"ELIAN, AMIGO, I WANT TO BE WITH YOU!"
According to a source inside Cuba, that phrase and others like "Elián, consort, send me my passport! Elián, OK, I need some clothes today!" are being jokingly repeated by children on the streets of the island. But the use of them by children has now been prohibited by an order dictated by Castro, along with a fine of 40 Cuban pesos.
A Cuban exiled in England told me she felt sad, depressed and frustrated after her telephone conversation with a relative in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba, the second biggest on the island. Her relative nervously said, "Be careful of what you say because they are apprehending or fining people if they are caught talking against the return of Elián to Cuba or against the government, even on the phone [telephone calls are regularly monitored by the Cuban authorities], the situation is bad, bad."
During the conversation, the line was interrupted frequently and it was difficult to hear each other. But she managed to ask if the medicines she had sent to her relative’s daughter in Cuba on October 14, 1999 had arrived. The relative replied, "No, and I don’t know what I’m going to do, I cannot find Metronidazol anywhere and my daughter is full of parasites and is very skinny." The pharmaceutical company in London where medicine had been bought guaranteed that it would be in Cuba in two days. Finally, at the end of February, a visitor to Cuba took the medicine for the girl’s "Giardias" parasites – acquired by drinking contaminated water – but because of the delay, her condition has become chronic.
From England the exile says, "There is so much oppression that you cannot talk normally on the phone, so much scarcity of everything that you cannot find even the most fundamental medicines for a child, so much control that not even personal mail is respected. How long is this going to last? How long can human beings tolerate this? Sometimes I would like to stand on a pedestal and scream to the whole world, ‘this is what is happening in Cuba, this is the horror in which my people are living!’"
María de los Angeles González, 55 and her daughter, María Esther Valdés, 35, live in Cuba. At great risk they wrote an open letter on December 7, 1999 to 6-year-old Elián González published by Cuba Free Press. As mothers, they remind Elián that when he turns 7 in Cuba he will lose the right to drink milk and "like it or not" he will have to eat the unpleasant Soya seed yogurt.
They asked him not to forget the sacrifices his mother, Elizabet Broton, had to endure to buy him a birthday present at a US$ only store and to give him a birthday party. In Cuba you have to ask for government permission for the party and to buy an official cake for 10 Cuban pesos, a pound of candies and 3 pints of syrup to make home soft drinks. These experienced mothers remind Elián that when he turns 10 in Cuba, the government will not allow any more birthday parties.
They also remind him that his mother died so he could live in a free country. "Many in Cuba want you to stay in the U.S. so your mother’s sacrifice will not have been in vain. In addition to your family here, there are other people who want you to return, but is not because they love you, it is due to something that you may not be able to understand yet, it is a political game. If they return you to Cuba, when you grow up, you will understand what we are telling you now . . .."
Their letter concludes saying, "We pray a lot for you to stay in the U.S. And that God keeps your mother in heaven and doesn’t permit her sacrifice to take you to a neighbor country, whose people are not bad as depicted here. We thank the U.S. government for saving Elián’s life."
In an article by Migdalia Rosado, a pro-democracy and human rights activist in Cuba published by Cuba Free Press, she reminds the world of the genocide committed by Castro’s regime by sinking a tugboat on July 13, 1994, where many children died.
She then asks, "the Castro regime is accusing the U.S. of what? Of saving the life of a child? That is all they did. It is better to give him asylum now than to return him back so that when he grows up he again becomes a rafter, and on this new occasion he might not succeed and lose his life. The saddest thing in this whole affair is that his family and that of his dead mother is cooperating with the regime’s show, when honestly, they should be thankful to the U.S. for saving the child’s life. Why, if the Cuban government is so concerned about this child does it withhold baby food when they reach 3 and milk at 7?"
Rosado points out that since there is an increasing number of goods that are available in US$ only and workers are paid in Cuban pesos, the parents cannot buy most of what children need for their development, even toys. On January 8, 2000, Castro’s State Security police confiscated some 140 toys legally obtained in Cuba thanks to US$ donations from abroad destined for children in the western province of Pinar del Río. Victor Rolando Arroyo, an independent journalist organizing the toy distribution was convicted of hoarding toys and sentenced to six months in jail on January 14.
Independent journalist Armando Añel wrote in Cuba Free Press about the case of Marlon de Miranda, a Cuban boy not even 2 years old who has experienced the cruelties of Castro’s regime. Marlon is already used to the constant barging in of Castro’s henchmen searching his home without a permit. But this time they came to take the toys that his grandparents bought for him and other children. He saw how the agents were taking inventory of the toys and were pointing at his tricycle. So he cried and screamed as hard as he could. The agents, in front of his grandparents and Polish television reporters, took all the toys but did leave Marlon’s tricycle behind.
In his article, Añel commented, "So that the government agents could not kidnap Elián González’s toys (or his dreams), his mother took him and cross the sea and lost her life in the Florida Strait. Probably she did not imagine the outcome and much less that her son would be converted into a ‘flag’ at the service of the same people who pushed them away from the country of their birth. . .. For her it was more important that he would not be denied milk at age 7. That he receives an education without the customary hatred, envy and hypocrisy. That he would be free. Honest. And that he would not have to cry like Marlon to defend his tricycle."
Luis Orlando González Bridón, independent journalist, wrote in Cuba Free Press about Damián Rodríguez, his wife and another relative who last December 17 took their 3-month-old daughter Gretel to the Abaliar Children’s Hospital in a Havana neighborhood. Gretel was experiencing diarrhea with blood and was becoming dehydrated. They were told that they had to wait because there were no doctors in the emergency room. After a long wait, Rodríguez again inquired for a doctor. He received more absurd justifications for the lack of service. They engaged in a discussion and immediately two police officers entered the scene, brutally beating Rodríguez handcuffing him in front of other shocked patients in the room. The police also arrested his wife and forced both of them into a patrol car.
Gretel was left with the other relative until a doctor finally appeared after the commotion and admitted her. As of December 20, the journalist who wrote this report did not know the fate of Rodríguez and his wife. Incidents like this do not happen in the showcase hospitals reserved for the US$ paying foreigners who travel to Cuba to take advantage of the "wonderful" medical care that Castro’s revolution has to offer.
Castro, who cares so much for Elián González and uses political games to manipulate the weak Clinton Administration and blackmail the U.S., obviously could not care less for the welfare of the rest of the children of Cuba.
Mr Blazquez is the Producer/Director of the documentaries
COVERING CUBA & CUBA: THE PEARL OF THE ANTILLES