REMARKS BY DR. FIDEL CASTRO RUZ, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF CUBA, AT THE INFORMATION ROUNDTABLE ORGANIZED BY YOUTHS AND STUDENTS ON APRIL 2, 2000
On March 22, 24 hours after Federal Court Judge Michael Moore announced his historic and fair verdict, we expressed to the U.S. authorities our concern and that of Elián Gonzálezs father and other close relatives on the risk of psychological and even physical harm that could be intentionally inflicted on the child, given the violent nature and the usual impunity and disdain for the law showed by the mob surrounding the family that was holding Elián captive, once they realized that their cause had legally, morally and politically failed.
The official note, drafted in the most sincerely constructive spirit, added: "Although there are great and profound differences between the United States and Cuba on a number of issues, we harbor the hope that in this particular and delicate matter, which in our view could be close to a just and reasonable solution, both countries will understand the commonn duty to foresee truly calamitous risks that are wholly possible."
Despite our conviction that it would be advisable to issue an immediate public denunciation with regard to this matter, we abstained from doing so at the request of the very U.S. authorities who received our message, in order to "prevent tempers from becoming even more heated in this complex situation." For several days, we did not say a word about the matter.
We did not doubt the good intentions of the U.S. government executive, which clearly desired an honorable solution for this shameful problem. It is also clear from recent events that there are honorable people among that countrys federal judges.
The highly irregular and scandalous disregard for the INS orders showed by the Miami mob organizations and their increasingly loud threats, combined with an outrageous and despicable publicity campaign aimed at swaying the opinion of the vast majority of the U.S. public which favor the returning of Elián to Cuba and restoring his fathers unquestionable rights, made it inevitable for us to make public our concerns on the mental and physical risks for the child.
However, our words were intentionally distorted. No mention was made of our accusations against the Cuban-American mob as being principally responsible for the crisis that has been created and the dangers to the child brought about by such crisis. We were portrayed as holding the family exclusively responsible for these dangers. This made it necessary for us to clarify and clearly specify the sources of information and arguments on which we based our fully justified fears.
It soon became obvious that chaos reigned in Miami. There were even counterrevolutionary leaders who spoke of a possible massacre, like the one in Waco, Texas. The mayors of Miami themselves publicly declared their insubordination and disobedience of the federal governments orders, announcing that the police forces under their control would not take part in any action whatsoever with the Washington authorities.
The house where Elián is being held was under siege by a permanent guard of organized provocateurs threatening to forcibly resist any legal procedures undertaken to comply with a court ruling or administrative orders related to the illegal detention of the child. The simple idea of provoking a scandal that would generate images of the use of force was the ideal weapon for the provocateurs in the midst of an electoral year. The key element to consider was not justice, but downright spurious electoral interests. This had led all of the candidates and potential candidates to unanimously pronounce themselves in favor of unlawfulness and injustice, which further fuelled the audacity and arrogance of the mob organizations.
Meanwhile, throughout almost an entire week a popular television program, calling into question the most basic ethics that should govern the role of the mass media, exacerbated emotions in both Cuba and the United States by showing clearly biased and negative serial reporting. Scenes of blatant psychological torture and abuse of a young child, and irrefutable proof of his kidnapping, were seen by millions of people both in the United States and elsewhere.
Still, this did not diminish the support of the American people for the return of Elián to his father, his closest relatives and his homeland. Our people will certainly be grateful for that.
For days on end, the INS efforts were opposed one by one as they attempted to obtain from the plaintiffs in Miami, and their large contingent of lawyers, a simple pledge to comply with the courts ruling and return the child in an orderly and peaceful way in the event that the courts ruled against their demands. This in itself is the obligation of every citizen, that is, to comply with the law.
The international public has watched in amazement the events taking place in the heart of a country so powerful and influential in the fate of the world. The latest incident was the highly unusual case of a vice president and presidential candidate from the ruling party who, as part of his competition with the rival candidate, has taken sides with those showing contempt for the law and the governments provisions in calling on the lawmakers of his own party to support a bill put forward by their adversaries in the Senate aimed at denying the courts their right to decide the case.
Major publications and television networks, which could never be suspected of sympathizing with Cuba, have been harshly critical of such events and some have even recognized the constructive spirit and viability of the offer made by Cuba, after consultations with and consent from Eliáns father, Juan Miguel González, and his family.
This offer, which was received with interest and respect not only in our country but also in the United States and elsewhere, is presently the only rational and honorable solution to the complicated and apparently unsolvable problem created by the kidnapping of Elián.
Based on the obvious fact that the position of those who created the problem is totally unsustainable from a legal, ethical and even political point of view and that the overwhelming majority of the U.S. and world public are in favor of returning the child to his father without further delay, the proposed formula should be seriously and promptly analyzed, for it is no longer possible to keep up the torture of the child and the suffering of his real family. This problem is also emotionally and psychologically inflicting damage on millions of Cuban children, mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers. It can be said that it is damaging all of the Cuban people whose unshakable determination and fighting spirit nobody should doubt.
