On Wednesday, Elián’s grandmothers had the infinite pleasure of seeing their grandson in person for the first time after 70 days of tragic and painful separation. Out of logical instinct, he threw himself on them with kisses and hugs. But then came several bitter minutes, when it was time for the grandmothers to reestablish communication with the boy. Elián was dazed. Since waking up that morning, he had been subjected to who knows how many hours of agitation, movement, comings and goings of people, cars, cameras and policemen. His grandmothers were coming for the second time. He was aware of this. Would he get to see them or not? What did all this mean? The young she-wolf Marisleysis (Elián’s second cousin), the same one who has been seen on television thousands of times bestowing Judas-like kisses on the child –-and who has never received as much as a glance from him in return–- had declared to the thousands of journalists laying siege to the house that morning that "Elián doesn’t want to see his grandmothers now, because he’s afraid they’ll take him back to Cuba."

Heavy traffic, roaring motors and wailing sirens, police cars flashing red and blue lights, accompanied the luxury car driven by Jorge Más Santos –-"official chauffeur of the González family," as he was qualified by the State Department in a conversation with the head of our Interests Section–- which transported, along with the child, the diabolical phony great-uncle who had seen the child just once in his entire life and the young she-wolf, starved for publicity and wealth, who is old enough to have a child of her own without having to steal someone else’s. This is how Elián was taken to a strange house, where the main leaders of the counterrevolutionary Mafia Foundation were gathered next door "with Elián’s spokesman and lawyers." This was the "neutral house" that the U.S. Attorney General’s Office and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), in coordination with the Miami authorities, had chosen for the child’s meeting with his grandmothers. INS officials, police officers, mob-associated nuns and none other than Marisleysis, who slipped in among them as if she were just another nun, completed the picture. It was a macabre scene. In a second-floor room, like a jail cell, the grandmothers waited alone.

When the child was brought in by both a real nun and a fake one –-the brazenly shameless Marisleysis–- the latter was able to listen in on the first few minutes of the meeting before being discovered.

Then, when the grandmothers were apparently left alone with the child in that room, which could very likely have been filled with microphones or even electronic surveillance equipment, the quiet suffering began. However, they were sufficiently tactful and intelligent to deal with the situation. Barely 15 minutes later, a nun broke in abruptly ordering them to cut off the telephone conversation and instructing a police officer to take the cell phone from the child. At that very moment, the anxious father had finally managed to establish telephone communication and was beginning to talk with his son. How could the nuns and the police immediately know what the grandmothers and the boy were discussing in a supposedly private room, and that the child was speaking with his father?

With steely nerves, the grandmothers carried on their loving labor with this tiny victim of ten weeks of indescribable trauma; from the sinking of the fragile boat he was on, the death of his mother, the two days spent alone in the stormy sea, strapped to an inner tube, to the outrageous, criminal and prolonged kidnapping that brutally separated this child, not even six years old yet, from the only people who could truly know and love him, the people with whom he had lived since the day he was born.

Step by step, the grandmothers reestablished an emotional connection with the boy, despite constant interruptions by unexpected and unsolicited servings of snacks, or by repeated messages that, for some strange reason, a nun kept passing on from outside the room to one of the grandmothers. They could not help but notice that the child was no longer the same as before, that there were changes in his personality. He was nervous, sometimes uncommunicative and did not even ask about his closest relatives; all of this led the grandmothers to fear for his health. Yet, in a very short time, despite all the interruptions, they managed to spark his interest with a photo album, drawings sent by his classmates, gifts of crayons, first-grade schoolbooks, and a children’s book about the adventures of Elpidio Valdés. He made comments on the drawings, reminisced about his friends, and asked his grandmother Raquel to read to him from the book about Elpidio. By the end of the encounter, he was more excited, more expressive and affectionate, despite his obvious sadness. He sent his love to his father, his grandfathers, his great-grandmother, his little four-month-old brother, and other relatives. He had not forgotten a single one. And he bid his grandmothers farewell with a long, tight hug, gripping them much as he must have instinctively gripped the inner tube that saved him from drowning.

