Round table discussion with Eliáns grandmothers regarding their various meetings and activities in the United States, broadcast by Televisión Cubana, Radio Rebelde and Radio Habana Cuba, on February 2, 2000.
(Translation of the Council of State transcript)
Carmen R. Báez.- Good evening, everyone. Our battle for the return of young Elián González Brotóns continues.
Yesterday evening, we had the honor of having here in our studios the grandmothers of little Elián, Mariela and Raquel, and with them, the Reverend Pablo Odén Marichal, who accompanied them on their tour of the United States.
Today our grandmothers are back here with us in our studios. I say our grandmothers, because they have begun to form part, and all of us also form part, of one big family: the family of all good Cubans on this island. Mariela, Raquel and Odén Marichal are with us once again.
Undoubtedly, we will need to repeat some of the aspects addressed at yesterdays round table, although the matter of their meeting with the child, which was examined in great depth, will not be the main theme of our discussion today. Instead, we will be concentrating fundamentally on all of the efforts undertaken by the grandmothers both in the U.S. Congress and with other institutions in their attempts to have little Elián returned to our country.
Given the importance of this theme, and the fact that it is closely related to the internal politics and functioning of the United States, we have also invited to this round table an individual with extensive knowledge of these matters, namely comrade Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada, the president of our National Assembly of Peoples Power. We will also be accompanied by two of the participants in the round table discussion of issues related to the functioning of the U.S. political system, who helped us to answer the question of how the things that have happened with little Elián could happen in a country like the United States; they are comrade Miguel Alvarez, a United States specialist in the National Assembly of Peoples Power, and comrade Iroel Sánchez, director of the Abril publishing house.
How do we intend to proceed with this evenings discussion?
First of all, our main speakers will be Mariela and Raquel, although we want this to be a round table in which all of us can share our viewpoints and make contributions that will also help to orient our viewers as to the most important aspects of this tour of the United States.
Therefore, we propose beginning with a chronological overview and description of the trip we are talking about here. I believe this will be very important, for both the panelists and the Cuban public, because we are dealing with a very intense itinerary involving considerable movement, which I will be guiding you through, little by little. Before beginning, however, I will quickly outline their basic route, how they went from Havana to the United States and traveled among different cities while there, as this will later help to orient us, little by little, with regard to what happened on each of those days. So this is where I would like to begin.
We should all recall that on Friday our grandmothers traveled from Havana to New York, arriving in New York in the evening. On Friday morning they awoke in New York but then went to Washington, returning to New York later that same day. That was Saturday.
On Sunday they spent the whole day in New York.
On Monday, which was when the grandmothers made their first attempt to visit their grandson, they went from New York to Miami, and later that day they left Miami for Washington, where they spent the night.
On Tuesday they spent the whole day in Washington.
On Wednesday they traveled from Washington to Miami, for the visit they finally managed to share with their grandson, and later that night they returned to Washington from Miami. They stayed in Washington until Sunday, when they came back to Havana. Is that correct? (The grandmothers say that it is correct.) This helps to more or less orient us, and will therefore help us to follow all of the movements we will be talking about this evening.
We will begin at the beginning, and little by little, without rushing, we would like you to help describe the intensity of this trip.
I propose that we begin with something that I have heard: that you practically did not sleep the night before leaving on this trip. Why was that? What happened, what preparations were needed? What happened that meant you practically did not sleep? This was something reported here.
Mariela Quintana.- Well, on Thursday night we could not sleep because we were getting everything ready: our passports, our luggage, the clothes we needed to take. We were packing, and being extra careful not to leave behind the photo album we wanted to take to show Elián, the little things they were sending him from his school, a box with various little things they wanted to send him. We did not get to sleep all night because of all the arrangements we needed to make for the trip, and also because of the nervous tension, since we had never been out of Cuba before.
Carmen R. Báez.- They say that you did not have lunch before you left, either.
Mariela Quintana.- No, no, nothing.
Carmen R. Báez.- That was also because of the stress.
Mariela Quintana.- Yes, because of our nerves.
Carmen R. Báez.- And what was it like to fly for the first time?
Mariela Quintana.- Well, it was very exciting. There was no washroom on the plane. (Laughter). We had never been on a plane before, and it was very exciting. But we were proud of what we were doing; we were going to see if we would be able to see the boy, and if we would be able to carry out the work we intended to do.
Carmen R. Báez.- Right. And what about you Raquel? I hear you experienced some rather tense moments, because of a certain habit you have of smoking. I understand you spent practically three hours on the plane without being able to smoke, something like that, right?
Raquel Rodríguez.- That is right. They were three very stressful hours, because we had never been on a plane before, first of all; secondly, because there was no washroom on the plane; and thirdly, because I am a smoker and I could not smoke on the plane. And so as you can imagine, it was very stressful, but also very exciting, because once we were on the plane, we were heading towards our goal, which was trying to see the boy, at the very least; if we could not bring him back, at least we could maybe go and see him.
Mariela Quintana.- Another major thing is that we had never been separated from our families; it was the first time in our lives that we would be separated from our families.
Carmen R. Báez.- Exactly. Juan, Rolando and Juan Miguel, too, all stayed behind. They are all here with us in the studio as well, because they have accompanied us in every battle fought; they stayed behind, but they followed everything you were doing, step by step.
They are all here with us once again: Juan, Rolando, Yasmani, and the other Juan, Juanito; they are all here with us.
There was something that had been planned, and that all of us Cubans were waiting for: a press conference scheduled to take place a few hours after you arrived. I think it was supposed to be held in a church. That was meant to be your first contact with the press, but it did not work out that way, did it?
Mariela Quintana.- No, it happened right there at the airport, at the airport itself. The minute we arrived, they gave us time to go to the washroom and that was it, we had to go right to the press conference.
Carmen R. Báez.- And how was that first meeting with the press?
Mariela Quintana.- Terrible! They said they had never seen that many journalists and that many cameras all gathered together in the airport before. It was really big, there were a lot of questions; it was very exciting. There were so many questions, they really wore us out; but we answered them all.
Carmen R. Báez.- And we dont just have to take your word for it, because everyone here was following your visit closely and everyone saw that press conference, too.
Now, where did you get the energy, the courage, to take on something you had never done before? What spurred you on to keep answering all those questions, which was also something you had never done before?
Mariela Quintana.- Well, because of the things they were saying about us, about both my son and the two of us, that we were being controlled by the government, and pressured, and that we would not be able to tell the truth, we wanted to stand up there in front of all those journalists and show them that nobody was controlling us, that we could say whatever we wanted and freely express whatever we chose.
Carmen R. Báez.- And there were photographers, journalists, TV cameras...?
Mariela Quintana.- Everything.
Carmen R. Báez.- How many people, more or less?
Raquel Rodríguez.- I think there were over 100. It was horrible, what a lot of people!
Mariela Quintana.- And they were all fighting among themselves, to get closer to the front, to take the first pictures and ask the first questions. They were fighting among themselves to take pictures of us.
Carmen R. Báez.- With regard to the trip, there is something I think we should all be sure to remember, because even though we have been following up on it, the days are passing, and I think it is important to refresh our memories.
We should all recall that this trip came about as a result of an invitation from the National Council of Churches of Christ of the United States, and that Reverend Campbell, from the very beginning, offered to accompany you throughout the trip.
In addition, we should also remember receiving the pleasing news of a very special gesture made by the new secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ, who offered to accompany you, along with another representative of the Council, Reverend Oscar Bolioli. And so the new secretary, Reverend Robert Edgar, also accompanied you throughout the tour, along with Reverend Campbell.
There, at that press conference, we saw all of them there with you as well.
Mariela Quintana.- They were all there with us.
Carmen R. Báez.- Did they help you, give you guidance?
Raquel Rodríguez.- Yes, of course.
Mariela Quintana.- They helped us and gave us their support the whole time.
Carmen R. Báez.- I think this is something that we must not forget. It was a very special gesture.
Raquel Rodríguez.- We should not forget.
Carmen R. Báez.- There was a lot said here about all the help they gave you, and the protection as well, the way they helped out with translation, so that you could answer all the questions asked; they helped maintain order while all those flashes were going on and off and all those cameras were pointed at you.
Mariela Quintana.- Yes, they gave us a lot of support.
Carmen R. Báez.- Exactly.
Well, you have now arrived in the United States, and are going through this first experience, the press conference. Where did you go on that first day? Where did you spend the night?
Mariela Quintana.- At Reverend Campbells house.
Carmen R. Báez.- You were together? You both stayed at her house?
Mariela Quintana.- Yes, we stayed there together. She asked us if we each wanted a room of our own, but we said no, we wanted to stay in the same room, share the same room.
Carmen R. Báez.- This is what we were talking about yesterday, when you said that you are like sisters.
Mariela Quintana.- Yes, we get along like sisters.
Carmen R. Báez.- Right.
Well then, that was Friday. On Saturday you took part in a meeting, a very important meeting, with Janet Reno and Doris Meissner. What was this meeting like? What happened at this meeting, what was the atmosphere like? Give us an idea of what happened there.
Raquel Rodríguez.- Well, when we arrived at the Justice Department, we were very impressed because all of the workers there came out to see us, they all wanted to meet us and say hello.
The meeting with Janet Reno was really good, because she was very interested in seeing how both of them could help us, both her and Doris Meissner. They spoke with us, and we presented them with a document we had taken with us, which was a power of attorney that the boys father had filed to make Mariela his representative.
During the meeting, they helped us a great deal with translation, since it is their language. Everything went perfectly. They treated us very well, and were very polite. They showed a great deal of interest in the issue of Elián, and were very empathetic.
Mariela Quintana.- I requested a meeting with the boy, and asked them to arrange a visit so that the two of us could see him.
Carmen R. Báez.- Oh, so that is where the idea of seeing the boy first arose?
Raquel Rodríguez.- Yes, right there.
Carmen R. Báez.- And how did they respond, what was their attitude?
Mariela Quintana.- They said they would give us an answer later about when we could meet with the boy.
Carmen R. Báez.- Did you discuss any of the conditions for the meeting, or was it just left at that?
Mariela Quintana.- No, not yet, we did not discuss any of that. They only said that they were going to tell us when.
Carmen R. Báez.- Did you feel hopeful when you left this meeting?
Mariela Quintana.- Yes, because we could see that they were determined to arrange for us to see the boy.
Carmen R. Báez.- Right.
Now, that was Saturday, the day this meeting took place.
I found it very interesting, when you said that you left...
Raquel Rodríguez.- Yes, because at one point she told us that we should not mention this to anyone, if we wanted the visit with the boy to be arranged. So we promised that we would not make any kind of comment until she had informed us of whether we could meet with the boy or not.
Carmen R. Báez.- And that day, of course, you still had not received an answer.
Raquel Rodríguez.- No.
Carmen R. Báez.- When did you finally receive an answer as to the possibility of meeting with him?
Mariela Quintana.- On Sunday.
Carmen R. Báez.- So on Sunday you got the first sign that there was a possibility of this first meeting, the meeting scheduled for Monday.
Mariela Quintana.- Yes, yes.
Carmen R. Báez.- Now, on the Saturday you went to Washington. You then returned to New York, as we just explained. And what did you do on Sunday?
Raquel Rodríguez.- Could I interrupt for just a moment?
Carmen R. Báez.- Yes, of course.
Raquel Rodríguez.- On the return trip from Washington to New York, a journalist got on the plane with us, and she interviewed us from the time the plane took off until it arrived in New York; she interviewed us the whole time.
Carmen R. Báez.- That means that your contact with the press was not limited to when you first arrived at the airport?
Raquel Rodríguez.- No, no, no, it was all the time.
Carmen R. Báez.- All the time.
Raquel Rodríguez.- We were bombarded by the press all the time. Even at Reverend Campbells house, when we looked out the window, they were out there filming us. They were outside morning, noon and night.
Mariela Quintana.- There were times - according to what the people there told us - that there were up to eight of those big trucks with cameras there, up to eight of them.
Raquel Rodríguez.- Yes, big trucks, huge.
Carmen R. Báez.- Reverend Marichal, did you want to say something?
Pablo O. Marichal.- It is true. They were under siege by the press constantly. Those trucks they mentioned are the big trucks with antennas used to broadcast live via satellite, and they were there, that is true. And the journalist who accompanied them from Washington to New York was from the Washington Post; her article was published on the Sunday.
