REMARKS BY DR. FIDEL CASTRO RUZ, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF CUBA, AT THE INFORMATION ROUND TABLE ORGANIZED BY YOUTHS AND STUDENTS ON MARCH 29, 2000
I apologize if for the third time in three days I find it necessary to say something here.
Finally, they had to show on screen what they did not want to show. They were certainly ashamed to show something like that but today they had no other choice. We can easily understand the decision they made yesterday because that dialogue and those questions they asked the child are a really sickening and disgusting display. However, I will not abound on that, I will rather leave it to the experts on the subject.
Look, today is the day. Everything has happened today and it is not over, yet. At this moment, the INS people are still in that meeting with the lawyers and the extended family and they have failed to reach a decision, at least, that we know of. As I said yesterday, the logic goes that they will comply, that they have to comply. Mr. Pertierra, attorney at law, has indicated the same thing. But, as they live there in such fear and hysteria, nothing is known until information is released on the discussions.
Still, there is something very significant. See that they are so helpless now, that they can only resort to a deceitful action, that is, to say that the father does not care for his son. They talk lightly about that as if there were not a thousand dangers stalking the father in Miami. They have completely forgotten what happened with the grandmothers. They seem to forget that even the police and the mayors there act in contempt of the Federal Government.
A trip by Juan Miguel to the Mafia territory would require, at least, the involvement of a battalion from the 82nd Airborne Division to protect him. But, that is not the key to this matter.
Juan Miguel is not afraid nor has he ever been afraid. I say this because I know him quite well. Theirs was a different trap: they would resort to anything, they have said so, to subpoena him, as they wanted to do with his child, to testify before a Congressional committee. This is the only great mistake they have avoided, but if they did it, an individual there would soon decide whether or not he could return because from the moment he is subpoenaed he must obey and it would be a violation of the law not to comply or to return to Cuba without their permission.
But Juan Miguel is not afraid of even that, just as the grandmothers were not afraid. They were willing to offer testimony and to tell them all the truths that should be said to those who in that Committee are capable of such brutal, arbitrary and wild actions. That is the truth, there is no fear. It only happens that we have never done what they would like for us to do. Well, then, I shall now get right down to the issue.
While the round table proceeded, I was listening, taking notes and asking Carlitos to communicate over the telephone with various comrades, particularly, Juan Miguel. Actually, for the first time since I have been attending these debates, I also went aside to talk on the phone with Juan Miguel before making the decision to ask for a few minutes tonight to make these remarks. It will not take long; it is a short statement which I have already written down.
The Miami Mafia and the American extreme right have let all the beasts loose in the lot. The mayors in the service of the Miami Mafia have revolted. By the way, there is so much talk about the mayors but they are all from the same area in the city. The lawmakers who respond to the interests of that Mafia have been making moves and putting all kinds of pressure for an out-of-courts solution. They are trying to pass some sort of resolution or Act to take this case out of the courts, which to begin with have no legal right to consider this case because it does not correspond to the U.S. courts to decide on the issue. However, you see what is happening.
We had been planning for some time, together with Juan Miguel and Elián's grandparents, the father's trip to the United States while we waited for the right time to do it properly and with adequate guarantees against any absurd trick aimed at hurting him.
During this round table I have been in constant communication with Juan Miguel and his family and we have agreed, just today because we find this is the right moment, to release the following information:
Juan Miguel González, Elián's father, is ready to immediately travel to the United states to assume custody of his son, as the child's father with full rights recognized by the INS and Judge Moore, accompanied by indispensable people according to the criteria of medical doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists. Together, the would forthwith undertake the child's recuperation and his reinsertion to the family and school environment while case unfolds in the Atlanta Court of Appeals.
The fact is that it is now said that the process would last one and a half month, at least, and that is precisely what the INS is discussing today with the lawyers and the extended family. The INS is demanding from these people a pledge that when the court gives its ruling they will abide by such decision but they have so far refused to do even that and at this moment they are still resisting. Therefore, the purpose of the trip would be to have the child under the father's custody until that court issues its ruling on the case.
Yesterday, we heard concerns about how to resolve the problem of the child's separation from the false mother; who would be receiving him and how he would be reincorporated to his family. Then, we have found the perfect formula for his reinsertion, I would even say the best formula, which our people will better understand after listening to those dialogues between Elián and his father in the last few days.