The nun Jeanne O’Laughlin who commanded the operations in this sinister episode, the same who allowed the fake nun to enter the room, who ordered a police officer to take the cell phone from the child and who abruptly interrupted the meeting long before the end of the two-hour minimum and undefined additional time promised by the State Department, declared to the local Miami press, on the following day, her support for keeping Elián in the United States. "I will side with what I believe the child needs right now and that is freedom," she said. "I do not believe that this child can live without fear if he returns to Cuba."

She stated that she planned to travel to Washington to talk with Senator Connie Mack, the main sponsor of a bill that together with Florida Senator Bob Graham he will introduce himself in the Senate to grant U.S. citizenship to six-year-old Elián González. She also spoke of meeting with Attorney General Janet Reno, to whom she offered her mansion as a venue for the get-together.

Elián was returned by his captors to his imprisonment in hell, that is, the home of vicious distant relatives filled with strange objects and cynical odious visitors of Cuban descent or Americans, the most despicable people created by that society.

In the first telephone contact with their relatives in Cuba, the grandmothers expressed their joy over those final moments of their short and stunted meeting with their grandson. They did not want to say more. Hours later, however, speaking over the now recovered cell phone, Mariela cried bitterly, and confided to a friend who has provided constant solidarity and support to the entire family throughout these months: "They have changed the boy."

Both grandmothers expressed this sentiment various times over the following day in statements to the U.S. media.

Mariela (on television): "They have completely changed him. He must be saved, urgently, and returned to his father and his family."

Mariela (on another television station): "Our grandson is totally different. He has completely changed, and we have to save him as soon as possible."

Raquel: "The longer they let Elián stay in Miami, the more he will suffer. Elián was very timid."

Mariela (on a CNN broadcast at 7:00 p.m.): "He barely spoke, he was not at all expressive, and that is not the child he was before. He used to be very affectionate, always kissing, hugging, teasing me." (She begins to cry.)

Raquel: "Parting was very sad. When we were going to say good-bye to the boy, they came in and said, ‘The visit is over.’ Imagine that you are visiting a relative in jail, and they told you just like that, "the visit is over, you must leave now". They grabbed the boy and took him away." (She cries.)

Mariela (at a press conference): "They were coming in and bothering us every minute and that was not part of the agreement either. We were talking with the father on the telephone, too. Nobody told us that we couldn’t talk on the telephone. They came in and grabbed the phone right out of the boy’s hands."

In a CNN report on the grandmothers’ meeting with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, the journalist noted the following:

  1. The grandmothers were frustrated with the meeting.
  2. It was not a private meeting.
  3. The child had very little chance to talk with his father before they took the phone away.
  4. The child was not the same.

Raquel (in the same interview): "I am very sad because we wanted to visit the child and expected to be able to take him back with us. But, we will keep up the fight and I am fully confident that we will make it. If we need to come back to the United States, we will come back."

Just yesterday, Thursday, the tireless grandmothers met with 50 members of Congress. Along with the 15 they spoke with on Tuesday, they add up to a total of 65 representatives and senators in just two days.

Both grandmothers are anxious, as they feel that the child should not remain much longer in such brutal conditions.

What will they send back to his family and his homeland when the despicable crime being committed against the mind and soul of this innocent child, in front of the whole world, is finally brought to an end? Whether healthy or sick, in need of special care from both family and doctors, we will continue to fight until he has been returned. He is a minor, and will still be one for many years. For us, he will continue to be the healthy, happy, cheerful boy whose image has been immortalized and transformed, now and forever, into a symbol of the crimes and injustices that imperialism is capable of committing against an innocent child.

No matter what they do to him, whether they try to make him disappear, or morally and mentally destroy him, the image of Elián, like that of Che Guevara will spread around the world and remain forever in the hearts and minds of young people, adults and the elderly, and the children who idolize and fight for him today.


(Editorial published in Granma daily on January 28, 2000)