With regard to the visit with Meissner and Reno, on Saturday, Raquel is right: there was a commitment made to remain silent about the arrangements she was going to make, because if it was known, if the news was leaked, it could all fall apart; and we maintained strict silence about the matter on our side. The only thing I remember is that at that same moment, Meissner mentioned, although in an informal way, that it would be a private visit in every sense, and supervised. She was going to ask the relatives holding the child against his will in Miami to cooperate in arranging a peaceful, harmonious reunion.
That was when the idea arose for this family visit, which they requested while talking with Reno and Meissner.
Carmen R. Báez.- That was what happened, basically, during this meeting in Washington on Saturday.
Pablo O. Marichal.- And it was a Saturday, a non-working day, but they worked intensely Saturday and Sunday. They were very empathetic. Mariela was seated to the left of Janet Reno - from left to right, there was Mariela, Reno, the translator, Meissner and Raquel - and at one point, Meissner fell silent and took Marielas hand; she squeezed it and caressed it. She was very communicative and very empathetic.
Carmen R. Báez.- Very good. I think these are details that we were not fully aware of. That is why we said that during todays discussion, we wanted to deal at length with a number of the meetings you had. We have an overall picture, because we have been closely following you, but there are many details that we do not know about, that only you can share with us.
You returned to New York from Washington on Saturday, and so on Sunday you were in New York.
Raquel Rodríguez.- Yes.
Carmen R. Báez.- Did you leave New York on Sunday, or were you there the whole day?
Mariela Quintana.- No, we were there the whole day.
Raquel Rodríguez.- We were there all day.
Carmen R. Báez.- And what did you do on Sunday in New York?
Raquel Rodríguez.- We went to mass, we went to a church.
Mariela Quintana.- First we had an interview in the morning.
Raquel Rodríguez.- The interview was right there in the house. Right, Mariela?
Mariela Quintana.- Yes, right in the house.
Raquel Rodríguez.- In the living room, with both of us sitting there on the couch. What I dont remember is who the interview was with.
Carmen R. Báez.- Because, I imagine that if you were being pursued by the press every day...
Raquel Rodríguez.- Constantly, constantly.
Carmen R. Báez.- So first you had an interview on Sunday.
Raquel Rodríguez.- In the morning, we had an interview before we went to church.
Carmen R. Báez.- There was an activity held at the church that Sunday. What happened? Could you tell us a bit about it?
Raquel Rodríguez.- We were there in the church listening to them praying the whole time, for about an hour, and then two girls spoke to Reverend Robert Edgar and offered to translate for us. So they sat behind us and translated everything being said in the mass for us, because we could not understand anything. We stayed there the whole time, until the mass was over.
Then we went up to where the father was, or the reverend, I guess, and more people from the church there, and they said something about us; that was translated for us as well.
Everyone at the church was very moved by the story of us and the boy, and we saw them cry. We say them cry when we were sitting down, and when we went up to the front we saw a lot of people crying. They were very moved by the story of us and the child. It was very beautiful, very beautiful, very human.
Mariela Quintana.- The church was really full, really, really full. There were people sitting, people standing; there were also cameramen there filming, and after we had been introduced, everyone stood up and we walked down between the pews, and because we were crying, everyone was very moved and you could see everyone crying as we walked past on our way out of the church.
Carmen R. Báez.- Marichal, were you with them at this meeting?
Pablo O. Marichal.- No, I went to mass at St. John the Theologian, an Episcopal church there in New York, quite close to Reverend Campbells house. I informed them that I was going an hour and a half before I went, not very long before, and so it was a surprise for me that during the prayer sessions they prayed for Elián to be freed, and after the mass - I can say mass, because it was a mass at the Episcopal church there - there was a long line of people who came up to me to share their impressions and feelings about Elián and their opinion that Elián should be returned to his father.
One thing surprised me - because I have visited the United States many times, I have been to many meetings there - and it was the fact that the people who came up to talk to me knew all of the details of the story. It was not that they had a vague idea, but rather, they knew every detail of the whole drama, and that is strange. They prayed for Elián, and I asked them to pray for the church in Cuba, and the church in the United States. I also asked them to pray for the relatives holding the child against his will, so that God will cleanse their consciences and their hearts and forgive them for the sin of committing such a major atrocity as stealing a child, in the midst of a society, American society, where this is an unbelievably monstrous thing. It was a very good experience.
Carmen R. Báez.- It was Sunday morning that both these activities took place?
Pablo O. Marichal.- Yes, Sunday morning.
Carmen R. Báez.- And in the afternoon?
Pablo O. Marichal.- In the afternoon we met at the National Council to plan the trip.
Carmen R. Báez.- The trip that was scheduled for the next day.
Pablo O. Marichal.- Yes, because at that point in time - I do not remember exactly, because Joan was with them, and they got the message first; I was somewhere else, on my own. They could tell you more about how they got the news regarding was going to happen on Monday.
Carmen R. Báez.- The plan for Monday was confirmed.
Mariela Quintana.- Yes, Janet Reno called Reverend Campbell and told her that the next day, Monday, we would have the opportunity to go and visit the boy in Miami.
Carmen R. Báez.- And then you began the preparations for the trip, with the help of Reverend Campbell.
Mariela Quintana.- Yes.
Carmen R. Báez.- About how the meeting would be organized.
Mariela Quintana.- Yes.
Carmen R. Báez.- That was Sunday. On Monday, then, you went to Miami, but the trip was not until noon. What did you do Monday morning?
Mariela Quintana.- We had another interview, and two people came from a magazine that is said to be very famous there, and they took a lot of pictures of us, all kinds of pictures, and then we had an interview with Mary that same day, in the evening.
Carmen R. Báez.- On Monday itself. That means that before leaving for Miami you had already given interviews in the morning.
Mariela Quintana.- Yes, we had interviews that day; besides the trip, we had interviews.
Raquel Rodríguez.- Yes, but, didnt we have to go to some television studios or something like that?
Mariela Quintana.- Yes.
Carmen R. Báez.- You went to a television studio.
Pablo O. Marichal.- Several of them.
Mariela Quintana.- Several studios, thats right. We went to three different places. We went to two of them together, and then they took me to one place and her to another, different television studios.
Carmen R. Báez.- All on the same day as the trip?
Mariela Quintana.- The same day as the trip to Miami, during the morning.
Carmen R. Báez.- Miguel wants to say something. Do you agree that we should pass the floor to Miguel? (They say yes.)
Miguel Alvarez.- I am going to try to help them out, because I imagine that after taking part in so many activities and being so heavily pursued by the press, they would have to get confused at some point, probably.
In fact, on Saturday, they were interviewed by The New York Times first, before leaving for Washington, and when they got back they had an interview with the Washington Post, and were interviewed by Karen de John.
Also, that same evening, they had an interview with Newsweek, which was when they say there were a lot of pictures taken of them. That is what happened, and they published a major story about them in the magazine. They were also interviewed by the ABC television network, in English and in Spanish. That was all between Saturday and Sunday.
On Monday morning, before leaving on their trip, early in the morning, they actually appeared on the three most important programs on U.S. television.
Mariela Quintana.- At 6:00 in the morning.
Miguel Alvarez.- They started out, the two of them together, by going to the Today Show, on NBC, and then they split up; one of them went half an hour later to the Early Show, on CBS, which is the other most important program during this time slot in the morning, and the other one was on Good Morning America, on ABC.
To sum up a bit, they were in the two most important newspapers in the United States, or two of the most important; they were on the three major U.S. television networks, ABC, CBS, and NBC; and they had also had private interviews with each of these networks, in Spanish and English, in addition to the interview with Newsweek magazine. So they had a truly intense schedule, as well as extremely broad coverage in terms of U.S. public opinion.
Carmen R. Báez.- Yes, and we are talking about a time span of less than 72 hours, because if they arrived on Friday in the evening, more or less, and all of this took place before 9:00 in the morning on Monday, we are talking about less than 72 hours.
Pablo O. Marichal.- And CNN as well, because Bob and I went there, and all of this happened that same morning, it was overwhelming.
Carmen R. Báez.- Exactly.
In the days we have covered up until now, you almost get exhausted just hearing about the intensity of their schedule during that time.
I would like to thank Miguel for being here to help clarify details like these; I think they are of tremendous interest to everyone, and will help us to qualitatively gauge the importance of the activities undertaken by Mariela and Raquel, accompanied by Marichal and the reverends from the National Council of Churches of Christ, during those first days in the United States.
We stopped at the point where you were just about to leave for the meeting in Miami. At this time, what conditions had been established, or at least discussed, in order for this meeting to take place? In the end, as we know, the meeting fell apart, and could not take place. But that Monday, what were you expecting to find when you went from New York to Miami? What were the conditions in which this meeting was meant to take place, which had more or less been discussed with the Council of Churches?
Mariela Quintana.- It was supposed to be a meeting in a church, where we would be able to visit with the boy. That was what had been agreed upon.
Carmen R. Báez.- And had they already discussed who should take the child there, and the role of the INS?
Mariela Quintana.- Yes, there were several different points that had to be addressed with regard to this meeting.
Carmen R. Báez.- At the time there was even information published here about certain things requested for the meeting, and how the INS was supposed to be involved with the matter of security, and was supposed to talk to the family, and the family was supposed to take the child there. Werent they talking about using a religious retreat?
Pablo O. Marichal.- Yes, it was a spiritual retreat, but the family there would not agree to it, and it was a place, which seemed to have better conditions than the one chosen the second time. The family not only refused to agree to this, but they also put on a big show at Lázaros house, where they organized a big party, and invited the politicians who support them and the leaders of the anti-Cuban organizations. And then they wanted to make the grandmothers go there to see the boy. This was completely unacceptable.
Miguel Alvarez.- Carmen Rosa, if you compare the preparations for this first meeting with the subsequent one, the one on Wednesday, you can appreciate some noticeable differences. The preparations for the first meeting were characterized by a high degree of confidentiality. In fact, one of the conditions they set was that if word of the meeting got out, it would be cancelled, just as Mariela noted a moment ago.
The preparations were therefore highly confidential. The Immigration and Naturalization Service was to play an active role. According to the preparations made, the INS would even be responsible for picking the child up and taking him to where his grandmothers were, at this spiritual retreat, which comprises various buildings. As for the rest of those relatives from over there, they would simply be at the same place, but they would not participate in any way. This meeting fell apart, as we know, it did not happen, it did not take place, precisely because, as Marichal pointed out, the family there refused.
Notice, however, that when they arrived in Miami, there was practically no one there. The only person there was a representative from our diplomatic mission in Washington, but he was cut off from what was going on, in terms of the meeting. If I remember correctly, based on what the grandmothers have told us, it was not until a full hour later that they finally managed to establish contact with the INS. And then something rather unusual happened: in response to the refusal of the relatives there to cooperate, the INS asked the grandmothers to try to find a neutral location for the meeting to be held. They asked them to call Manolo, if I remember correctly, who is a great-uncle whose stance has been...
Mariela Quintana.- They proposed that I call Manolo in order to find a neutral location, which would be Uncle Manolos house. So I called Manolo and he said yes, that he accepted, that the meeting could be held there. So then Reno told me to call Lázaro and ask him to cooperate. When I called Lázaro, he said no, that it could not be Manolos house or anywhere else, that we could only visit the child at his house, meaning Lázaros house. Lázaro was really rude to me and used vulgar language. He said that the visit could only take place at his house, that he would not allow it to be anywhere else.
Raquel Rodríguez.- He said that if we were interested in seeing the boy, we had to go to his house. Otherwise, we would not be able to see him, because he would not allow the boy to be taken anywhere else, because that was the boys home. And we refused.
Miguel Alvarez.- We should remember the circus they had staged at the house. They had organized a dinner, the press was there, there was a demonstration outside. They had all of this organized there, precisely for this reason, to put on a big show and make Mariela and Raquel a part of it. When Mariela and Raquel refused to participate in this, as was only natural, what they tried to do then was to move the show; they came up with the idea of leaving the house and heading for the airport, without the boy, of course, because they were not in the least bit interested in having the reunion between the grandmothers and the child take place. They were only interested in putting on this show, and so they began to head in this direction, which they were able to do because at that point the grandmothers had already decided to return to Washington.
At the time of this first meeting, they were being pressured to return to Havana once the meeting had taken place in Miami, and they decided not to. They had received a letter from the rest of the family here, telling them not to come back, but rather to go to Washington, where they could work towards having Elián freed and undertake efforts in Congress, which is something we will surely be talking about later.
