Juan Miguel González, Elián’s father, sent the following letter to the U.S. Attorney General’s Office and the Immigration and Naturalization Service through the U.S. State Department yesterday afternoon:


Havana, February 14, 2000


H.E. Ms. Janet Reno, U.S. Attorney General

H.E. Mrs. Doris Meissner, INS Commissioner


Distinguished ladies,

For over two and a half months now, my son Elián González has been held in the United States against my will despite the immediate request for his return filed on November 27, 1999.

Over ten days would pass after my request was submitted through diplomatic channels before I received the first response from the U.S. authorities, and it was truly disappointing. Neither did they turn my son over to me, nor did they let me know when that would be done. Instead, I was asked to meet with INS and State Department representatives to verify my paternity and attachment to Elián. I met with them on December 13, completely alone and in the company of my father and mother; I took no lawyers or advisors with me. At that meeting, I turned over all of the documents solicited and many more, and I answered all of their questions. I amply demonstrated that Elián is my son and that I have always had a steady, consistent and loving relationship with him and provided all the care a father can give. Also, that Elián has a family here which has been raising him with affection and care, and this family is demanding his return.

More than two weeks went by in which I received no response. Then, on December 31, at their request, I met once again with the same U.S. officials. This time as well I met with them alone, with no one accompanying me except my parents. Once again, they neither turned my son over to me nor told me when they planned to do so. These officials limited themselves to asking me questions, which I answered in full, and to listening to my demands to which they could barely respond.

I subsequently discovered that this second interview with me was the result of a meeting that the INS had held on December 20 in Miami with Mr. Lázaro González, who was accompanied by other people including several lawyers who actively counseled him during the meeting.

Finally, on January 5 of this year, the INS announced its decision that recognized my full rights as a father, including my right as the only person who can represent Elián and speak on his behalf.

Unfortunately, no action whatsoever has ensued to enforce that decision. Forty days after the announcement, Elián is still arbitrarily held by the same people and in the same place as on January 5.

On that day, in response to the communication received from the INS, I proposed various formulas for resolving the situation, all of them in compliance with your announced decision.

According to the usual procedures applied every day by the INS in countless cases, I proposed that the Immigration Service itself takes responsibility for returning my son. Then, as an alternative solution, I proposed that Elián be turned over to the National Council of Churches of Christ in New York, so that the Council could bring him to Cuba or turn him over to us, his relatives.

On January 22, my mother Mariela Quintana, duly empowered with a document legalized in the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana, made a direct appeal to you for the child to be returned.

All of these proposals have been an expression of our wishes and our willingness to do whatever is necessary to put an end to my son’s captivity, a six-year-old child, and to return him to his home as soon as possible.

We have given our full cooperation to the U.S. authorities as requested in order to help them decide on a problem whose solution has always been and continues to be entirely within the reach of said authorities.

In this connection, allow me to remind you of the sworn statement made on January 24 by Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Ambassador Mary A. Ryan, who declared, among other things:

"When a young child is found in a foreign country, the accepted international practice is to attempt to identify the child’s parent or parent(s), and to return the child to that person whenever possible, often through the assistance of consular officials representing the country of origin. Were a U.S. citizen minor child found in a foreign country in the circumstances of Elián González Brotons, we would expect the government of that country immediately to seek the child’s surviving parent, if any, and to contact U.S. consular officials for assistance in doing so if necessary. We would then expect the government promptly to return the child to the parent, unless the parent expressly asked that other arrangements be made. We would ensure that the foreign government was aware of the parent’s wishes and would not expect our representations in that regard to be questioned. Thus, we would expect that the parent’s direct participation in proceedings in the foreign country would not be required. We would not expect that the surviving parent would necessarily have to travel to the foreign country to recover the child. Nor would we expect the surviving parent to have to participate in a foreign court’s custody proceedings to establish his or her right to assume responsibility for the child. We would not agree that there was any custody issue to be resolved; rather, custody would clearly belong to the surviving parent. We would object strongly if a foreign government declined to return an American child to its only surviving parent because other relatives sought custody of the child or because of a judgment that the child would be better off in the country in which the child was found. We also would take vigorous exception to a foreign government or court that sought to substitute its view of the "best interests of the child" for those expressed by a parent, absent a previous finding that the parent was unfit. Moreover, we would expect any decision about fitness or custody to be made not by a court in the country where the child was found, but by a court in the country of the child’s habitual residence. A failure to return Elián González Brotons to his father would be fundamentally inconsistent with these principles and with what we would advocate in the case of an American child."

Up until now, however, the United States has not taken the steps it is obliged to take in accordance with international law, with universally accepted practice and with the American laws.

Meanwhile, those people who are holding my son captive have undertaken various actions in the U.S. courts –-which have absolutely no competence to judge the fitness of a parent or the custody of a child when both are Cuban citizens and residents of the Republic of Cuba–- with the obvious goal of extending Elián’s kidnapping and obstructing the enforcement of the INS decision which, according to your own laws, the INS should enforce.

Such actions have come to my attention solely through media reports. According to these reports, a Florida state judge of dubious moral standing who, among other things, has been found to have compromising ties with the kidnappers and their agents, pretends to have the right to make decisions on my son’s custody. On the other hand, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno has determined that Elián’s case falls entirely under federal court jurisdiction and that I have the full and exclusive right to speak on my son’s behalf. I do not recognize the jurisdiction of the state court, and I formally object to any proceedings that have been undertaken or are undertaken there by those people who are arbitrarily holding Elián against my express will and in defiance of the INS January 5 decision. My objection to the actions of that court does not constitute, and cannot be interpreted in any way, as a waiver of any of my rights.

Likewise, I wish to state my categorical opposition to any attempts to appoint an alleged "independent guardian" for Elián, and to any other action in the courts or through any other means whose effect would be to further prolong the kidnapping of my son, the damage inflicted on him and both his suffering and that of his family. This case is not a family dispute for a child’s custody. Elián’s mother unfortunately died a victim herself of the illegal smuggling operation that led to the arbitrary retention of my son in the United States. I am solely and exclusively entitled to the exercise of my full paternal rights, including the safeguarding and custody of my son. Those people holding him captive have absolutely no rights over him. Their unacceptable attempt to impose an alleged "independent guardian" on the child is but a shameful maneuver to prolong this kidnapping, which must be definitely opposed. The acceptance of any such actions would amount to an absurd and intolerable concession to the kidnappers.

It is inadmissible and contrary to international law to allow the kidnappers the possibility of using judicial proceedings to turn the victims of this abduction into victims as well of endless maneuvers in U.S. courts which, as respectable as they may be, have absolutely no jurisdiction over a Cuban child who has not been legally admitted into the United States, nor could he be admitted against my often reiterated expressed will.

The U.S. Administration is fully responsible for the solution of this problem. Thus, it should immediately proceed to put an end to this kidnapping and return my son to me without further delay.

Sincerely yours,


Juan Miguel González