"Excessive Force" to Grab Elian

Por Humberto Fontova

When Reno's INS, maced, kicked, stomped, gun-butted and tear-gassed their way into Lazaro Gonzalez house that morning of April 22 1980, wrenched a bawling 6 year old child from his family at machine-gun point, and bundled him off to a Stalinist nation, they left 102 people injured, some seriously. Many of the injured were ladies who had brandished dangerous weapons. Worse, they had displayed these weapons openly, threateningly. These weapons were rosaries.

Last Monday 13 of these injured finally got their day in court. Interestingly, the Miami judge only allowed those who were outside the Gonzalez property and outside the barricades put up by the city to sue. That so many of these were injured gives you an idea of the dimensions of the brutality. These 13 people are suing the Federal government for using excessive force on that dawn raid.

Castro's raiders always came at dawn too. People wondered why so many of us got so "emotional" or "worked up "over Reno's raid. Well, there probably wasn't a family outside Elian's uncle's house who didn't recall a dawn raid in the old country, and a loved one dragged off. Often they got a crude pine box back, with the firing-squad riddled body of the loved one inside. More commonly an anonymous phone call announced the mass grave where the bullet-shattered body of the father, brother, uncle, cousin might be found. That torrent of tears and sea of anguished faces we all saw on TV from Miami's Little Havana that morning were mostly from terrifying flashbacks.

Not that rage or anguish was widespread--not by a long shot. Who can forget the reaction from the New York Times incomparable Thomas Friedman. "Yup, I gotta confess, that now-famous picture of a U.S. marshal in Miami pointing an automatic weapon toward Donato Dalrymple and ordering him in the name of the U.S. government to turn over Elian Gonzalez warmed my heart."

Let's review the highlights from the Elian tragedy, if only because so many--even among the normally sensible-- fell for the Castro-Clinton deception. Tony Snow, John Leo, Mark Steyn, among many other usually astute pundits, swallowed the Castroite ruse hook line and sinker. Probably a third of the phone calls, especially from men, to Rush sounded like they'd swallowed it too.

These weren't dumb people, much less wicked people. It's just that they'd never lived under a totalitarian regime--much less under Castroism. So it seemed to these guileless folks that Elian's father, Juan Miguel, was acting and speaking perfectly freely. I'd bet not one American in ten thousand would have fallen for that during the height of the Cold-war. Americans held few illusions about Communism back then. But as it turned out, regarding Elian, polls showed that almost 70 per cent of the American public sided with a Communist tyrant. A very heartbreaking tally, I'm ashamed to say.

After all, Dan Rather himself on his 60 minutes interview on April 16, 2000 had featured the perfectly free Juan Miguel. Dan had shown conclusively, with his battery of penetrating questions, with his own choking up, "Did you cry?" he asked the bereaved father.."A father never runs out of tears," Dan sniffled back, lips quivering"--with all this Dan had primed America on for the raid a week later. He left no doubt how earnest was Elian's father's longing that his son rejoin him in Castroland. He'd shown, beyond any doubt, how utterly free from Castroite co-ercion this poor father had been. All the bullying and wickedness came from the Miami bunch, if you recall.

And if you can't trust Dan Rather and 60 minutes --then who CAN you trust, RIGHT?!

Comes now a fascinating documentary from the indefatigable Agustin Blazquez--indefatigable in exposing Castroism, that is. "Dan Rather, 60 Minutes an Inside View" The Documentary features an eye-opening interview with a Pedro Porro. Mr Porro served as the translator for Juan Miguel during the taping of the interview. Dan Rather would ask the penetrating question in English into Porro's earpiece and Porro would translate it into Spanish for Juan Miguel. " I didn't know whether to throw up or start crying when I saw the interview as it appeared on 60 minutes." says Porro.

From Porro we learn that Clinton's friend and lawyer Gregory Craig, then acting as Juan Miguel (read Fidel Castro's) lawyer, was crafting most of the questions HIMSELF ("Did you cry?".sniff-sniff.) and passing them along to a willing Dan Rather. Craig was stage-managing the whole thing! "It was obvious that Craig and Rather were on very friendly terms." says Porro. Juan Miguel, on the other hand, "Was very stressed, it was obvious. And Juan Miguel was never alone either. He was always surrounded by men from the Cuban interest section, men they called "bodyguards," or by Gregory Craig himself. You could tell he wasn't free."

That Craig ( Clinton and Castro's lawyer) worked for the law firm Williams & Connolly--that happened to have CBS as a client also, might or might not be significant here.

At any rate, smells like more that "myopic zeal" to me. Dick Thornburgh, please call your office, sir. Using forged documents for campaign propaganda on a 60 Minutes show stinks for sure. Is it worse than using the same show to facilitate the kidnapping of a six year old on behalf of a Stalinist Tyrant, and after his mother died that he might be free from the Tyrant's bloody paws? Is it worse than using this show to stage a massive farce--a veritable show-trial complete with bogus confessions and co-erced testimony--on behalf of the world's last Stalinist?

Regarding the hapless Juan Miguel, think of Godfather II. Recall the Senate hearings where Frankie Pentangeli, under FBI protection, was prepared to testify against Michael Corleone. The stage was set. Looked like a done-deal for the Feds.

Then whoops! Frankie looks up and sees his bewildered brother Vincenzo from Sicily, sitting next to Mikey. Remember how Frankie's tune changed? Think of Elian's father, Juan Miguel, as Frankie Pentangeli. There was no gun (visible) at his head either.

"It wasn't Juan Miguel who wanted Elian back," says Elian's uncle Lazaro in the indispensable book, Unvanquished by Enrique Encinosa. "It was Fidel."

And as for all that stomping and macing and firepower that morning. This horrified and enraged many people for sure--it also amazed. Why such overkill? Why such Shock and Awe, many wondered?

Well, it appears that those agents genuinely feared they were on a very dangerous mission. Fidel Castro himself, you see, had confided to his friend Bill Clinton via his friend Gregory Craig that Lazaro's house was primed to erupt with deadly firepower much like the monastery atop Monte Cassino had erupted in 1944. Don't let appearances fool ya, Castro's agents had assured Craig. Lazaro's little bungalow is crammed with armaments and packed with Miami Mafiosi as hell-bent on blasting away at INS agents as Hitler's Grenadiers had been hell-bent on blasting away at Allied troops from Monte Cassino. A wide-eyed and gaping Clinton and Reno had Castro's word on it.

Well, the only blasting that morning came from mace and tear gas into the faces of ladies holding infants and rosaries.

If this sounds like I'm somehow exonerating or excusing the brutality please perish the thought. A Justice Department that relies on, then acts upon, intelligence from Fidel Castro strikes me as a hundred times as dangerous (and stupid) as one whose agents occasionally descend to "excessive force."


Humberto Fontova is the author of, Fidel; Stupid Liberals' Favorite Tyrant. A Conservative Book Club "Book of The Month" available starting March 30th.

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