Carmen R. Báez.- There are three things that should be clarified in regard to this matter. We are going to stop to examine this matter for a moment, and I would like to ask a few questions as well.
First of all: You traveled to Miami, you were in Miami. Where were you making the phone calls from?
Mariela Quintana.- From a room in the airport itself.
Pablo O. Marichal.- In the Tamiami Airport.
Carmen R. Báez.- In the Tamiami Airport, which is something that was reported here.
You were there the whole time? You did not leave the airport?
Mariela Quintana.- No, we were in that room.
Carmen R. Báez.- And who was there with you? Were you alone, or was the room...?
Mariela Quintana.- We were with them, with Reverend Campbell...
Raquel Rodríguez.- Reverends Campbell, Marichal, Edgar, and Bolioli were there, as well as comrade Randy.
Pablo O. Marichal.- And there were Immigration officials going in and out.
Miguel did not mention that the police even arrested somebody who was armed at that house.
Carmen R. Báez.- Yes, near Lazaros house.
I was asking about the details of what happened in the airport because I wanted to know whether you had left that place, whether everything had happened there.
So you only went from the plane to that room and back to the plane to return to Washington?
Pablo O. Marichal.- Exactly.
Carmen R. Báez.- Those were the conditions.
Was it there that the call was made? Did you have security there? Were you threatened?
Mariela Quintana.- No, no, the police were there. There was security.
Carmen R. Báez.- Did you feel protected?
Mariela Quintana.- Yes, there was security there.
Carmen R. Báez.- You had security in that place.
Now, something else I wanted to clarify. You spoke of Manolo. That is the great-uncle who has always been against keeping the child in Miami. Is he that great-uncle?
Mariela Quintana.- Yes, he is in favor of having the child returned to his father.
Carmen R. Báez.- That is why you suggested holding the meeting at Manolos house.
Mariela Quintana.- Yes.
Carmen R. Báez.- Has Manolo been in Cuba? Did he know the child?
Mariela Quintana.- Yes, he knows the child more than his other great-uncle; the other one, Lachi, had only been in Cuba once, in 1998, for 10 days, while Manolo comes every year and has a closer relationship with the child.
Carmen R. Báez.- Has he known him since he was small?
Mariela Quintana.- Yes, since he was small.
Carmen R. Báez.- Now a third thing I wanted to clarify. I have a paper here that I think would be interesting to show to the camera (she shows it). It is the letter sent by your relatives, in which they say...
Mariela Quintana.- The letter our family sent us...
Carmen R. Báez.- This is what Miguel was referring to. A letter in which they said, "Go back to Washington. Dont come to Havana."
Mariela Quintana.- Yes.
Carmen R. Báez.- That is why I wanted to show it, because it even bears the signature of each one of the family members. There they suggest that you go back to Washington and continue the battle in Congress.
Mariela Quintana.- Yes, because Congress began on Tuesday.
Carmen R. Báez.- Congress began on Tuesday. Of course, we are speaking about Monday. You were to return the following day.
Mariela Quintana.- To begin the fight in Congress.
Carmen R. Báez.- Exactly.
We have spoken quite a lot about the two meetings. Yesterday a lot was said about them too, about their characteristics. In the round table with the journalists, there were denunciations of the way in which they tried to manipulate your trip, of many of the things that happened, and some of the characteristics of these meetings were dealt with. I suggest that we go back to Washington, to this trip from Miami to Washington this would be Monday night and the early morning hours of Tuesday. Then, on Tuesday you went to Congress. That is where we are now.
I propose that you allow us to have Comrade Alarcón give us the details of the first steps of the grandmothers in Congress.
Mr. Alarcón, if you will bear with us, we would like to hear from you what you consider is the significance of the first day of activities of the grandmothers in Congress. Which were the main interviews they held, with what personalities? What was the weight of this first meeting they had on Tuesday in the U.S. Congress?
Ricardo Alarcón.- Of course. For now we will speak only of the contacts they had on Tuesday, January 25, because later on as we will see they had many other contacts. The first of them was with Congressperson Sheila Jackson Lee, who is a member and a leader of the Black Caucus in the U.S. Congress and the most important personality from the Democratic Party in the Subcommittee for Migratory Affairs of the Judiciary Committee of the House.
In the footage that has been broadcast in the news here, we saw this
Congressperson receiving them and even accompanying them. Here we are seeing her right now on the TV set next to Mariela (the screen is seen). Now they are in the corridor, when she accompanied them to another meeting that same day.
A congressman from Massachusetts, Mr. Jim McGovern, who is not on the screen, attended this interview with Ms. Jackson Lee.
After that meeting, the grandmothers went with these two congresspersons to a press conference they offered in the Congress itself. Sheila was especially explicit and she openly spoke in favor of ending Elians kidnapping and returning him to his father and family.
Then they went to another meeting with Congressman José Serrano that was held in Serranos office. Several other Congresspersons attended it, together with Serrano and Sheila Jackson, who accompanied them there. I have written down here Ciro Rodríguez, a Democrat from Texas; John Lafalce, from New York; David Minge, from Minnesota; Steven Latourette, a Republican from Ohio; and Elijah Cummings, a Democrat from Maryland. At this meeting, of course, a number of these Congresspersons pronounced themselves on the issue. They all supported Elians return and the end of his abduction in the United States and they made several statements to the press.
In addition, between this meeting in Serranos office and the next one, they had an interview with a very important journalist, Ms. Andrea Mitchell. I am mentioning this here so as not to skip it, although it was an interview for the NBC TV network, and not an activity in Congress. This was followed by a very important meeting called by Senator Christopher Dodd.
Senator Dodd is one of the main personalities in the Democratic Party; not long ago, he chaired the Democratic Party and he is a member and the leader of the Democratic faction in the Senate Foreign Relations Commission. He is a man who knows a great deal about Latin America and speaks fluent Spanish. Senator Dodd invited Senator Richard Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois; Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska and one of the most important Republican leaders in the Senate today; Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont; and Senator Barbara Boxer, from California, to this interview with Raquel and Mariela.
All these are personalities of great consequence in U.S politics. They are persons who carry a great deal of weight both within their parties, whether Democrat or Republican, and in the Senate as a whole. We must also say that they all offered press statements after the interview and I have here with me fragments from the Congress minutes with Dodds statement, Durbins statement, Hagels statement, Leahys statement; that is, they also spoke in Congress about the issue. This is what we are now seeing on the screen, in the seat of the U.S. Congress. They spoke against the illegal retention of Elián away from his family and in favor of his return to our country. They also clearly expressed their views against the maneuver of imposing U.S. citizenship or permanent residence on Elián against the will of his father and, obviously, without the childs endorsement as well, because he cannot ask for it.
We must also say that this group of senators have not only pronounced themselves against this citizenship maneuver, but that, headed by Dodd, they have submitted a bill demanding the immediate return of Elián to his family, to Cuba.
This was at 4:00 p.m. Notice that they worked non-stop since their first meeting with Ms. Sheila Jackson, including a TV interview. Then they left this meeting with the senators. By the way, the senators wanted to meet alone with the grandmothers and the translator. Neither Comrade Marichal nor Reverend Campbell were there with them. They met with them alone, with someone who translated for them. They even used this as a basis for reaffirming their impression on the genuine, authentic humility of the grandmothers, of what they were proposing, because there was no other person present on that occasion.
Then they met with another congressman, also from Massachusetts, Joe
Moakley, who is one of the most important politicians in the Democratic Party and occupies some key positions in Congress.
Those were their activities in Congress on Tuesday, January 25. But this was not all, because that night they had several TV interviews, as they will surely remember.
This would be, in brief, Carmen Rosa, what I would say about their first day. They saw many other people afterwards and they continued with these types of activities, which were many in the following days.
Carmen R. Báez.- Thank you very much.
I think this information is very valuable, since it lets us know whom they met in Congress.
I would like to hear from you now. What is your impression of Congress? What happened that day?
Mariela Quintana.- I wanted to say that all these meetings took place on the day when it had snowed the most. It had been many years since it had snowed as much as it did that Tuesday, and on that very snowy day when all the airports were closed, there was no school, you could count the cars on the streets all those Congresspersons came to the Congress just to hear us, because they were interested in hearing what we had to say.
Carmen R. Báez.- And what was your impression of the Congress? How did they receive you?
Mariela Quintana.- Very well.
They not only heard us. We took them our family album, the one we took to show the child, so they could see how our family was. They looked at it. When they spoke to the press, they showed them the pictures, mainly those of the father with his son in his arms. When we walked from one office to the next one, the staff came out to see us, to greet us. They took pictures of us. All the Congresspersons had their pictures taken with us. We could see that they were in favor of returning Elián to Cuba.
Carmen R. Báez.- So you were not in the same room all the time, but moved about...
Mariela Quintana.- Every time we left a room, we met the press in the corridors. That is the place where they speak to the press. Then they asked us questions and we answered.
Carmen R. Báez.- And the meetings in the senators offices?
Mariela Quintana.- No, outside, in the corridors.
Carmen R. Báez.- No, not with the press, with the senators.
Mariela Quintana.- Oh, with the senators, yes.
Raquel Rodriguez.- They were held in the offices. That is, when we finished a meeting with a senator or a congressperson in an office, we went to another office. Then we told the whole story over again. We left the office and the press was there waiting for us. We always had to say something. We left one place, went to another office, and told the whole story again, because they did not know the real story. That was why we had to tell what had happened to all of them, one by one, and when we finished, the press was there waiting for us. If we turned this way (she points in one direction), there they were waiting for us. If we turned that way (she points in another direction), there they were waiting. We were forever running into them.
Carmen R. Báez.- And you talked to the press everywhere.
Raquel Rodríguez.- Everywhere.
Pablo O. Marichal.- They had a press interview almost every hour.
Carmen R. Báez.- Exactly. Then they also offered information, they repeated the information constantly.
Mariela Quintana.- We told them everything, always the same thing.
Raquel Rodríguez.- Yes, everything, everything.
Carmen R. Báez.- I was thinking... Comrade Alarcón was telling us about the meetings one by one... You had to go from one office to the next one and when you left an office, the press were there. If we add all the hours, all the meetings, we can see all that was done on that Tuesday, a day you say was not too active, not too typical for Washington, because of the snowstorm.
Ricardo Alarcón.- At times they went not from one office to the next one, but from one building to another.
Raquel Rodríguez.- Yes, we had to go out, and it was the day when it snowed so much. It was a huge snowstorm. It had not snowed like that for many years.
Carmen R. Báez.- How did you feel about the cold?
Raquel Rodríguez.- Oh, it was very cold, terribly cold. We are not used to cold weather.
Mariela Quintana.- The snow was up to our knees. Our boots were under the snow.
Raquel Rodríguez.- But we did it. We did everything we had to do that day.
Carmen R. Báez.- That is why all those adjectives are used: "courageous grandmothers", "tireless grandmothers". There is a reason for them. They are not just intended to please you. This is something you have shown and I think television viewers will understand why we are going into so much detail. I think this is important to show the intensity of your visit to Congress.
While you were immersed in all this activity in Congress we are now talking about Tuesday -- in the interviews Alarcón mentioned, and on such an exceptional day from the point of view of the weather, how did you find out that you could meet Elián on Wednesday? We are talking about Tuesday, when you were in Congress, but let us not forget that at the beginning, when we put things in chronological order, we said that on Tuesday you were in Washington, in Congress, but on Wednesday you flew to Miami to meet with Elián.
Alarcón was saying that you worked until late that night. How did you find out the meeting would be possible? How did you confirm that the meeting could be held on Wednesday?
Mariela Quintana.- Ms. Reno phoned Reverend Campbell and told her about the visit with the boy that it was to be the following day, Wednesday, in Miami once again, but that it had to be secret, that nothing could be said about it.
Carmen R. Báez.- That took place while you were in Congress?
Mariela Quintana.- Yes, when we were in Congress.
Carmen R. Báez.- That is when you confirmed the visit.
Mariela Quintana.- Yes.
Carmen R. Báez.- Marichal, what can you tell us about the first day they visited the Congress? What is your impression?
Pablo O. Marichal.- First of all, I must say I am amazed that they can follow the events this way, because at times I cannot say exactly what day things happened.
Alarcón mentioned something very interesting, and a couple of things may be added to it. Dodd invited several congresspersons to his office and asked for the grandmothers to be there by themselves. He used this as an argument to prove that the grandmothers talked there freely, as they always did.