We have seen that despite all pressures he still reacts and sustains such conversations with his father; he talks about his little brother, his cousin and the others and certainly much more spontaneously than the awful things we just saw on television: "Look, you want to go to Cuba or you would rather have your father come here to stay with you", they said to him. The child was not interested until he grew tired of all that and said: "Well, don't ask me more questions." This increases our hopes that there are true possibilities for this child to recuperate, mostly if something is done promptly. It is due to that time pressure that we are now making this statement.
Juan Miguel would be accompanied by his wife and Elián's little brother who is six months old and of whom he speaks with great affection because he loves his brother despite the fact that when he left the baby was hardly three months old. By the way, this is a very lively six-months-old. Also traveling with them would be a very dear cousin of Elián, 12 first-grade classmates chosen among his closest friends and among them, of course, Hanser, the boy who shared his school desk; also his teacher who cried so much those first days after the tragedy for the loss of her student and the sadness of his classmates and his kindergarten teacher who had previously worked with him for a whole year and knows him very well; the neonatologist who cared for him from birth, a team of psychiatrists, psychologists, pediatricians and others as well as an advisor who is familiar with the American legal and political system.
The purpose of this action is not only to preserve the child's health, as you have rightly indicated, but also to facilitate the resumption of his education so that he can pass the school tests and move to second grade.
Now they are keeping him confined to the house with a visiting teacher and, according to news we have received, there is much noise there. Just today he complained to his father that many cars stop by the house making noise and sounding their horns. It must be hell for him that he is not even attending school.
Our proposal is that we take his classroom to him there, with is classmates, his teachers and the most outstanding specialists to take care of him. At the moment, we do not know who is taking care of him.
Juan Miguel, his wife and baby, and the children will be accommodated at the residence of the head of our Interests Section in Washington, Mr. Fernando Remírez de Estenoz. We only need to make the necessary arrangements with attorney Gregory Craig with whom we are keeping in touch. Mr. Craig talks every day with Juan Miguel and comrade Alarcón since when it was decided to retain that talented lawyer for certain undertakings he asked for the possibility to analyze with Alarcón the technicalities involved in the actions he would have to address in common agreement with Juan Miguel. So, there are daily communications between that lawyer, Juan Miguel and Alarcón. Quite often the need arises to interpret legal matters with which Juan Miguel is not familiar and then Alarcón helps him.
At the moment, certain details of the trip are still pending although this is something that we had been discussing. Anyway, we will apply for the U.S. government visas as soon as Mr.Craig has been able to make the necessary arrangements.
The only thing left before departure would be the assurances the American authorities would have to give us about their readiness to surrender custody of the child to his father or to do their utmost to obtain it. If the latter were true, their departure would have to wait for the outcome of such special efforts as would certainly be required.
This is an example of how everything can be solved, that is, the creation of the best possible conditions for the boy's reinsertion. In other words, we are offering to carry Cardenas to Washington, symbolically that is, by taking there the people closer to Elián both in kindergarten and first grade until the time when he was taken away from that environment. I would say that even the school desks can be taken by plane, at least the famous desk shared by Hanser and Elián could be taken on the plane for them to use at the residence.
We have consulted Remírez about his residence and he has said to have enough space in a meeting room area on the first floor. There, they can have the classroom and create in the house the proper conditions for the doctors to do their work. I am not saying that they will all fit in Remírez' house but other officials live in the area. Perhaps the adults will have to live somewhere else but there is plenty of space in the house to work in an orderly fashion and for the family and children to accommodate. All conditions can be created for the permanent presence of a doctor and a nurse, that is, for medical care and education in the residence.
It will be a small school and a small hospital. And, of course, if this took a month, a month and a half or two months these will be optimum conditions and I wonder who could challenge such arrangements.
As the old saying goes: If the mountain does not come to Mohamed, then Mohamed goes to the mountain. These would be perfectly ideal conditions that the child does not have where he is now surrounded as he is by rogues, noise, cameras and such disgraceful situations as we have been watching today. We are really pleased that they decided to show that, for we have been able to see it.
