by Agustín Blázquez with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton

In 1964 Judy Mann visited Cuba as a student. Later, she became a Washington Post columnist through which she reveals a bias, a bias that often seems to follow those who visited Cuba during an impressionable time in their lives. She made a series of remarks in two columns this year that reveal her degree of prejudice and fanaticism negating any journalistic integrity and crying out for comment.

In her January 4, 2000 column, "Cuban Exiles’ Obsession Is Catching", she said the Cuban American community "has been poisoning American-Cuban relations every [sic] since Castro took over. That they are now using a 6-year-old to do this shows that they will stop at nothing to prevent a long-overdue rapprochement between the two countries." She disregards the fact that Castro used Elián first in his political war against the U.S.

Of the Elián González case, sounding mysteriously like Castro’s propaganda, she said, "What is happening is nothing short of kidnapping. Elián’s welfare has not been a priority. Kidnapping is against the law." I would like to ask Ms. Mann who kidnapped Elián? On December 1, 1999, a Justice Department and Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) document acknowledged that the INS had "no role in the family custody decision process" and that "the issue of legal custody must be decided by its state [Florida] court." It was the INS that placed him in the home of his U.S. family.

Ms. Mann continued, "For the Cubans in Miami who never met Elián to lay claim to him when his father wants him returned is outrageous." That is inaccurate. One of the Miami great uncles and cousin William González met Elián in a visit to Cuba. In addition, recently arrived cousin Alfredo Martell, his wife and son – who used to play with Elián in Cuba - knew him as well.

It was Elián’s father, Juan Miguel, who asked his Miami great uncle Lazaro in a telephone conversation that took place prior to Castro’s interference in this private family matter, to protect his son "by whatever means available." When Lazaro called Juan Miguel to tell him that Elián was saved, Juan Miguel asked him, "Take care of him for me until I get there." Before Castro took control of the situation, Juan Miguel made it clear to his Miami family what he wanted to do.

Mann coldly said, "Whether the boy wants to stay here or to return to Cuba is not material." Apparently, the best interests of this child is immaterial to her because she favors Elián’s return to a country where parents are devoid by the Constitution of rights over their own children. For example, Article 5: "Society and the state watch to ascertain that all persons who come in contact with the child ... constitute an example for the development of his communist personality." Article 8: "Society and the state work for the efficient protection of youth against all influences contrary to their communist formation."

Mann insists on the return of Elián to one of the most repressive countries in the world according to Freedom House. Where Amnesty International and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights has repeatedly documented and condemned human rights violations. She wants a 6-year-old to live in a place where freedom simply does not exist and personality formation is directed by the government. Is that in the best interests of any child? Does that sound like the environment where Ms. Mann would like her child to be brought up?

About the late Elisabet Broton, mother of Elián, she says, "One of the mantras of the exile community has been that Elián’s mother, Elisabet, gave her life so the child could be raised in freedom." And repeating Castro’s slanderous propaganda against a defenseless dead woman, she says, "The fact is nobody really knows what her motives were." Elisabet’s motives were the same as the over 80,000 who died in the Florida Straits trying to escape Castro’s Cuba. That masses of people are risking their lives that way, offers powerful support. Why does Ms Mann find it so hard to accept that a mother would want freedom for her child?

But she goes on, "The fact is also that she left Cuba with her boyfriend and put her 6-year-old at risk in a boat that was not seaworthy." If people in Cuba would have the same freedom as Americans do to travel, to leave and return to their country, people would not have to risk dying in order to escape. "It is unlikely that she told her former husband, Juan Miguel, of her plans to flee with her boyfriend and son. So in effect she was also severing the boy’s ties with his father." That is not accurate either. There are testimonies and signed affidavits on record from eight credible witnesses that Juan Miguel knew in advance of his former wife’s plans and that he too wanted to leave Cuba for the U.S.

About Elián’s grandmothers, one of them, Mariela Quintana, bit Elián’s tongue and checked for penis development and the other, Raquel Rodríguez, insultingly told Sister Jeanne O’Laughlin "I don’t believe in God or anybody!" Mann says, "Here, at least are two people who sound like they know what’s important to a 6-year-old." Indeed, the grandmother’s actions and words do not back up Mann’s statement.

About Elián’s relatives in Miami, "His distant family has shown very little understanding of a child’s basic need to be with his family, particularly having lost his mother." Apparently Mann’s 1964 visit to Cuba was not long enough for her to understand how close Cuban families can be, where even a distant cousin is an important and nurturing family member.

She ignores the fact that the Miami relatives surrounded Elián from the beginning with love and attention, while tending to his psychological needs by placing him under a psychologist’s care and sending him to school.

If all that was not enough, now as Elián is being brainwashed in Cuba - as apparently Mann was when she visited Castroland in 1964 - in her Washington Post column of July 12, 2000 she presents us with another installment titled "Still Crazy About Cuba." Is this title a Freudian slip?

In it, she continues her crusade deriding Miami Cubans saying "The U.S. government stood up to them . . .[and gave in to Castro]. For once, we didn’t let a noisy group of expatriates blackmail us into more anti-Castro foolishness." Apparently she likes it better when an undemocratic leftist fascist tyrant like Castro gives the orders, manipulates U.S. policy and blackmails a weak President Clinton, who in his self-serving quest for his "legacy," bends over backwards and lets Castro gets his way. What a proud moment for America.

Then Mann gives her pitch for lifting the U.S. embargo and for allowing Castro to purchase using U.S. credit. No concern for the fact that he has never paid such debts and U.S. taxpayers will have to end up paying for his purchases. She says, "But while this country has been trying to force him from office by strangling Cuba's economy, he has educated Cuba's children and given its people universal health care." She certainly does not know and does not want to know that Castro’s educational system’s overwhelming fundamental concern is indoctrination or about the dreadful health care that the average Cuban has to endure.

She then uses some "fascinating" statistics published on July 10 in the New Yorker magazine to back up her statement, ". . . if basic health care is a human right, and I believe it is, then Castro has done very well by his people on that ledger." She fails to mention that the statistics were Cuba-provided and she offers no suggestion that she did anything to verify them. If she had family there, she would know that good health care is available only to those in the elite and to some extent, to those with a source of U.S. dollars. She is so pathetically uninformed that she is misleading the Washington Post readers.

It’s difficult to give any credibility to someone who would say, "I, for one, do not see why Cuban Americans can go to Cuba once a year and most other Americans cannot." It’s because they have family there.

I propose that Ms. Mann resign her U.S. citizenship and adopt a Cuban one. She should hike to her utopia and begin to live there as a regular Cuban citizen. (No fair being one of the elite. It might be offered to her because of all her help at the Washington Post.) Maybe then, immersed in that oppressive, inhumane system and deprived of freedoms and human rights, forced to try to survive like the rest of the population, experience the tourist apartheid and all with no voice, she will feel as 90% of the Cuban population. She might even become a dissident. She would then be able to encounter Castro’s use of psychological treatments to repress dissents and experience his mental hospitals and prisons.

A beneficial side effect of that experience will be the clearing of the cobwebs in her brain.

Maybe in desperation one day, she will risk her life and escape Cuba in search of freedom in the U.S. Perhaps, feeling guilty for what she wrote in these two columns, she will bring Elián back with her. And if she survives and touches U.S. soil, and is allowed to stay in this country, then she will feel exactly as over a million Cuban Americans. And, who knows, she may become a "Miami Cuban." She will finally understand how they feel. She will realize that Cuban Americans stand for freedom and democracy. What can be more American than that?


Agustín Blázquez

Producer/Director of the documentaries COVERING CUBA & CUBA:

2000 ABIP

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