There was another case: I think it was Sanford who invited his mother, who is the grandmother of seven children, to attend the meeting. It was a very beautiful meeting. When Raquel and Mariela spoke of what had happened Raquel was speaking at that moment he said: "Please..." How was it?
Raquel Rodríguez.- He said: "Please, maam, stop telling me the story, because if you continue, I am going to start crying, too."
Pablo O. Marichal.- It was also interesting that there were three persons present that I thought were from his staff, but only one was actually from his staff; the other two were journalists from his district. When we finished, he said: "Look, you have been talking freely here, and I invited these two journalists from my district, so they, too, can freely go back to my district and write about what they have witnessed here. That way, my constituents will have a free and independent version of your story." He said that when everything was over.
Miguel Alvarez.- Just an observation. In Sandfords case, we must also point out that he is a Republican.
Ricardo Alarcón.- A Republican and from South Carolina.
Pablo O. Marichal.- From South California.
Another Congressperson told Reverend Joan Campbell and me that he needed to ask them some questions that could be difficult for them from a sentimental point of view, mainly for Raquel, about her relationship with her daughter, about her loss, about all those things. And he too asked us to remain outside the room. That was in the afternoon of the following day.
Raquel Rodríguez.- The afternoon of the day following our trip to Miami.
Pablo O. Marichal.- After we came back from Opa-Locka, when the interview was held. Joan Campbell then told them, "Yes, you can freely ask her that question." And that convinced them that they were independent.
Carmen R. Báez.- One of the characteristics of these meetings was that you two were the ones who carried out the battle, because although it is true that you had help and support during the entire trip, it was your arguments and your voice that were heard in each of the interviews with the press and the senators.
I believe this is an element that tells a great deal about this part of the battle.
If you have nothing else to say about this Tuesday in Congress...
Raquel Rodríguez.- On Tuesday, the first Congressperson we met was Ms. Jackson...
Carmen R. Báez.- Yes, as Comrade Alarcón said, Ms. Jackson met with you.
Raquel Rodríguez.- Yes, but I want to talk about a letter that was published in a newspaper. I clipped it and kept it in my purse. It was a letter talking about Elisabeth, as if she had written the letter, saying that what she wanted was for the boy... all that story they have made up. And it was supposedly signed by her, but it was written after her death. I handed it to Ms. Jackson. She was outraged. She did not like it at all and asked, "How can this possibly be?" She made a note of the newspaper in which it had been published, because I had torn out the whole page, and she had it photocopied. She said that this was... It was Marisleysis who made up that famous letter.
Iroel Sánchez.- At this point we should mention that Jorge Más Santos, from the Foundation, paid 9000 dollars for that page in The Washington Times.
Raquel Rodríguez.- Listen to that!
Carmen R. Báez.- Thats something else to take into account.
Pablo O. Marichal.- The congresspersons took it as an insult.
Raquel Rodríguez.- When I saw the letter, I was shocked. I asked myself: "How can a person write after she is dead?" And it was as if it were signed by her.
Pablo O. Marichal.- She did not say it was an insult. The word she used was "cruel". She said: "This is cruel."
Raquel Rodríguez.- Yes, she said cruel.
Mariela Quintana.- And she was very angry when she spoke with the journalists. She showed the letter to them during the interview and said, "Look what they have done."
Raquel Rodríguez.- So they could see what they had done, since they dont even respect the dead.
Iroel Sánchez.- There is a press dispatch reading: "They cannot face reality any more and have had to resort to fiction to defend a lost cause."
Carmen R. Báez.- It was practically impossible to believe it was true, that they could have written a letter like that. We heard something about it here, and that is why I think it is very good that we remember details like these.
A question. A while ago I spoke about the letter your family sent you telling you to go back to Washington. Had you had any contact with your family in Cuba since you left on Friday until that moment?
Mariela Quintana.- Yes, we had had contact with them. We had contact with my son.
Carmen R. Báez.- Right.
This is what happened in Congress on Tuesday. Were there any other details you wanted to mention? We have all the time in the world here for you. Is there anything you want to add?
Mariela Quintana.- No, only what I already said.
Carmen R. Báez.- Perfect.
I am very much interested in the following day. You had spent the whole day in Washington and on Wednesday you flew to Miami. That was the day when you might have been able to visit Elián, wasnt it? What time more or less?
A note to our television viewers: We also believe that the details of the visit with Elián given yesterday were extensive and explicit. What we would like now is to know a little about Wednesday, when you went to Miami. How was the flight? What time more or less did you leave? I think there was some delay. What time more or less on Wednesday did you leave for Miami? Was it in the morning or in the afternoon?
Mariela Quintana.- I dont remember. Was it at 11:00 in the morning?
Carmen R. Báez.- Yes, that was when the arrangements for the meeting began.
Raquel Rodríguez.- We were to meet at 4:00 p.m. That I remember perfectly well.
Pablo O. Marichal.- We were supposed to leave at noon, but we left at 1:11 or 1:15, more or less.
Carmen R. Báez.- Right.
Then you flew to Miami for the meeting.
We all know about the conditions in which the meeting was to take place: where it was to be held, the nuns house that was going to be used, who would take the child there, who would hand him to you. These were the conditions that were agreed upon.
That is why I want to suggest that you allow us to ask Comrade Alarcón I noticed a certain movement over there, as if asking for the floor what these conditions were.
On Monday we had the opportunity to take part in a round table together with journalists who denounced all the machinations devised against the grandmothers trip to the United States.
However, because of the many things that were dealt with in yesterdays round table, we would like to elaborate on many of the details of that meeting.
Comrade Alarcón, you have worked for a long time on issues having to do with the United States and so you know how things are run over there. You also worked for a long time in the United States. So we would like to know what you think about the astonishingly perhaps this is not the word, but at times we lack the words that really fit the situation irregular meeting between the grandmothers and their grandson, everything that has to do with this meeting. What is your opinion? What comments could you offer us?
Ricardo Alarcón.- Look, Carmen Rosa, there are many things that make that adverb fitting.
The first thing we must mention is that this took place right after what was already explained here that had happened on Monday. On Monday night, the Immigration and Naturalization Service sent a letter to the lawyers of the people who have Elián kidnapped. It was a very interesting letter, because it outlined what we heard here a while ago. It reminded them that it had been agreed that the meeting with the child would take place in a religious institution, not connected to the National Council of Churches it was quite clear in the letter. The grandmothers had accepted this and were ready to go to that place. The kidnappers did not accept that place. Then the grandmothers, by themselves, looked for an independent, neutral location Manolos house. The grandmothers contacted the person who is holding the child he is the one who supposedly heads the operation, but of course, there are other people behind him directing everything and this gentleman did not agree to take the child to that place.
In this letter, that some consider the first strong gesture by the administration services supposedly in charge of enforcing the law in the United States, they ordered the kidnappers lawyers to take Elián to the house of the now notorious nun at 4:00 p. m. on Wednesday, January 26.
Notice that a comment was required warning them that if they did not take the child to that place, the provisional custody they had could be withdrawn, that is, they would not be able to keep the child in their house.
It is a very interesting letter. In the first paragraph there is mention of a private visit by Elians grandmothers, of the fact that this was agreed upon during the meeting with Ms. Reno and Ms. Meissner.
The second paragraph recalls everything that happened and expresses that these people did not comply with the agreement.
The following paragraph expresses: In view of the above, the Department summons you to deliver the child with the sole purpose of a reunion with his grandmothers. That is, the only purpose of the meeting is for the child to see his grandmothers.
The following paragraphs deals with guaranteeing that the grandmothers will be by themselves with their grandson. The letter does not set a time limit, although we can speak about that later. In other words, the order to the lawyers for the so-called relatives is crystal-clear: they must do everything required to ensure a totally private meeting between the child and his grandmothers.
We should remember that already on Monday, with regard to the previous meeting, the one that failed, a mechanism had been established Miguel and Odén explained it whereby the child would be handed over in a building within that spiritual retreat complex, and he would be handed over to some federal officials, who would take the child to another building in that same complex, where he would meet with his grandmothers. The grandmothers would arrive there accompanied not only by the president of the Cuban Council of Churches, but also by the leaders of the Council of Churches of Christ of the United States, for the sole purpose of meeting with their grandson in private. This is what the official communication reads and what these people were obliged to accept.
One of the most surprising things is that after the experience on Monday, almost the same things happened on Wednesday the same lack of respect for what had been agreed upon, the same attitude of ignoring what the Justice Department and the Immigration Commissioner had established.
I would like to draw your attention to something that was already mentioned -- the famous dinner that they were supposed to hold on Monday.
This is what the Miami Herald published before the Wednesday meeting, analyzing what had happened on Monday. The journalist writes that, according to her sources, her research, one of the things that outraged U.S. officials last Monday and led them take a tough stand was that the people who are illegally holding Elián "had told him his grandmothers were coming to dinner on Monday night" and I am now quoting from the article "even though they had been told 24 hours earlier that no such dinner would take place." In the following line, it reads: "How cruel is that?, said one official. Another called it a sham family dinner." It was all for show, an act of cruelty. And, according to this journalist, this is one of the things that most outraged the Immigration Service officials and led them to issue the urgent order to deliver the child.
The same article goes on to explain that by 4:30 p.m. Sunday, the persons who are holding Elián had been told both by phone and in a formal faxed letter that there would be no such dinner and that the grandmothers would only meet with the child in a private, neutral location, not in the house where he was being held.
What happened on Wednesday is really amazing after the officials outrage and the distinct order the relatives had received. What happened on Wednesday was a total, vulgar, blatant violation of the instructions that the Immigration Service and the Department of Justice had issued, including another little party, this one planned and organized by the university president and nun who owns the "modest" mansion where the meeting was held. Although one would suppose that this university president speaks English and could thus read the Miami Herald, where she would have learned that what had offended the Immigration Service most was the cruelty and shamelessness of organizing a fake party with the persons who are holding Elián, the saintly woman did exactly the same thing. And here it is in the Miami Herald of the 29th.
According to the paper, two days after what I have just quoted, she had ordered a dinner for Wednesday night to which everyone would be invited.
Mariela Quintana.- She invited us.
Pablo O. Marichal.- She said, "Now we are going to have dinner." And we answered, "No, we are all leaving."
Carmen R. Báez.- You said that they invited you to dinner both before and after the meeting.
Mariela Quintana.- Yes, to eat and sleep there. She said there was a room all set up for us in case we wanted to sleep over there.
Ricardo Alarcón.- The Herald says that OLaughlin revealed Friday that one of the nuns, following her instructions, had insisted on three occasions to you on three different occasions that you accept Marisleysis invitation. As is well known and was explained here yesterday, Marisleysis was in a place she had no right to be. She was present even at the moment the grandmothers met the child.
If you analyze what actually happened and compare it with the arrangements established by the Justice Department for the Monday meeting -- which still held for the meeting on Wednesday -- it is really surprising to see how some people in Miami simply ignore what a Secretary or a commissioner decide and are cruel enough to repeat something that had upset the authorities so much. These people have created a little kingdom of their own, quite apart from the rest of United States.
Of course, in this case there were more than enough leaks. There were leaks everywhere. This meeting was covered step by step by the U.S. and international news media. Everyone saw the cars leaving Hialeah, with the notorious Más Santos driving the one where the child was. The grandmothers were also seen in the helicopter, flying from the airport to the place where the meeting was to be held.
It was supposed to be a private meeting between the grandmothers and their grandson. How can it be explained then that there were, as you can see right now on the screen (a video is shown)... If we look closely we can see all the kisses, the intimacy, the friendship with which the owner of the "modest" mansion welcomes a group of people, among them mobster leaders like Mr. Más Santos and company. He went as a driver, but a driver welcomed as if he owned the house. They seem to know each other very well. They seem to have true affection for each other.
According to a TV network, CNN, there were in the house, among other people, five members of the Cuban-American National Foundation. According to another source and this is a statement by Clara del Valle, who is the vice-president of the Cuban-American National Foundation "10 persons were in the house with her" -- so that makes it 11. Since our people, of course, protested in Washington at this irregularity, "they made them go to the house next door." This house was occupied by the Foundation. According to CNN, there were five more people there. Five plus 11 is 16, apart from those who stayed inside the house, posing as drivers or whatever.