Both, the childs father and the Cuban authorities have made a major concession, although they do not recognize the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts to decide on a case which, in accordance with international law and standards can only be decided in the courts of the country where the child is from. Without renouncing this principle, which has just been recognized through a verdict issued by a U.S. court of law in relation to the case of a Jordanian-American child, it has been agreed that Eliáns father will travel to the United States with his wife and youngest son to take over custody of Elián, until the Atlanta court reaches a decision and the sentence is firm.
Nothing further can be done to cooperate in seeking for a solution to a problem created by the U.S. authorities themselves, who should have never turned the child over to a distant relative instead of returning him to Cuba as soon as he was identified, and who so far have failed to be firm enough to obtain immediate compliance with the INS decision, ratified by the Attorney General and consecrated by a federal court judge.
The relevant executive powers have until now not been relinquished. It is only the electoral interests and the defiance of the Cuban-American terrorist mob that can explain the crime committed against a Cuban child, who has already been caused considerable psychological harm.
It has been said that Juan Miguel will have to remain in the United States for at least two months, but that does not take into account the appeals, tricks and delays of all kinds to which Eliáns unpunished kidnappers will presumably resort.
The fact that Eliáns father would not travel to Miami, where all manner of hostility and danger were lying in wait for him -including the risk of being detained indefinitely on the basis of McCarthyism procedures still enforced in that country-the sole argument wielded in the attempt to discredit and slander him, with the claim that he was not in the least bit interested in his son. They chose to ignore the brutal actions carried out there against all targets of the powerful Cuban-American terrorist mobs hatred.
That Mafia perfidiously accused Juan Miguel and his family of being hostages of the Cuban government while promising him that everything would be resolved, that he would be given back his son together with countless privileges and riches if he agreed to renounce his homeland and defect, something truly repugnant to a man of his character and deepest beliefs. In a telephone conversation he had with his cousin Marisleysis as early as December 11, barely two weeks after the kidnapping -a conversation made public here on Friday where his dignity clearly shows- Juan Miguel bitterly denounced the attempts to bribe him from the very first days of this episode. Moreover, because of his refusal to travel to Miami, he was accused of being a coward as well.
But the outcome was not exactly what the rogues of the terrorist Mafia had expected. Therefore, when his willingness to travel to the United States was announced, as it was felt that the time had come for him to resume custody of his child --according to the INS decision and Judge Moore's ruling-- and remain with him in the United States for as long as necessary, new pretexts and threats were raised together with hysterical resounding refusals to surrender him. All this developed in an increasingly chaotic and uncontrollable situation in Miami City.
It was said that he had to go for his boy to the house where the child was being kept surrounded by rogues, in whose case they would surrender him only if he wanted to go. They were convinced that the child would refuse since they trusted he would react as a tamed little animal subjected for four months to pressures and psychological torture as well as to attempts to buy his attention with the most varied and sophisticated toys.
Although the Mafia was paralyzed when it learned that Juan Miguel would be travelling to the United States, as soon as it was known that he would be staying with his family and others at the residence of the head of our Interests Section, they stated that they would never surrender the child in a place which is Cuban territory since he would not be free there but just a prisoner of the Cuban government.
According to them, the Cuban people traveling with Juan Miguel to immediately begin working on the recovery of the child were Cuban security agents assigned for surveillance. The number of people accompanying the family was questioned while the old idea was brought back again that Juan Miguel traveled alone with his wife, who is breastfeeding a six-month-old baby, and perhaps Eliáns favorite cousin who is in fifth grade of grammar school.
As they are used to rallies attended by hardly over a hundred people, the 30 persons traveling with Juan Miguel to Washington seemed like a large crowd to them. On the other hand, no advisor could accompany the young and humble father, who has never traveled to the United States; he should manage alone in that enormous and complex country that he knows so little. According to them, he should go and stay in a hotel room, live there for months and, perhaps then, they would surrender to him his child so badly in need of urgent physic and psychological care, while waiting in such predicament for long and endless months.
It is annoying just to think that anyone might believe our country would be willing to accept such outrageous conditions. Even a government spokesman, undoubtedly misguided by a provoking question, spoke of threats and pressures in President Castros offer and of a long litany, as he qualified the list of 12 six-year-old children only two are seven years old-- two teachers who educated the boy in kindergarten and first grade and a specialized group of psychologists, psychiatrists and other medical doctors and two experienced nurses to conduct a noble and humane work at no cost for the U.S. government.
The public opinion in that nation found it a satisfactory offer and so it was respectfully welcomed. Likewise, the U.S. authorities as well as outstanding and prestigious political figures have expressed their hopes that the fathers presence can decisively contribute to solving the embarrassing issue. This is an encouragement for us to persevere in our efforts.
However, those bent on setting obstacles to the fathers presence in America, the same who are disseminating ridiculous and demeaning slanders should know that Juan Miguel has absolutely no fear. In our country nobody is fearful, not even the children and their parents who are eager to help Elián. Everyone of them, without exceptions, have been supportive and the school in Cardenas where Elián studied with over 800 students are anxious to see their famous little classmate back, and they would all volunteer to take a place with the twelve selected children.
