On the December 7 television broadcast of ABC World News Tonight, Peter Jennings said over the video of Elián González’ 6th birthday party that the attendees were "militant anti-Castro."

This "unbiased" comment by Jennings was not supported by the visuals. The videotape showed children playing with Elián as well as some of his teenaged relatives in Miami. No military equipment of any kind was visible. Just kids and their toys. Cuban exiles are not portrayed in the U.S. media as what they really are: pro-democracy.

In contrast, Jennings appeared pleased to call Castro "President" while narrating his attendance at a concurrent celebration with Cuban children in Havana. No negative connotation was applied to Castro’s camera-staged event.

On the ABC television talk show The View, monitored by Mario Luis Ramirez, the founder of the Cuban American Democracy Project in New York City, the Elián case was discussed. Lawyer Star Jones and journalist Meredith Vieira were of the opinion that Elián should be returned to his father in Cuba. Also appearing was actress Joy Behar who talked about the lack of human rights in Cuba.

Ms. Behar asked Jones and Vieira, "Would you allow your child to be returned to Nazi Germany?" The answer was a resounding "No!". Behar then wanted to know why would they return the Elián to communist Cuba. But Jones and Vieira insisted that communist Cuba was not as oppressive as Nazi Germany.

Have Jones and Vieira ever lived in Castro’s Cuba as ordinary Cuban citizens? Do they have families and friends living there? What experience do they have that obliterates the first-hand experience of Cubans living there?

Those taking advantage of the opportunity for free publicity by jumping on Castro’s bandwagon, is a predictable lot. Interviewed on American television, Wayne Smith, one of the leading professional apologists of Castro in the U.S. and Sandra Levinson, the Executive Director of the Center for Cuban Studies - known as one of the pro-Castro lobby groups in the U.S. - were of the opinion that Elián should be sent back to Cuba.

On December 10, on New York’s WBAI-FM (Pacifica Radio Network) Wake Up Call radio show, morning news commentator, Dred Scott Keys, when discussing Elián’s story, referred to Cuban American exiles as "gusanos" (worms) and "hard-liners".

The derogatory term "gusano", used by Castro to insult pro-democracy Cubans who oppose his tyranny, is as insulting to Cubans as the "N word" is to black Americans. Why is hate language against Cuban Americans acceptable by the U.S. media?

The American Coalition for Fathers and Children (which apparently has no clue what life in Cuba is all about) believes that Elián should be reunited with his father in Cuba. To help the Castro regime win this battle, they hired noted Chicago father’s rights attorney Jeffery Leving to represent the interests of Elián’s father.

Also demanding the return of Elián is perhaps the most fanatical of the pro-Castro groups in the U.S., Pastors for Peace. They are already inciting American citizens to write letters to the State and Justice Departments and in the name of "justice and decency" to demand that the U.S. "uphold the law and basic family values and return Elián to his family in Cuba!"

While unabashedly slandering Cuban exile victims of Castro’s tyranny, Pastors for Peace says, "We know that Elián would have a good life in Cuba . . . with his basic human rights assured." However, according to 1987 Nobel Peace Prize nominated author Dr. Claudio F. Benedi’s book Human Rights, The Theme of Our Times, Castro’s Cuba institutionally violates all human rights.

Pastors for Peace finished their insulting diatribe with a quote from Lesbia Cánova, Cuban Deputy Minister of "Education" saying, "Elián deserves to live where he will have free health care; and to be able to study in a classroom where there are no drugs, no weapons; where students and teachers are not being murdered . . .."

They have organized a demonstration in New York scheduled for December 15, demanding the immediate return of Elián to Cuba, disregarding U.S. laws.

As Castro is obviously manipulating this private family matter into a political international crisis in order to distract public attention in Cuba and abroad from the multiple failures of his regime, the fate of this 6-year-old child has become a useful tool of his ongoing political charade.

It is not that Castro cares about Elián or the Cuban people’s freedoms or human rights. His forty-year tyranny has demonstrated that the welfare of the Cuban population is not of his concern. Since 1959 people in Cuba are used and manipulated to satisfy Castro’s whims.

The demonstrations in Cuba in support of Elián’s return are prime examples. These show-off demonstrations have been orchestrated in Cuba since the beginning of the Castro regime. The U.S. media continues to broadcast clips of them without exposing what goes into their set up.