But there is some information that they themselves offered which serves as evidence that the president of Barry University actually acted if she were one of the kidnappers, as an instrument of the anti-Cuban mob. She did exactly what they had planned to mock the U.S. Immigration Service once again. There was no privacy whatsoever. I think this was explained yesterday in a lot of detail. I am not going to enter into these aspects, but it is obvious that, first of all, there were constant interruptions, that people who should not have been in the house were there and even in the room where this totally private meeting was to take place.
Carmen R. Báez.- Also, that information about the door, Alarcón, which is shocking, it shocked us all.
Ricardo Alarcón:- The matter of the door, which they explained yesterday, yes.
But what is really incredible about it, Carmen Rosa, is that they havent even taken the trouble of pretending that they were going to accept or abide by what had been instructed.
One of the nuns is named Leonore Esnard, another is named Peggy Albert, and then there is the famous OLaughlin. According to OLaughlin, Peggy Albert was watching the meeting. She was watching closely, too, because Leonore Esnard, who is the one that entered several times, obviously knew what was happening in the meeting.
Marisleysis has made statements to the press, that have come out on TV and in the written media, relating part of the meeting. She has explained that you (referring to the grandmothers) took a photo album there; she has explained that you showed Elián things that you had brought from Cárdenas sent by his classmates, drawings, etc. That one there that you are seeing now (a video is shown).
She has said, of course, that she does not have all the details because she could not hear the conversation clearly, because she was, allegedly, somewhat distant. But she wasnt even supposed to be in the house, neither her nor any of the other persons holding Elián, keeping him captive, kidnapped.
Those that were supposed to be there and were not were the church dignitaries; not only comrade Odén Marichal, who was frankly treated very rudely. Madame university president didnt even invite him into the house. If there had been a storm, a rain shower in Miami, where could Odén and Reverend Campbell have gone to get out of the rain? Nowhere, because they were denied access. But who denied it? It wasnt Ms. Reno, it wasnt Ms. Meissner; it was denied by the mob and its representative, to wit, Sister OLaughlin.
Those who were not supposed to be in the mansion were there, in a gross violation of all that had been agreed upon, and those who were supposed to be there, according to what had been discussed and agreed upon the very first day, were not.
They grossly violated what had been agreed upon concerning the time for the meeting; they also violated another part of the agreement, the communication between the child and his father and grandfathers here in Havana, which was part of the agreement! It was something which the U.S. side had not objected to and when I say U.S., Im referring to the federal government; the mafia obviously didnt want it.
You all know, comrades, that that same day, before the meeting, the letter that the family sent the grandmothers was published in Havana. Among other things, they told them that they would be provided with cellular phones so that they could make the phone call. That was no secret, it was published in Granma; but, besides, it was published in Miami.
Here I have some Miami libel an old newspaper that has been published there for a long time now -- first page, Diario de Las Américas. Listen to what it says here: Grandmothers bring a cellular phone to the meeting with Elián to be in touch with Cuba. Where is the mystery? This had already been discussed. Moreover, it had been discussed with the authorities, and they had agreed to allot the necessary time, the adequate time so that the child, besides being in the meeting alone with the grandmothers, would be able to speak with the father and the rest of the family here in Havana. That is why it had been requested, and the U.S. side had agreed, that the meeting not be limited to two hours. They accepted the proposal of extending it to three hours, and they even went beyond. It must be said that the Immigration Service the federal one, the one in Washingtonactually had a correct attitude in this regard. They said that the grandmothers could have three hours or whatever time was needed. It was only a private meeting between two grandmothers and their grandson, it wasnt a prisoner who was being visited in jail, where the jailer comes in dressed as a nun and says, "The time is up." That wasnt written anywhere, on the contrary. But that they were going to have a cellular phone? Of course, everyone knew they were going to use a cellular phone, it was public knowledge.
I think that was also an example of cruelty, as evident as the idea of holding a party, as if everybody here were of the same moral caliber and as if nothing had happened.
Now this lady, the nun, who was, by the way, the owner of the house, must be in Washington. She is very excited, she has fulfilled her role of serving as an agent to repeat on Wednesday what they had done on Monday, in absolute coordination with the mob; and also, to do even further harm to these grandmothers, to that father, to this family and to this child. Because you have to be especially inclined to torturing to conceive an operation whereby you interrupt the possible dialogue between a child and his father, the first one that they were able to have in more than two months, just as they constantly interrupted the dialogue that the two grandmothers and their grandson were holding for the first time in more than two months. These people could not be unaware that in this way they were causing the child an additional trauma.
Now, it has been said, yesterday and today, that besides the mobsters, besides the lawyers, besides the relatives that were not supposed to be there, there was a psychiatrist in that group I suppose it was a psychiatrist from the Foundation. The religious branch of the Foundation is OLaughlin and the branch of mental torture is probably this psychiatrist.
But, well, this lady, the so-called nun, is now in Washington, and shes very excited, because shes been given an assignment. Just as youve seen some of these people, some of the kidnappers, who sometimes appear making statements to the press, or visiting Congress, etc., now it is Jeanne OLaughlins turn.
She published an article, this one (he shows it), in yesterdays issue of The New York Times, full of nonsense and of things that even make it hard to understand what shes referring to, because she speaks of fear, she speaks of pressure. She thinks we dont read the Miami press, that we do not see what everyone was able to see, that that place was practically taken over by the anti-Cuban mob, and she tries to present matters as if these two ladies were being pressured by the Cuban government. But they were alone, absolutely alone in that jail headed by that lady, who, by the way, obviously knows what a cellular phone is, as you can see (they show a video).
For her own use, yes, for speaking nonsense to a U.S. radio station, for lying; thats what she uses the cellular phone for. But she snatched one away from a child so he would not be able to speak to his father. What does this have to do with Christianity, or any other religion? This is purely a nazi, fascist technique. What she should have done was give them her own phone if they had not had one, to offer one herself if she had the slightest sense of human solidarity. If she had read the Gospel, which I dont know if she has, she might have been inspired by it; because it is not that she does not know what a cellular phone is. Look at her here (they show a video). That is a cellular phone, that little device she holds in her hand, that she is using there to lie, to defend the kidnappers, to advocate taking Eliáns nationality away and imposing U.S. nationality on him.
That lady published this little article in The New York Times, in which she claims, ¡the Cuban government was attempting to exert control over these events!
And what was the governments control? How was that control exerted? Where was that evil spirit, that powerful entity that, over there, right inside this ladys mansion, was representing the Cuban government? Here he is: "secret agent" Pablo Odén Marichal. This is him. He was the only Cuban in the surroundings, the only one, but one they did not let cross the threshold of the mansion. Odén in the yard, kept away from the grandmothers, without access to the house, treated with the worst discourtesy, was under Jeanne OLaughlins surveillance let me tell you, Odén because she says it: "As I watched the grandmothers Cuban escort," who is Odén Marichal.
Who does this lady think she is to treat a church dignitary of this country that way?
Who does she think she is to try to disregard the National Council of Churches of Cuba? And she reduces him to the role of an escort, a custodian.
She is the one who is a spy, because she says, "while I watched the escort." That is why, Odén, she kept on coming out of the house. She had the other nuns, she had the people from the Foundation and she had the rest of the people who controlled that building inside, she was sure that the operation against the grandmothers and the child was working; she was left with agent 007, the Cuban Revolutions secret agent, who was the escort.
Odén Marichal.- Now I understand why the security officer, back
Opa- Locka because of all the uncertainties there were -- when I told him, "Draw me a picture here of what is going to happen over there" I even did it in English, "Please, draw it" -- among the things he said was that in that house there were only going to be three people and two dogs. Now Im wondering who the dogs were (Laughter).
Ricardo Alarcón.- Let me tell you something, Odén. That same The New York Times, which published this ladys article yesterday, today published two letters to the editor, from two people, one of them a rabbi from the Sinai temple of North Dade notice, Dade County in Miami -- and the other one a woman who says that what is being done to this boy and his family, the family that raised him from infancy, is demonic this is the word she used. This woman, after criticizing the United States policy towards Cuba, a policy she does not agree with, that she considers ludicrous, says that this policy is ludicrous, but when it comes to destroying a child, it is simply criminal.
This is a woman who is responding to that nun, and a rabbi who is responding to her as well. I truly believe that there are enough decent people in that country to prevent the little nun from working her miracle. She is not going to convert anyone with her fascist ideology or with her demonic attitude, even if shes dressed up as a nun.
We must also point out that one of the things that must be stressed in relation to this matter of the espionage, the mistreatment and the governmental pressure, etc., is that this same lady explains that she had to show the house to what she calls "the family". She had to show them the room where the entirely private meeting between the grandmothers and the child was going to take place, and show them that the windows were barred, that the grandmothers could not jump through them and escape with the child to join "secret agent" Odén Marichal, who was waiting outside. She also showed them that it was impossible to place a helicopter there. This was stated by this lady, whom I suppose would like to be a fiction novelist.
What does that mean? That not only were the people who were not supposed to have access to the house in it, but they were also able to inspect it, it was shown to them; they were taken to the meeting room, that room where you stayed the time the jailer allowed you to. They were taken there to convince them that there was no problem, that everything was under control, thats what members of the same club are for.
How can this lady try to convince anyone that she knows what neutrality or impartiality means? I believe, I am truly convinced, that what happened Wednesday was simply with the active participation of this "poor nun", because she supposedly made a vow of poverty that can be appreciated in that mansion you have seen. She made other vows which I dont know how they are reflected, because when it comes to the vow of poverty, she obviously doesnt even know what that word means.
I recently told a reporter who asked me about this -- I remember quite well, Odén, I was more or less Eliáns age when I used to go to a Catholic school here in Havana -- I remember well a professor I had who spoke to us about the concept of the devil, of Satan, of the evil spirit, and he used to say that the devil was very malevolent, with a lot of tricks and traps; that he wasnt going to come to us, as it is sometimes shown in drawings, with a pitchfork and casting flames from hell, etc. This priest used to say, "He can dress up as a nun." The devil is cunning enough, when he wants to steal away a boys soul, not to show up casting flames or anything like that, but to appear as a little nun, talking over a cellular phone, or as a pure soul, etc.
I was telling this journalist that I dont know why, but since last Wednesday I have been thinking about that old teacher and that metaphor a lot, because I have seen it in real life.
I would say, because I dont want to use up too much time, that what happened on Wednesday was actually worse than what happened on Monday, because at least on Monday the trap they had prepared did not materialize. And they did all this after being explicitly warned by the Immigration Commissioner. I think that what happened Wednesday is an insult to the Attorney General and an insult to Ms. Meissner, and it is a demonstration of how that mob does not obey any laws, any rules or any moral standards, and that they will use anyone, including these individuals who inhabit this "humble mansion" of Barry University.
A lot more could be said, but I think this is perhaps what should be essentially added to the explanation and the information that were given yesterday afternoon.
Carmen R. Báez.- I thank you again.
Marichal, you wanted to say something about this aspect, about this assessment we have been making.
Odén Marichal.- I would like to refer to what happened during the time we were in a room in the Opa-Locka airport, speaking with the INS official who was in charge of our security and that of the operation.
Since at that moment we already had the information, because it was also on TV, although they didnt put a TV set in the room at the airport that airport must be very poor if it cant afford to have a TV set there -- we told him, "Listen, we already know that there is a demonstration, a small one, but a demonstration in front of the house, that there are more than 100 cameras, that there are Foundation people next door, etc., " and he denied it all.
I even put this piece of paper in front of him, and I wrote on it, "Please, draw it." He refused to even draw a single line, because he might have thought I wanted to have some evidence of what he was going to say there.
Then he explained it to me and I more or less drew it... Of course, in the end, that was not the layout. (He shows a sketch.) It was something similar to this. But he said, "There is no problem, the grandmothers go in, there is an electronic system that locks the gate and nobody can go in" and I wrote it down. I asked, "And next door?" "No, an American family that has nothing to do with this lives there." "And next door?" I wrote a question mark there, because he was not able to say.
He told me that from the gate to the house there is a distance of 75 meters I wrote it down here-- which was not true either, and I insisted, asking if there were going to be any people in front of the house, and he said it was impossible, because Pine Avenue was closed at both ends of the block; that there were some people at those ends behind barricades which we never saw, they were small railings in front of the cameras. He said that from there the grandmothers could not be seen when they made their entrance something which was false, everything was false -- and that there were only going to be three people in the house: the three nuns and two dogs. I wrote it down: three people and two dogs.
I asked him how far it was from here (he shows the sketch) to where the people were standing, and he told me that it was 90 meters. I wrote it down: 90 meters.