Twelve children were chosen among his closest classmates because that was the minimum required, according to outstanding pedagogues, to establish a functional classroom to meet Eliáns needs. His two teachers, well known and loved by Elián from kindergarten and first grade, are considered indispensable. A properly qualified group of psychologists, psychiatrists and other medicine specialists working as a team would provide care not only to Elián but also to his family, among them Juan Miguels wife, Eliáns baby brother and his 12 classmates whose parents hold us accountable for the continuation of their studies and the preservation of their health.
If the kidnappers pretext, and that of the supporting mob and extreme right to avoid returning the child to his father and to urge the authorities not to grant the visas, is that they would never surrender the boy to a residence considered Cuban territory, our Interests Section in Washington is willing to relinquish that residences diplomatic immunity; after all, it would not be the first time we do it.
Nobody would dare do anything against those children who would be protected by the American public opinion, the honor of the country and all the men and women working in our Interests Section in the U.S. capital who would be ready to give their own lives for them. Eleven million Cubans would remain here as a guarantee that nobody in the world would dare to even touch those children.
As we have no time to loose, just tomorrow --that is, Monday-- as soon as the U.S. Interests Section in Havana is opened, we shall apply for visas for 28 people --after writing off the list three people, since their tasks could be performed by other team members-- who together with Juan Miguel and his family will conform a working group.
The plane will be ready for departure on Tuesday, provided the visas applied for were ready by then. We rather have everything ready before Elián is handed over. Therefore, Juan Miguel, his wife and baby, and Eliáns 10 years old cousin will be accompanied by 10 boys and girls who are 6 years old, 2 others who are 7 years old and 2 teachers for a total of 18 people; also, 9 medical specialists, that is, psychologists, psychiatrists, pediatricians and nurses, as well as the person who has been the fathers advisor for four months.
We do not want that any of those Cuban children go without medical care as it is the case with millions in that country, mostly Hispanics and Afro-Americans. We hope nobody finds any reason to say this is a terrible commando intended to land in the United States, kidnap Elián and destabilize that nation.
Juan Miguel, the boys father and the only one with full custody rights, has asked me to make public his position with regards to all that has been recently said to question his honor, his dignity, his love for his son and the reasons for which he requested to be accompanied by the children and other people. Juan Miguel has said the following:
"If they were willing to surrender the child for immediate return to Cuba, I would be ready to travel tomorrow, Monday April 3, absolutely alone, to any place in the United States of America and go from the airport to any place where my child might be to fetch him, then return to the airport and right back to Cuba. However, I refuse to talk to any kidnapper and I am not willing to accept any conditions, least of all any publicity show on Eliáns return. It is up to the U.S. government to decide whether it prefers this option.
"If I were to travel to the United States to receive Elián but only to stay there waiting for two months with my wife who is breastfeeding and caring for my other son -a six months baby sensitive to the tensions endured by his mother-- and a cousin who studies in fifth grade of grammar school who would stand to fail his school year due to his help in the recovery of my son, severely traumatized by a shipwreck and four months of psychological pressures and political and publicity manipulations including 8 hours of a shameful televised interview, then it should be understood that it is my right to create the minimum conditions required and to receive the support of Eliáns classmates and teachers and highly qualified people of my full confidence to help me in this task and my whole mission in America. Otherwise, such a trip would be senseless".
This is the full content of his message.
Last Friday, during the latest roundtable, Marisleysis, the distant cousin who suddenly found a son that she had never seen before, as a gift from Heaven expecting a miracle to keep him with her --as if God shared her views about family and justice-- bathed in moving tears that made us all fear that she could choke, said that she would like to visit the child but was afraid that we would never allow it.
If she really felt the need to see Elián whose presence, according to her, has been the greatest thing that ever happened to her, or if she sincerely believed that it would hurt the child to be separated from her after four months of kidnapping, she should know that she can visit our country as many times as she likes, every weekend if she so wishes. Our people are deeply irritated and they condemn what has happened but they are not spiteful or vindictive and they would never be hostile to her in anyway. Our noble and humane people respect everything that might seem noble and humane and although only Eliáns father and grandparents would have the final word on that, I know them well enough to think that being decent people concerned only about their dearest Eliáns happiness and wellbeing they would be generous and forgiving.
If our offer to the United States were implemented with all transparency and sincerity, it would be perfectly possible to reach an honorable and reasonable solution. That would be of benefit not only to Elián, his father and family but also to the United States of America.
That child is undoubtedly running not only a mental risk due to the suffering he has endured so far and will continue to endure in his painful captivity, but his life is also in danger. The sooner he is returned to his father, the lesser the moral risks for the United States whose government cannot ignore what that criminal Mafia can do. If anything happened to that boy, an indelible blemish would forever taint that nation.
If the appropriate and possible solution were attained, Cuba would certainly be pleased by its accomplishment but it would not be misled to forget that the causes for this and other similar or worse tragedies than Eliáns have not been addressed and it will continue to relentlessly fight for as long as these and many other causes of humiliation, suffering and great damages to our people throughout 40 years are removed.
Everything has been said very clearly. We hope it can be useful.