My opinion on the Elian matter

Written: 13 April, 2000

I think that Castro is playing the U.S. for suckers. The Americans are viewing Cuba as "just another country," not a dictatorship. If all things are equal (or nearly equal) then by all means the boy should go back with his father to live in Cuba immediately. But all things are not equal here, and Cuba does not recognize the rights which we are using to make this decision.

Some people have said that the Miami relatives are telling Elian all sorts of terrible propoganda to influence his feelings. They don't have to make up a bunch of propoganda -- the truth is horrible enough. And they would be simply telling him the truth if they told Elian that if he goes back to Cuba, he will not be free to visit the United States of his own will ever again as long as he lives. He will never be able to see them again, he will never be able to go to Disneyland again, and so on, and so on.

It's surprising that that reality is so underreported in the U.S. media. Journalists cover events in Cuba such as government-run parades for Elian and note how much support his return has down there without telling the audience that dissent is not allowed there! But the reporters treat the state-controlled opinion in Cuba with the same attitude as they treat the honest feeling of free people in Miami. (Or worse, the reporters suggest that it is the free people in Miami who are mindlessly following propoganda rather than the people in Castro's Cuba.) I even saw one report on CNN where a reporter talked about how Cuba has free health care and safe streets, as if living under communism is in some ways preferable to living in the United States! Whenever I see Americans on TV talking about this case, saying this is simply a matter of parental rights, I'm dumbstruck by how naive they sound.

To be fair, I can see some good arguments on the other side. Now that the father is in the U.S. and appears to be moving around somewhat freely, unaccompanied by Castro's goons, the argument is stronger that he should be reunited with his child. And if he decides of his own free will that he would prefer to live under communism, then he should be allowed to take Elian back to Cuba with him. It's incredible that a person would prefer he and his family to live under a dictatorship instead of in a democracy, but he should be free to go live in Cuba if he honestly wishes to and to take his son with him. I question whether the father is really expressing his true wishes and not being coerced by Castro, but now that he and his family are here in America, it looks less like they are being coerced and looks like he is speaking freely. If he had wanted to defect to America peacefully, he could have told that to Janet Reno when they met, and he didn't.

Another point in the favor of those who want Elian to be reunited with his father is that there is a fuzzy area on what kinds of countries would be consider to be a "slave-state." Is a country run by an unelected monarchy a "slave-state"? Does it depend solely on whether its citizens are allowed to freely leave the country or are there other factors to consider? Many countries have very different systems than the U.S., so where do we draw the line in deciding which countries are "slave-states" and which are not?