Although the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has taken an important legal and moral step by acknowledging all paternal rights to the father of the boy Elian Gonzalez – kidnapped in Miami by the Cuban-American counterrevolutionary Mafia –nothing yet guarantees the return of the child to Cuba.

At 12:22 p.m. today, in a sober, brief and accurate declaration, the INS Commissioner expressed:

"The case of Elian Gonzalez has been a difficult one for several reasons. Elian Gonzalez is a six-year-old boy, too young to make legal decisions for himself. In this circumstance, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) had to decide who could legally speak for him on immigration issues. This task was complicated by the fact that several people other than Elian’s father –a great uncle as well as three lawyers—claimed to represent him. As a result, the INS met with the father, and separately, with the great uncle and the lawyers. After careful evaluation of the relevant facts, the INS has determined that Mr. Juan Gonzalez of Cuba has the sole legal authority to speak on behalf of his son, Elian, regarding Elian's immigration status in the United States.

"There is no question that Mr. Gonzalez is indeed Elian’s father. Moreover, Mr. Gonzalez has had a close and continuous parental relationship with his son. During INS’ Interviews with Elian’s father, he provided vivid details about his parental relationship with his son and about the nature of the bond they share as father and son. He provided extensive information about Elian’s schooling and his medical and health histories as well as photographs depicting the activities in which he and his other family members frequently participated with Elian. This scope of information and level of detail Mr. Gonzalez provided helped inform INS as to the nature and closeness of the relationship Mr. Gonzalez shared with his son Elian. INS has not uncovered any information that might call into question Mr. Gonzalez’s parental and legal rights with regard to Elian’s immigration status.

"During INS’ two meetings with Mr. Gonzalez, his wishes for Elian were discussed at some length. He made it very clear during both of these meetings that he wants Elian returned to him as soon as possible. Based on these meetings, INS believes that he is expressing his true wishes, and therefore we have determined that Elian should returned with his father, Mr. Gonzalez."

At 2:00 p. m., CNN reported that White House spokesman Joe Lockhart had said that President Clinton approved the decision of the migration authorities adding that it was a difficult decision due to the political climate involving the case. This decision confirms Cuba’s opinion that the United States government wanted to find a solution to the serious and shameful problem created by the brutal and arbitrary action. The problem was with the Cuban-American National Foundation and the members of the extreme right.

On the other hand, our point of view always was that a just rectification should be rapidly made and that the child should be immediately returned. The conclusions of outstanding specialists were that the child’s mental health required his urgent return to his family and homeland.

We considered it essential to avoid an endless labyrinth of judicial procedures that would be fatal for the child’s mind and personality and we felt that the President of the United States has the constitutional and legal powers to make the decision of returning him to Cuba.

Today’s INS action does not remove all danger. There is a very real possibility that the Cuban-American Mafia and the extreme right in the U.S. Congress will immediately make use of all their resources to prevent the child’s return. They will surely challenge the INS decision before the biased judges and courts in South Florida to prevent or indefinitely delay its implementation. Only the pressure of the world public opinion, and the American in particular, would crush this and other maneuvers, such as the already announced granting of the U.S. citizenship to the child.

We cannot demobilize. The struggle of our people for Elian’s immediate return cannot stop for a minute. And Elian’s return is not enough. The Cuban Adjustment Act, the main cause of this and other tragedies, is still in place. The Torricelli and Helms-Burton Acts are still in place. The economic war and the blockade, that promote and instigate illegal migration, are still in place. There still are many serious and critical problems that make it necessary to continue the debate of values, ideas and national and international opinions.

After we save Elian, we must save millions of Cuban children from the great crime committed against them throughout the last 40 years.

Havana, January 5, 2000, 5 p.m.