Granma reported yesterday that Elián’s grandmothers were prepared to return to Miami to meet with the boy if the plan worked out by the Attorney General’s Office and the INS was strictly observed. It was then added that on Monday, January 24, after the first scheduled meeting was thwarted by the intransigence of the boy’s great-uncle, the INS announced that it had filed a claim with a federal judge, who would order that the child be made available to the Service for the meeting promised to the grandmothers.
In fact, on Tuesday, January 25, the INS, through Executive Associate Commissioner for Field Operations Michael A. Pearson, sent a letter to the counterrevolutionary mob’s lawyers, Linda Osberg-Braun, Roger A. Bernstein and Spencer Eig. We believe it is essential to reproduce substantial excerpts from this letter here:
"As you know, the two grandmothers of Elián González, Raquel Rodríguez and Mariela Quintana, recently met with the Attorney General and Commissioner Meissner. At that meeting, they expressed their very strong desire to visit privately with Elián, in a neutral setting, before they left the United States. They have requested the assistance of the Attorney General and the Commissioner in making such a visit possible and, through discussions with you and others, the Department has sought to implement that request.
"As you know, certain religious leaders in Miami who are not affiliated with the National Council of Churches were willing to make a church property available to the family for such a visit yesterday. The offer of a facility was conditioned, however, on an expression of interest by both Lázaro González and the grandmothers in using the site as a pastoral setting for a family reunion (that of Mariela and Raquel with Elián). Although the grandmothers did express such willingness, Lázaro González made it clear through you that he refused. The INS then gave Lázaro González an opportunity to propose a different setting. Mr. González declined to do so and indicated through you that he would not agree to a meeting in a neutral setting. Subsequently, upon the grandmothers’ arrival in Miami yesterday afternoon, we understand that the grandmothers spoke to Lázaro González on the telephone and asked that their visit with Elián take place at Mr. González’ brother’s house (Manolo). Again, Lázaro González made clear to the grandmothers that his home was the only site at which he would allow them to visit Elián."
"...the grandmothers have clearly stated that they would not be comfortable visiting with their grandson in Lázaro González’ home. The grandmothers have reiterated to the Department and the INS how much they miss their grandson, with whom they have had a very close relationship, and that they overcame their apprehension about travelling to Miami -– and are willing to do so again –- for the sole purpose of having a visit with Elián.
"In order to ensure that Elián has the chance to spend time alone with his grandmothers, the INS is obliged to direct Lázaro González to make Elián available for a visit with his grandmothers on Wednesday, January 26, at 4:00 p.m., at the home of Sister Jeanne O’Laughlin, at 4745 Pine Tree, Miami Beach, Florida. Sister O’Laughlin is the president of Barry University, a Dominican institution, and her residence is in a gated area where security can be assured."
The letter proceeds to list some of the advantages of this venue. It later goes on to state:
"Elián has been temporarily paroled into the United States." Here it goes through the relevant legal provisions, and continues:
"These provisions authorize the INS District Director to place conditions on Elián’s parole. This letter is notice that District Director Wallis joins me in requiring, as a condition of Elián’s continued parole for deferred inspection, that Elián’s Miami relatives ensure Elián’s presence at Sister Jeanne O’Laughlin’s residence on Wednesday, January 26, at 4:00 p.m., in order to allow him to visit with his grandmothers. Please contact Bob Wallis at (305)762-3405 to provide that confirmation, and to confirm the list of those who may come to the residence with Elián."
The letter immediately warns them:
"Failure to contact Mr. Wallis by 3:30 p.m. today will be construed as a refusal to make Elián available for the meeting and as a breach of Elián’s parole."
This letter was published yesterday in the U.S. press, most certainly leaked by the mob’s lawyers. As a result, there were already reporters prowling around the proposed venue and mob figures discussing the organization of public demonstrations.
The location of the grandmothers meeting with the child is no longer a secret, an element of vital significance particularly in Dade County, home of the ill-named neighborhood of Little Havana.
What did the grandmothers and the Council of Churches of Christ know about the new INS plan for a meeting?
Just a few points:
First: The grandmothers could make requests regarding who would accompany them on the trip, but not necessarily to the meeting. A helicopter would take them from the airport to the meeting venue.
Second: Only the two grandmothers and Elián would be present at the meeting, which would last two hours.
Third: A nun would take the child from the place where the Miami relatives were and turn him over to the grandmothers.
Fourth: The room would be set up with the proper conditions for the meeting, including toys and something to eat.
On the other hand, adding to the regrettable fact that the INS letter to the mob’s lawyers had been made public, it contained a phrase that worried Elián’s father, grandfathers and other relatives in Cuba. It read that the boy’s great-uncle and main accomplice in his abduction should "confirm the list of those who may come to the residence with Elián."
This clearly referred to all of the great-uncle’s mob-linked relations.
They were aware of the grandmothers disgust and refusal towards a meeting with those primarily responsible for placing the captive child in the hands of the Cuban-American National Foundation, those who had mistreated Elián and verbally abused both his grandmothers and his maternal and paternal grandfathers whenever they attempted to persuade them to return the child.
This morning’s edition of El Nuevo Herald reported: "The relatives will remain on the ground floor of the house while Elián is escorted by a nun to the room where he will meet with his grandmothers.
"‘Elián doesn’t want to see his grandmothers now, because he’s afraid they’ll take him back to Cuba,’ said the boy’s cousin Marisleysis before several dozen reporters."
As you can see, they knew about and publicly announced details of the meeting that Elián’s grandmothers were not even aware of.
Before this edition of Granma went to press, Elián’s father, grandfathers and great-grandmother sent the grandmothers the following message:
"Mariela and Raquel:
You will receive a cell phone in the morning. We will call you after you have been with the boy for an hour in Miami. If we are not able to get through to you at that time, you should call us because we want to talk to the child while he is completely free there with you.
We think the reverends should be in the same house, in a room near the one where you will be visiting with the boy, just as promised for the previous failed meeting.
Ask them to allow you one more hour, so that they boy can talk to each one of us for a few minutes.
Just as they promised for the previous failed visit, neither Lázaro nor any other relative should be in the same building where you will be sharing with the boy. There must also be neither cameras, nor demonstrations, nor a circus.
Under no circumstances should you agree to meet or have any contact whatsoever with Lázaro, or his daughter, or any other relative who has supported the boy’s kidnapping. You would only meet with Manolo and América (his wife).
As soon as your visit with the boy is over, return to Washington as planned. There, you will proceed to meeting the largest possible number of lawmakers with the goal of persuading them to avoid supporting any bills that would impose on Elián U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status aimed at removing the INS from the case and indefinitely delaying a solution.
Juan Miguel, Juanito, Rolando, Ramona (the great-grandmother)."
We do not yet know what the response of
the INS will be. However, it is absolutely certain that Elián’s
grandmothers, with the full support of their loving family and all of our
people, will be leaving for Miami today at 11:00 a.m., if the weather in
Washington permits flying. They have proven themselves capable of overcoming
any obstacles with unparalleled dignity and courage.
Editorial published in Granma daily on January 26, 2000.