Then, I insisted on the conditions. That man knew all the conditions exactly, just as we had discussed them: "Its a neutral place, we assure you that you are not going to have..." That is what he said, one thing after the other, to Reverend Campbell and myself: "I guarantee you that there is not going to be any physical or visual contact; that the media is not going to be in front of the house;" he was lying, of course. He claimed that there was no demonstration; that the meeting with the child would be in private, that Reverend Campbell and I would be on the ground floor, just like the (Miami) relatives; that they would provide us with the telephones that they had promised I dont remember if it was Shapiro or Meissner, but one of them promised us direct line phones; one that Reverend Campbell and I were going to have, a direct line to the INS, and one for international calls, that we were never given. He said that the two-hour minimum time limit was guaranteed although we had already spoken of two and a half or three hours, as a minimum -- that there would not be any interruptions, and that there would be nobody there from the Cuban-American National Foundation.
When we insisted that they were there, that they were already in the house next door, he sent his helper to check. Later, he came in first and then his helper came in, saying the two houses have been checked, they are American families, they are clean, there are no problems, and that sort of thing. He knew none of this was true.
One of the first things that happened was that when I entered the yard, I saw Reverend Campbell outside, and I thought that, as she had arrived first, she must be waiting for me, and when I went up to her to ask her, I realized... There is a take from above where the family can be seen when it arrives (they show the video), and I realize now, watching it, that there are some palm trees to the left, and it is exactly the camera shot of one of the persons who was on the staircase of the house next door, where the Foundation was, who was filming all the time. I then called one of the INS officials and I went like this (he shows the gesture he made), I didnt even speak, and she came right away. I told her, "Look over my shoulder, back there, what is that person doing there?" "I dont know?, she said. She was surprised, right? And she said, "Do you want me to get him out of there?" I said, "No, Im not telling you that I want you to get him out of here, what I am telling you is that just as he has a camera, he could have anything else." She repeated, "Do you want me to get him out?" I said, "No, I would just feel safer if that person were not there." Then she said, "I can fix it."
She goes out and calls a group of officers, of plainclothesmen, and while she is having that little meeting, allegedly to go over there, another fellow arrives and talks to her, and that is the fellow who comes to see me and says, "How can I help you?" I tell him, "Well, I know who you are, so I dont know how you can help me."
He says, "Im the head of security inside that yard." Because I didnt see the other bald guy inside anymore, the guy from the airport, who assured us that he had 100 agents around the house.
Then I tell him, "Look, I was uneasy about that gentleman over there," and he says this to me: "Well, look, the person who lives there is an American whos been living there for a long time, and hes a person who carries out fundraising campaigns for the Cuban-American National Foundation; but I dont have an order to take anybody out of there, and, therefore, I cant. What I would advise you to do is to stick close to the wall so they cant film you."
Several more things happened, right? I also had a cellular phone, a phone with no international access. When we went to Miami, I was supposed to have received one, but it never arrived, right? They were going to get me one, and this second time they leave it in the airline that takes us there and they give it to me there. So I have my cellular phone for local calls and another for international calls, and I phone the house where the family is (in Cuba) once, to tell them, "Im outside, I havent been able to go in, I dont know what is going on in there," to report something.
Carmen R. Báez.- Here in Havana.
Pablo O. Marichal.- Here in Havana.
When I try to make the second call, an answering machine answers me in Italian, and then, since I know that the code for Spain is 34, I think, "Well, maybe 35 is for Italy" I dont know what the code for Italy is. I think, "Maybe I dialed wrong, instead of 53, I inverted the digits and dialed the other way around." Then I dial carefully: 011-537, etc. I look at the phones display, see that it is right, and press the button. I get the Italian again. "Well, they must have changed the language in Cuba, or here in the United States." In other words, they blocked the cellular phone and I couldnt use it anymore.
What the nun said about me talking over a cellular phone is true, I was indeed talking, I had to keep in touch; the other one was not blocked, the one I had brought down from Washington, and thats the one I used to speak to the comrade from the Cuban Interests Section, who the State Department and Ms. Reno knew was accompanying three Cuban citizens to the Opa-Locka airport, and that is who
I was able to speak to on several occasions.
But they knew the all of the conditions agreed upon very well, and did not comply with them.
Carmen R. Báez.- And all of this you are telling us about took place when the grandmothers were already in the meeting we discussed yesterday?
Pablo O. Marichal.- When they assured us that all these conditions had been agreed upon and would be met, we had not left Opa-Locka.
Carmen R. Báez:- And now it is all the rest that we were discussing here yesterday, and we discussed it extensively.
Iroel was signaling me, did you want to refer to this assessment we are making about everything that happened in connection with the real meeting? Because it was the second attempt, but it was where the meeting between the grandmothers and their grandson actually took place.
Iroel Sánchez.- Listening to comrade Marichal and comrade Alarcón, and especially to what comrade Alarcón said about Ms. OLaughlin, whom I refuse to call a nun due to the respect we have for people who render that service, I must say that this lady has set a precedent in universal culture, because I dont recall in literature, even prior to the invention of the printing press, in ancient legends, an instance where someone has attacked the relationship between any grandmothers and their grandson. The story I most remember is Little Red Riding Hood, which is the contrary, right? But I dont remember anyone who has dared to attack that relationship. And this lady has set a precedent that is going to go down in history, as being the first time in the history of humanity when someone questions the relationship between a grandmother and her grandson.
I think that in Western culture, and specifically in the culture of Christian origin part of our culturegrandmothers constitute a sacred institution, and this lady has gone against all this and has attacked something which is part of the mentality that has been ingrained in us.
This was so much the case, that I was struck by the fact that the Foundation itself, the relatives in Miami, did not say a word against the grandmothers; they tried to maneuver, to prepare the party, to see how they could engineer that invitation, "we invite you, we are very happy that you have come," and to get them drawn into their politicking, but they never raised their voice against the grandmothers, not even after the meeting, or against what had happened there. This lady, however, has become the standard bearer of a cause against the grandmothers, which, besides being an intellectual blunder, is also a despicable and contemptible act.
Apart from this, it struck me, in the images we were able to see here, that this lady has left her religious work to become a political activist: she writes in a newspaper, goes to Washington to lobby, makes press statements, requests appointments with the Attorney General of that country. In other words, she has become part of the political machine of the anti-Cuban mob. And we know that all of that is very far from the work she should be devoted to, allegedly, to helping her neighbors, since these are the vows she presumably made when she became a nun.
Now, let us look at how this nun lives, we have seen it here. Looking at her "modest" mansion, I was remembering what Jesus said about it being easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. It seems that this ladys residence is rather far from the kingdom of heaven and quite near hell. There are certainly some hellish characteristics in that Miami county, Dade, as regards violence and drug abuse.
The following information came out in the press today: Twenty-two percent of the population there lives under the poverty line, and it also has second place in terms of pediatric cases of AIDS in the United States. And some other things have been coming out in the press lately, including news about the rate of AIDS infection among Catholic priests in the United States, which is four times higher than that of the rest of the U.S. population. Today, incidentally, there was a news report in the Nuevo Herald about this issue in Dade County, where they interviewed Father Dennis Rose, whos in charge of the HIV-AIDS Ministry of the Catholic Church in South Florida, and at the end of the report he said, "Today we are dealing with sexuality and sex-related issues in a more open way, it is part of a trend that includes drug abuse, alcoholism, important problems of society. The priesthood is not immune to all this, we are part of the human race."
With these problems so nearby, and in that environment where there are also so many problems involving children, problems of poverty, of violence, of drugs, I think there is plenty of work for a nun. I think it would be a lot more useful for her to devote her wealth and the way she lives to resolving her neighbors needs, and I think that this would help a lot more to spread the faith that she allegedly professes among the people so close to her, if she is really so interested in children, and in this case she has become involved in a childs case.
Carmen R. Báez.- Thank you, Iroel.
Miguel, were you also asking for the floor to speak about this issue weve been dealing with?
Miguel Alvarez.- A brief comment, if you will.
The press agencies there have speculated a lot as to whether Ms. Reno was involved in selecting the place where the meeting was going to be held.
Carmen R. Báez.- Yes, thats true, and I think it would be good if we could talk about that aspect.
Remember that Alarcón said a few moments ago that these people had even scoffed at Ms. Reno, with whom this lady seems to have a good personal relationship; in other words, let us not forget that Ms. Reno is a resident of Florida. And taking advantage of this, they tried to make it seem that it was Ms. Reno who had selected the place.
In a press conference on January 27, they addressed the attorney general directly and asked her if she had chosen the place. She was very clear on this point and said, "They asked me about the idea and I gave my approval." And the journalist asked her, "And whose idea was it originally, the INSs or somebody elses?" She answered that she didnt know whose idea it was, but that it had been communicated to her via Ms. Meissner, the immigration commissioner.
But, coincidentally, that same day, we learned whose idea it had been, who took the steps in that direction, and it was none other than Mr. David Lawrence, who was the editor-in-chief of the Miami Herald until recently. It is not necessary for me to expand on what this papers position, its editorial line, has been, how it has systematically been part of a campaign against Cuba in which it has played a very active role. It was precisely the editor of this dailywho evidently also had relations with this womanwho helped arrange, according to what he himself stated in the January 27 issue of the Herald, for the meeting to take place in this "modest" mansion.
Now theyre saying that OLaughlin lost her neutrality. This lady was simply never neutral. In other words, this is perfectly obvious not only because of her rapid change of position, but also because of the antecedents that have been mentioned here and by the fact that it is not that she began to think differently, but that she began to work actively in favor of what? She embraced the positions of those who say this is not an issue for the INS to decide and embraced the positions of those who have been keeping Elián kidnapped all this time.
Carmen R. Báez.- Yes, that aspect was also addressed yesterday by Marichal in the meeting we had with the grandmothers, when he spoke about this concept of neutrality, and just as Iroel said that she should not be called a nun, you have noted that it is impossible to speak about neutrality.
Ricardo Alarcón.- Language is manipulated a great deal by the propaganda and the media. It is said that this lady changed her mind, this is what she has said. But who can say what her real position was before Wednesday? Did she, by chance, make any declarations? Did she, by chance, go to a TV network to say that Elián should be returned to his father? This lady said absolutely nothing. But in order to confuse, in order to fulfill her role as lobbyist, to attempt to have Elián deprived of his nationality, to go to Congress, etc., it is, of course, a lot better to say that she was a neutral figure who offered her house for the meeting and that, besides, she held a position that she kept in total secrecy. She really kept the secrecy of confession there, she didnt tell anyone. That was the way she thought until she saw the "monster" in the yard, until she saw Odén, and then she changed her mind. Who is going to believe that? (Laughter)
Part of the game, part of the instructions she has from the Foundation is to say that: I used to think one way, now I think another way. I had a position, now I have another. But she never expressed that previous position. It is now that she has spoken, playing this role which is really contemptible.
Carmen R. Báez.- I think we have amply analyzed what occurred on Wednesday concerning your meeting with your grandson.
I propose we turn back to Washington. Now weve been through Wednesday, the meeting in Miami is over. You go back with all of these conflicting emotions: the satisfaction of seeing the child, the pain over what you saw, everything that you have been telling us, how these emotions clashed with each other, these emotions that you were perfectly able to convey to us during the approximately two hours that you were in our familys living room, on television, last night.
I propose, then, to turn back to Washington. Wednesday is now over. Thursday and Friday are two more days of intense work for Mariela and Raquel, they return to Congress. In this case, Im going to propose something to you. If you agree, I want you to tell me, and if not, well change it.
When we analyzed your visits to Congress on Tuesday, comrade Alarcón helped us to follow all the interviews you had. I would propose, if you agree -- if not, we could do it later -- that he help us to determine which were the most important meetings,
Mariela Quintana.- Yes, of course.
Carmen R. Báez.- Could you help them again, so that we can cover not Thursday or Friday exactly, but rather both days jointly? Tell us about the most important moments, as dynamically as we did it on Tuesday, focussing on the main meetings, and then you (the grandmothers) could tell us your impressions. You could also tell us about many of the things that happened. I think Raquel has an anecdote that would be nice to hear. So, do you agree?
Raquel Rodríguez.- Yes.
Carmen R. Báez.- What about you, comrade Alarcón, do you also agree to help us a little?
Ricardo Alarcón.- But with their help.
Carmen R. Báez.- Certainly, I think we can all exchange ideas.