This offer would be our contribution to the solution of this predicament because all you can see there is a chaotic situation, a crime committed in daylight. However, the best and the ideal conditions can be created to care for the child. Of course, the children would not be prisoners there, neither would be Juan Miguel and his family. We hope their visa would allow them to visit interesting places in Washington. There are interesting places there like Capitol Hill --well, from a distance-- and the Lincoln Memorial. I have heard that there are many interesting places in Washington and its surrounding. They would not have to stay like in a small prison there. No, the residence will be their school and living quarters.
Listen, do you not think it is better to thus facilitate the child's rendezvous with his father? And this is a father whose love for his son nobody doubts; he is a particularly dotting father. There is also the love of Juan Miguel's wife for this child to whom she was very close, and his little brother that he loved; also the cousin who was his playmate and 12 of his closest school friends.
Allow me to say that when we talked to the children's parents a few days ago, the 12 couples who are the parents of the 12 children did not hesitate to given their consent for their children's trip accompanied by their teacher. They are not hearing this for the first time now, they have known it for some time, their passports are ready and they have been provided shoes, clothing, everything. And the plane, of course, is ready. They would leave as soon as the lawyer says that all the arrangements have been made.
I will add something else: some of the people here tonight would also travel so you had better not count them in for tomorrow. They are ready although the decision has yet to be made. Perhaps, some of them would speak to us from there and let us know about Elián's health and mood. Under no circumstances would we do any of the awful things that those relatives over there have been doing and use the boy for propaganda. Absolutely not.
We have already said that nobody will mobilize when the child arrives. Only his family will be waiting to welcome him home. The doctors will say whether he needs to spend a few days here and when he should go back to his school because it is not the same thing a small 12 students' school than his big school in Cardenas.
Undoubtedly, not only the people in the school but all the people in Cardenas will need certain preparation to properly deal with this new situation. But, this formula seems to us to be perfect to allow time for the boy's adaptation.
Presently, the solution is in the hands of the United States government. We hope that they have not promised to those individuals, just to please them, that the child will remain in that hell for that month and a half or two months, I mean, if they decide to take the case to the Supreme Court, although they would have a hazardous road to trail. At the moment, they are forcing the government's hand as they usually operate on the basis of force and blackmail; they definitely want to force the government's hand.
They are talking about bringing the boy to Cuba but there is no need to bring him back to Cuba immediately, absolutely not. As there is no need to demonstrate at the airport, either.
In that notorious press conference they spoke about walls; we shall see which walls they have in mind. Possibly, they were referring to a wall here but the wall is really there and it opens up only to receive those who break the law putting at risk so many people's lives. People are perishing at that artificial wall they have raised there with illegal formulas like those leading the child over that wall where non of his rights have been respected.
On the other hand, Juan Miguel and even the children in Elián's school are willing to jump over that wall, legally and constructively, to save Elián.
I have made reference to guarantees. These Cubans will have the same guarantees that Imperatori had: the morale, the rightfulness, the law, the truth and also the guarantee provided by the immunity of our Interests Section in Washington. Once there, we shall see what happens and if they want to use force to have anybody do something. Perhaps, it occurs to them to invite somebody to a Committee. Anyway, that would be their problem and not the problem of those they invite because I am sure that if Juan Miguel were invited to one of those tricky hearings, there would be plenty of decent lawmakers and people willing to accompany him, and so would his advisor. As I say, if that were the case they would be inviting their own headache because there is nothing they could fairly use against these people.
Juan Miguel cannot be jailed there because he and his children would be accompanied by 11 million Cubans and 11 million Cubans cannot be easily jailed. It would be such an insanity that I do not believe such a risk even exists.
We shall see what they have to say about this offer that would allow for the recognition of the boy's rights and the possibility for him to be reunited with he people who were with him from birth, who have been rearing him and teaching him to draw. And look how amazing the boy's drawings are, an ability he acquired in kindergarten.
What we could see here is just a sample of the excellence of education in our country, the excellence of our teacher's work and their disposition not only to educate but even to give their lives for one of their students with that fraternal spirit that the parents of the other children have also exhibited.
Surely, the children will be happy to be reunited with Elián and so neither the U.S. government nor anyone else would have to worry that the child be sent to Cuba which for them is hell. It would actually be there, under the Washington sky, that the reunification would take place albeit with his teachers, his doctors, his psychologists and his classmates to prevent that child from continuing to get sick and for him to immediately begin recuperating his health.
This is Juan Miguel and his family's statement that I have read here on behalf of our people.