words, which clearly cannot be freely given, are reason enough to send Elian back to Cuba, where he will no doubt enjoy less freedom than he would if he were to remain here. It would also be an insult to his mother, who died in a brave attempt to find a better life for herself and for her son. The decision must be made on the basis of what is in the best interests of this child. It is in his best interest to enjoy the freedoms of the United States.
If Elian Gonzalez were to decide that he wanted to return to Cuba, he would, as far as our government is concerned, be free to do so. Of course, if he is forcibly sent back to Cuba, and decides that he would be better off in the United States, he may have to risk another voyage similar to that which killed his mother. That is not an outcome that we should even consider allowing to occur.
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