Ricardo Alarcón.- Yes, because, in truth, anything we say will not be enough to describe the intensity of the work they did.
At the beginning you said I had experience in the United States. I was in the United States for 14 years; but in those 14 years, I never saw as many U.S. legislators as they did in three days. The intensity of these contacts, of the work they carried out, and in this case I am talking about the meetings with the politicians, but the same thing can be said concerning the press. Moreover, under conditions of tension, of stress, of bitterness, of rage, logically, because during that week, two days were not enough in the frustrated meeting with Elián on Monday, and in the torturing situation imposed on them in that Miami Beach jail.
Now, going over the interviews that they had, beginning Thursday morning, after returning to Washington on Wednesday night, back to the cold weather, because the snow continued, the snowstorm continued and there was one of the most significant drops in temperature in recent years, according to what the Americans say. In the morning they once again met with Congressperson Sheila Jackson Lee, accompanied on this occasion by another legislator, Donna Christian-Christiansen, from the Virgin Islands, and with several assistants from the House Judiciary Committee. There is something else I want to say, Carmen Rosa, because I can more or less have an idea of the legislators they saw, but if we add that they also met with legislators assistants, which is a very important position in the United States, since they are the ones who formulate stances, who advise the legislators, it is going to be very difficult to know exactly how many political personalities they met with during the three days.
After that meeting was over, they gave a press conference before some 30 press agencies in Washington. Following that it is almost noon now, late in the morning -- they met with Representative Nicolas Larnson, a Democrat for Texas. This representative Ive already said who Sheila Jackson is, shes the leading Democrat in the Immigration Committee -- Larnson, is the chairman of a special group in the U.S. Congress that deals with the problems of exploited and missing children. This group in Congress was created upon Larnsons initiative. He is a man who is very concerned about this topic, very active in this matter. The group of congresspersons he chairs comprises 130 members right now, and, of course, is very closely linked to American NGOs concerned about the problems suffered by abandoned children. They met with this legislator alongside Congressperson Barbara Lee, from California, who visited us very recently. Barbara had practically just returned to Washington when she met with them, because she was here with Maxine Waters visiting our country recently, and Eva Clayton, a Democrat for North Carolina.
Barbara Lee and Eva Clayton went spontaneously to meet with grandmothers when they were in Larnsons office, because word got out, it was known, that they were there. There were not only prearranged interviews, but these two ladies showed up there because they knew that you were there.
Once that meeting was over they had another press interview, and later they met with two New York congresspersons, Maurice Hinchey and Nydia Velázquez, both Democrats. Nydia and Serrano are the two Puerto Rican congresspersons from New York who later made statements to the press supporting the grandmothers struggle.
That afternoon they have the interview Odén was referring to a while ago with Mark Sanford, a Republican for South Carolina who is the fellow that attended the meeting accompanied by his mother and two journalists from South Carolina who also covered and interviewed the grandmothers.
Carmen R. Báez.- Who is the grandmother of seven grandchildren.
Ricardo Alarcón.- Yes, of seven grandchildren.
After that meeting, they met with a group of this is the figure I have -- 19 congresspersons in the offices of James Clyburn, a Democrat for South Carolina, who is chairman of the group of African congresspersons known as the Black Caucus. A significant number of black legislators were there; there were also two congresspersons for New Jersey...
Mariela Quintana.- With your permission for just a moment, Alarcón. There were 19 when it began, but as time passed, who knows how many more congresspersons joined them.
Odén Marichal.- I thought he was talking about Rangel, because in Rangels office the same thing happened.
Ricardo Alarcón.- Now comes the meeting with Rangel where the same thing happened.
Raquel Rodríguez.- Rangel was afterwards.
Ricardo Alarcón.- Thats why I said that it was difficult to calculate the exact number.
Mariela Quintana.- Yes, they kept arriving and joining the group until the room was completely full.
Ricardo Alarcón.- As had happened in the morning, when two more joined the meeting they had. That occurred here.
From this meeting, you went to a meeting with Charles Rangel, a New York Democrat, where 22 legislators participated, and the same thing happened.
Raquel Rodríguez.- They went from 22 to 25.
Ricardo Alarcón.- That was only on Thursday, and then you had an interview with another journalist afterwards.
Let us go on to Friday, Carmen Rosa, when they met with Maxine Waters, this legislator I spoke about who was over here, who also met with the family here, who was with Juan Miguel and other relatives, and has even spread news of it in the United States.
Next Maxine held a press conference with some 20 news agencies, where she reaffirmed her position, about which has been very explicit, very forceful in the media; but, in addition, she has delivered several speeches in Congress rejecting the maneuver of imposing U.S. citizenship or permanent residence on Elián and demanding he be returned to his family.
That day they also met with representative George Nethercutt, who is a Republican representative; he is known for his conservative positions, for being a conservative man in many respects and represents, above all, agricultural interests.
A little later they met with Senator Arlen Specter, also a Republican, from Pennsylvania, who, in my opinion, is one of the most influential people in the U.S. Senate, for he is a Republican and at the same time he is a very independent man. Everybody acknowledges that he is a very able legislator, that he can study the topics, assume positions on his own, apart from having advisors, etc., and that he maintains very independent positions, based on his own opinions.
It is interesting to note that of the ones I have mentioned perhaps there are others, because where 20 came in and then four or five more joined the group it is hard to tell exactly what party they were from -- I have mentioned here several important leaders of the Republican Party, who also spoke to the press and have spoken ibefore the whole Senate of the House, expressing a correct stance, against the kidnapping and in favor of returning Elián.
According to my list, the last legislator they met with that Friday afternoon was Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is the other California senator. I have already said that the first day they had spoken to Senator Barbara Boxer. There are two senators per state, and the two for California are women, both Democrats, very concerned with the family, children, etc., and they both made public statements. I believe Senator Feinstein made very strong declarations right there, which she repeated before the whole Senate a short time later.
Pablo O. Marichal.- She was the only one who, during a meeting, when she noted my clerical collar, said to me, "Since you are a member of the clergy, I am interested in putting a question to you and not the grandmothers." And she asked me the question about Sister Jeanne that I mentioned yesterday. She didnt understand and wanted clarification.
Carmen R. Báez- Mariela and Raquel, now that we know more or less what happened on Thursday and Friday, was everything just as on Tuesday? Did you visit the offices and then talk to the press? Was it all the same as Tuesday?
Mariela Quintana: Yes, exactly the same. And also, when we finished talking with a group of congresspeople, they applauded and congratulated us for what we had said.
Rangel even gave us something like an ashtray with the emblem of Congress, signed by him. It is very nice.
Others gave us pens as souvenirs for having been there. Those were very beautiful gestures.
Raquel Rodríguez.- They all gave us their cards with their phone numbers.
Pablo O. Marichal.- The few times we walked down the streets, people recognized them, came up to them and said, "Were with you. Your grandson should go back." I had never seen anything like it.
Raquel Rodríguez.- Thats right.
Mariela Quintana.- Even the police who were protecting us, the guards. They fought among themselves to get close to us and offered their congratulations and support.
Pablo O. Marichal.- I do not know whether Alarcón... I have been in Congress several times. I never saw anyone applaud when someone said something, but they were applauded three times in the meetings with the congresspeople.
Carmen R. Báez.- I have heard that there was an incident involving Raquel at a press conference.
Mariela Quintana.- Yes, she can talk about it.
Carmen R. Báez.- Raquel, why dont you tell us what happened?
Raquel Rodríguez.- When I woke up that day my heart was beating too fast, but I paid no attention to it. I thought it was only because we had been so busy. I went on with all the work we still had to do. We had already had an interview, but while I was standing among the journalists explaining something to them, like we always had to do, I felt dizzy and my ears were ringing, like when you are on a plane. I didnt pay any attention to it, but it went on and on. Then I told Marichal I was not feeling well and he said, "Lets go to the office so you can have something to drink." I asked him to give me something sweet. They gave me some candy and I had an orange juice.
Even so, while we were there, in the office, they sent for a doctor. It was a doctor who worked right there. Four nurses came too. They took my blood pressure, my pulse. They even did an electrocardiogram. The doctor did not want me to continue going from meeting to meeting. He wanted me to rest there for a while so I could relax. He told me that my blood pressure was a little too high and that what I felt in my ears was because the day before the day of the visit with Elián I had flown twice in a plane and twice in a helicopter. He said this happened very often, that it is a kind of dehydration. He told me I had to drink a lot of liquid that day and that I should not go for a long time without eating anything. That I should eat something every short while, perhaps not a meal, but something sweet, some bread, something. But I felt I had to continue with the work I was doing. Once he had done all the tests and given his diagnosis, I went on. I had to go on with the meetings. I had to continue working.
Carmen R. Báez.- So they gave you medical care there? They came to you?
Raquel Rodríguez.- Yes, the doctor and the nurses gave me very good care. I cannot complain about that. A nurse followed me after I went back to work. She went with me from office to office. She carried my coat and my scarf. She carried all my things from office to office until we left the place. The nurse did not leave me alone for a minute.
Carmen R. Báez.- Did anything else happen in Congress, Mariela?
Mariela Quintana.- Well, wherever we went, the staff came to the doors to see us, to greet us. Everyone supported us.
Carmen R. Báez.- So that was how those two days of meetings in the Congress were.
Mariela Quintana.- Yes.
Raquel Rodríguez.- Look, during all those days we went from office to office, there was not one senator or congressperson who did not want to have his or her picture taken with us. All of them, and even the people who worked with them I guess they were the office workers, the secretaries. They all wanted to have their pictures taken with us. There was not one of them who did not want to have his or her picture taken with the grandmothers. For them it was like a symbol, like something very important. A picture with the grandmothers seemed to have a lot of meaning for them.
Carmen R. Báez.- I think that those expressions of affection and solidarity that you received in the Congress are part of what we are saying here.
Is there anything else on this? Do not feel pressed for time at all.
Raquel Rodríguez.- The day before we left, the Cuban comrades that are working there...
Mariela Quintana.- But that was Saturday. The day before we returned, the Cubans working in the Embassy took us sightseeing. They were very good with us and we are very grateful to them. They took us to several symbolic places, very nice places...
Pablo O. Marichal.- To the Lincoln Memorial.
Mariela Quintana.- Yes, they spent the day with us. We are very grateful to them.
Pablo O. Marichal.- We also commemorated January 28.
Raquel Rodríguez.- Oh, yes. We attended the commemoration of that date.
Carmen R. Báez.- In our Interests Section?
Raquel Rodríguez.- Yes. Many people there expressed their support to us. We can say that we had our pictures taken with everyone there.
Carmen R. Báez.- During the commemoration?
Mariela Quintana.- Yes, on January 28.
Carmen R. Báez.- We had the children here in the studio that day. There were the cameramen, the directors, the producers, everyone. We did not know what to do with so many children. That day the children dedicated their battle for Elián to Martí. From that day on, we have had Martís words here with us. That is what the little Pioneer was telling you when you arrived. The Pioneers held a round table where they analyzed Martís teachings and the arguments that we can find in Martí for our fight for Elián. They can be found in the stories he wrote for children.
I wanted to ask Marichal something, since he was with the grandmothers during the entire trip and has evaluated the impact they had -- things that he had not usually seen, he has said. I wanted you to help us, in this final part of our round table, by telling us what in your opinion are the main results of this battle by the grandmothers in the United States.
Pablo O. Marichal.- I would like to link my answer to what Raquel and Mariela were saying about the expressions of affection they received from Americans in different positions. I think all that was very natural. Some of them went so far as to say, "This battle of the grandmothers is our battle too, because we cannot allow that virus coming from the south from those sick people to penetrate into American society. This is a danger for American society."
This was something that had never before been seen. I believe it is very positive that people identified with their struggle. Grandchildren are grandchildren everywhere and the rights of grandmothers and parents are also their rights.
They aroused the sympathy of the nation as a whole, not just in the small groups they visited, small in comparison with the large population of the United States. Seven or eight of every 10 Americans are in favor of Eliáns return. It was the grandmothers and no one else who made the figure rise that much. It was their faces, their tears, their occasional smiles, their words, and their story. As Raquel said once, "I can say this to anyone because I am only saying the truth and with my truth I will go anywhere." She said, "I would even go to Japan."