People in Cuba are taken from their places of employment and retirement, neighborhoods, schools and universities and bused to the demonstration gathering places. There, each person is accounted for at the beginning and at the end to make sure people do not leave ahead of time. It is a highly regimented system and Cubans after decades are very much used to it.

Those demonstrations are closely monitored by the pervasive secret police, neighborhood committees and the network of informers. Each person knows what is expected of him or her.

The dreaded Rapid Response Brigade attends these demonstrations, too. This brigade is made up of Castro’s paramilitary thugs in civilian clothes to keep the people in line.

So a large proportion of those seen in the crowd at these seemingly spontaneous demonstrations are professionals, there to make sure the others display the programmed response for the cameras. Since everyone is in civilian clothes, they blend in. The signs and posters are provided by the government. What credibility can we afford to this fakery?

Ordinary citizens do not have alternatives. The international community has abandoned the Cuban people into the hands of the most oppressive tyranny ever known in the Americas.

That is the explanation behind these massive demonstrations of thousands of people that seem to rally behind Castro. But for as long as this is not widely known by the American people, they will continue thinking that Castro still has support among the population.

Ernesto Betancourt, former director of Radio Marti, observed the current crisis that Castro is provoking and commented "The central goal in solving the Elián crisis is the best interest of the child. This should be solved in the context of U.S. law."

The State Department agrees and has commented that "They can have all the demonstrations they want. In the United States we have laws we have to follow and uphold."

Cuba is a country where Castro’s whims are the law and he is accustomed to doing whatever he wants. Therefore, it is difficult for Cubans to fathom the existence of an independent judicial system separated from President Clinton. The 72 hour ultimatum Castro issued against U.S. (which he recanted after his deadline was over) for the unconditional return of Elián to Cuba could not have been met without violating U.S. law.

It would be a tragedy if Elián’s mother and stepfather, who gave their lives for the child’s opportunity to live in freedom and have a future in the U.S., were in vain because of a temper tantrum of the very man who caused their escape in the first place.

Betancourt points out, "There is also conflicting information on the [biological] father's wishes. According to press dispatches, initially he told his relatives in the US that he wanted Elián to stay with them. Only after Castro made this human tragedy--after all Elián saw his mother die in the high seas and he himself experienced the fear of drifting alone in the water praying for his life--an international political confrontation over parental rights did the father come out with the demand of his return."

In a normal situation, Elián’s father, accompanied by his current wife, his parents and other relatives, could travel freely to the U.S. to proof his paternity and legally seek his return to Cuba. But normal is abnormal in Cuba, so Castro will not allow them to visit for fear that they too would defect.

Now, Elián’s father has refused to talk to U.S. authorities in Cuba unless they are prepared to tell him when his son will be back in Cuba. What kind of father would refuse to cooperate to get his son back?

Obviously, he is not acting on his own free will. He is serving Castro’s intolerance. And Castro’s desire to milk this for all it’s worth in the international press.

Is Castro creating this new confrontation with the U.S. because of his concern for children?

Dr. Alberto Luzárraga’s article La Matanza Silente (The Silent Massacre) reports that the Castro regime’s newspaper Juventud Rebelde published an article on March 23, 1997 revealing that between 1968 and 1992, 2.9 million abortions were performed in Cuba, or about 62 abortions per 100 pregnancies. In 1995 abortions increased to 70 per 100 pregnancies. (The writers of the 1997 article were fired for revealing the information.)

Today Dr. Luzárraga asserts that abortions continue at approximately the same rate. Meanwhile, according to reports received from inside Cuba, fetal tissue is systematically sold to other countries for U.S. dollars.

Since the early 1960s, children lose their right to drink milk at age 7. Children from age 11 are sent to work in the fields as a way to pay for their "free education." On July 13, 1994, Castro’s Coast Guard attacked a tugboat filled with escaping families, killing 23 children.

As usual, the U.S. media is reporting Elián’s incident with superficiality, not exposing all the facts and giving in to planted stories that damage Cuban American exiles and its organizations.

José Cárdenas, director of the Washington, DC office of the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) released on December 9 a note for the record stating, "it is absolutely false that Elián was ever photographed wearing a ‘T-shirt’ of the CANF. No such picture exists, because it never happened. We're not sure where this came from, but it's clear it was planted to further roil the political waters. I guess it's too much to ask for some reporter to bother to check out its veracity."

The fate of 6 year old Elián is entangled in Castro’s self-serving political game.


Agustín Blázquez with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton

Mr Blazquez is the Producer/Director of the documentaries COVERING CUBA and

ABIP 1999

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