I think they were able to stop the two bills, the one for citizenship and the one for permanent residence. They reinforced the bill for Eliáns quick return to his family and his country. They had the support of the Senate and the Congress. I think they moved and convinced the officials at the Immigration Service and the Justice Department. The judge punished the lawyers by moving forward the date for the public debate in press and on television, things that professionally and ethically should be done through other channels.
I think all this was achieved by the grandmothers, and many other things too, but this is the most important of all.
Carmen R. Báez.- To wrap this up, is there anything else to say about this moment in the grandmothers trip we are considering?
Iroel Sánchez.- We are all convinced that the grandmothers took on an enormous challenge. They confronted an enemy that has systematically tried to deceive the American people about the reality in our country and, specifically, on the issue of the kidnapping of our Elián González. They confronted a fascistic minority. And I say fascistic not just to put a label on them, but because of their use of fascist methods, because of their systematic use of lies, of deception, of the repetition of lies, the way Goebbel used to do it.
The use of children as victims is a trait of fascism. Yesterday, when the grandmothers were speaking of the drawings, I was reminded of the drawings of children at Terencszyn, in the former Czechoslovakia. There is a book on them, a very moving testimony of what Jewish children suffered for the mere fact of being Jewish. What they are doing to Elián is for the mere fact of being a Cuban. The Latin American dictatorships with which some of the people in the Foundation collaborated did the same thing. The children who disappeared in Argentina, for example. Then there is their support of and identification with war criminals, like that Vietnamese pilot involved in the January 1 provocation.
I have brought a picture of the Trang Bang village massacre carried by Saigon pilots like that individual. Only in a place like Miamis 8th Street could a guy like that be received as a hero and applauded as if he had undertaken a great feat.
That entire fascist minority was isolated and defeated by our grandmothers, who waged a battle from within U.S. public opinion. As the reverend says, they instantly killed this manipulated bill to grant Elián U.S. citizenship. Also, according to the polls, the opinion that the child should return to Cuba gained weight among the U.S. public, and I think this came about as the result of their presence, their words, their courage, and the fact that they went wherever they had to and talked with total conviction, with total freedom about their wish to have their grandchild back with them. I think this has left this fascistic minority on the brink of defeat once again, and to an ever greater extent.
Carmen R. Báez.- Miguel, did you want to say something?
Miguel Alvarez.- A brief comment. I think their presence there was an extraordinary success.
They were able to move the media. They appeared on the front pages of the main U.S. newspapers and on the newscasts of the main TV networks throughout the whole week.
In a preliminary analysis, I would say that almost 300 articles were written, and I am sure the real figure is higher. But not only did they appear in the papers and have articles written about their presence there. There were also many editorials and opinion pieces in the major newspapers supporting the childs return to his family. That is, their impact on the media was really a resounding success.
As for Congress, we should remember that there was talk of granting the child U.S. citizenship, or of imposing it on him. In just 24 hours they were already talking of violating established procedures, of acting as quickly as they could, and so on. The grandmothers message was so strong that they were able to take on this industry of evil which Aruca was speaking about some days ago. We know perfectly well that it is an industry with a great deal of money, a force organized in that Congress, and they were able to take on that industry, paralyze it and convey their message. As we have heard, an ever growing number of representatives and senators added themselves to their side day by day, with the result that they simply killed that action.
Of course, all this had a very serious impact, as has been said, on U.S. public opinion. We should remember that when they arrived there, the polls were 58%, 59%, and began to rise to 60% and 62%. The result of the last poll, taken when they came back, was that 70% of Americans supported the return of the child to his father, to his family, and that was what the grandmothers were struggling for.
Thus, if we take these three aspects into consideration, I think the results of the battle become very clear.
Carmen R. Báez.- Thank you very much.
Alarcón, you also wanted to speak.
Ricardo Alarcón.- Yes. I think the comrades here have explained very well what the grandmothers achieved in so little time, the impact of their visit in terms of stopping the threat of imposing U.S. citizenship on Elián.
We should always remember that they were not granting him citizenship, that they were not giving it as a favor. What they really intended with that maneuver was to deprive him of his own nationality, the Cuban one. Mariela explained this very well to the U.S. press. At the same time, such a thing would make the solution of the issue more complicated, because then it would be out of the jurisdiction of the Immigration Service.
But they could not do what they intended to. They had even threatened to begin the Congress sessions with this issue. The threat is still there, of course. There is still the danger that those who have thought up such an absurdity may be waiting for another moment to carry it out.
I think that with regard to public opinion, the sympathy of the senators, the congresspersons, the nurse in the Congress, the ushers, the guards, was evident. I have heard that in those corridors, everyone expressed their support for these women and the cause they represented.
I think there are a series of signs in terms of the actions of the people who have kidnapped Elián that can only be explained as a result of frustration and desperation. One day they build a wall and the following day they knock it down. One day they brag and call the press to make statements and the next day strange things like this take place. (He shows a newspaper.) This is todays Herald. Mr. Armando Gutiérrez states very clearly who the ones now exercising pressure are. He simply told the journalists that the so-called relatives were not going to offer interviews. They asked him for his opinion and he said, "I have no comments to make and they are not going to talk either." They asked him for an interview and he said, "No, they are not going to give any interviews."
The Miami propaganda that, unfortunately, is at times echoed by the other media, which really should not be so deeply conditioned by the mob mentality, constantly questions the freedom of expression of the grandmothers or of Eliáns true relatives. But they find it natural that this gentleman comes and says, "No, they are not going to say anything. I will not let them speak." Who is this man? The public relations director, a well-known Miami influence peddler, a criminal on someones payroll, of course, and that someone is not a Hialeah mechanic or factory worker. He is being paid by the Foundation, by the mob, which tells the so-called Miami relatives, "You do not talk or you do talk; you better not talk. We have someone working for us who will talk for you."
But he is a little nervous, because suddenly he says: "No, there will be no interviews. They will say nothing." And so on. It seems they are knocking down the wall they had built. The nun was quickly removed from her mansion and taken to Washington in the midst of a snowstorm to try have her influence Ms. Reno and Ms. Meissner. I completely agree with you that being a nun is something very different from what she is. She is a sacrilegious and false person, and has no right to adopt the name of the function and mission that many other women so honestly and solemnly fulfill. Ms. Reno and Ms. Meissner heard her out and then said, "We still think the way we did." She has been unable to convince anyone that she has supernatural gifts this is something that has not been said about her.
She thinks she has a gift, and you, Odén, can speak about theological issues with more knowledge than I can. I believe no human being has the power of giving life to a person or of taking it away, of transferring motherhood, of making a mother out of someone or depriving someone of being a mother. And yet this lady, who knows nothing about motherhood and cannot know or understand anything about it, seems to have come up with the idea that this is possible. She writes in her article that Marisleysis is Eliáns new mother because she wants it to be so. Who does she think she is? A goddess? Does she think she is God, Our Lord, who can take paternity or maternity away from a human being and bestow it on another?
I believe that is an act of desperation too, because they are making a laughing stock out of the poor university president and I say poor because of the vow of poverty she made to God.
Pablo O. Marichal.- The Catholic doctrine on the family is very clear on that issue: children must be with their parents.
Ricardo Alarcón.- But this lady does not seem very kosher to me.
Besides, some so-called survivors appeared, the two people who survived the boatwreck; little Elián on the one hand, and then two people who, after two whole months of absolute silence, because nobody saw these people, nobody knew where they were, they never appeared in the press... Those journalists who harass everybody, who have 50 cameras in front of the house in Hialeah, or who are constantly asking to interview the relatives here, and who held so many interviews with you, or with the rest of the family over here, none of them ever found the survivors. Two months! Those two really seemed to be nuns completely cloistered. They could be found nowhere, and all of a sudden, abruptly, they appear in Congress speaking, repeating the slogans the mafia has told them to say. Of course, this has no effect.
Oh, yes! Thats one of them (they show a video), just look how well-behaved she seems. After two months of make-up and care in some hideaway, there she is, next to one of the spokespeople for the kidnappers, the one providing English translation, who is the same one who announced the other day, with no further explanation, that Elián was receiving psychological treatment, that there were some psychologists or some psychiatrists... Then the other one said that it was a psychiatrist who had gone to Ms. OLaughlins mansion. Not a single journalist... This is in the National Press Club, an institution considered to have certain prestige, where the kidnappers spokeswoman and the survivor reappeared after two months of total silence.
Why dont they ask the spokeswoman about the stories that have been published in Miami, fortunately reproduced finally in Los Angeles, about two twin brothers quite well known by the Miami police and by the Miami courts? She knows who they are, she could answer for them. And it has not occurred to any journalist, having her there in front of them, in the National Press Club in Washington, to ask about that, and that is important. It is important because, according to U.S. law and immigration procedures, you have to guarantee certain ethical rules, certain safety rules, with a minor left in somebodys care. In other words, a person with a criminal record cannot be near the child, let alone someone who, in a matter of days, will be facing trial; he has faced a few, but the next one, for assault with a deadly weapon, is in the first week of February.
Why dont they ask that young lady, so that she can explain it with her exquisite English? No, they take her there, publicize her, they give her a lot of opportunities to present these two survivors of two shipwrecks: the November boatwreck and the other one, their total seclusion, while they were being prepared.
We also have to bear in mind that, although they are desperate, although there are signs that they are feeling the weakness intrinsic to defending a cause that is totally unjust, totally criminal, totally unacceptable, and that public opinion is going to increasingly turn against them, they are operating in a mafia environment and under mafia conditions.
Last Saturday there were two demonstrations in Miami. Here is The New York Times article describing both of them, very interesting (he shows it). What does The New York Times underscore? "Dueling Marches on Cuban Boy get Different Responses". Those who marched demanding that Elián be returned to his father were behind a barricade, they were maintained there by 50 policemen, to keep them away from Biscayne Boulevard, a more crowded avenue, to keep them out of sight so that the demonstration would not be so visible. As for the other one, The New York Times explains that it involved the same number of people, that there was no difference in number between one and the other. It reads:
"Though the sizes of the demonstrations were similar, little else was.
"The marchers seeking the boy's repatriation were held behind barricades by about 50 police officers, to keep them off Biscayne Boulevard and largely out of sight beside a shopping center.
"Downtown, a half-dozen police cars blocked traffic to permit the marchers seeking to keep Elián in Florida to proceed unimpeded and relied on the women themselves to control their troops. No crowd control officers were in sight." And this in a city where the population has complained so much when these gentlemen threaten to interrupt traffic, when they annoy the people with all of this, etc. No, it is the police who do the dirty job of interrupting traffic.
Therefore, there is a growing struggle, and this is very important, because in Miami the supporters of returning Elián to his father mobilized as many people as the mob last Saturday, according to The New York Times, although one group had to face police hostility while the other was helped by them: "No, gentlemen, you dont have to interrupt traffic, Ill put my patrol car here and block the street for you." That is what they did, according to The New York Times.
I dont want to leave this out, because it recently came out in Miami, too, during the days they were discussing the famous cellular phone, the phone they snatched away from the boy, despite the fact that it had been agreed upon, that it was clear that he was going to have it, that it was public, that it was well known... I have a very interesting piece of news here.
There was a strike, a demonstration of protest by black Florida policemen, black law-enforcement officers, who are prison guards in Florida. These are blacks who were protesting against what they called a circus, because they have a circus inside the jails too over there. There is a group of people of Cuban origin, those belonging to the Cuban mob, who were arrested due to the disturbances they created after the INS decision. Well, these gentlemen are in jail and the white Cuban counterrevolutionaries that are in jail have cellular phones, given to them by a guy who is a city commissioner, a certain Reboredo who has participated in other acts of provocation against Cuba; he lost a finger in a provocation against Cuba. And this gentleman, who is a commissioner, has handed out cellular phones among the prisoners, the people of Cuban origin who were arrested, and the blacks, who are not Cuban, but American blacks, complained that these white guys even have cellular phones. And the black policemen are complaining, because they say that that is a violation of prison rules, of prison standards, etc., etc.
Im citing these two examples to show how these people are favored by the local authorities there, how what they have there is true chaos, when an attorney general and a federal commissioner decide something and the bureaucrats down there in Miami -- since many of them are on the Foundations payroll, since they are corrupted in that corrupt Miami environment -- give these people possibilities that explain why we are still confronting the first case of kidnapping in history that has taken place in public, and the first case of child abuse that has taken place in public. There have been many such cases in history, but the kidnappers were not able to stand before a TV camera, nobody interviewed them, they could not display their shameless, criminal conduct openly; but that is what they are doing now.
Carmen Rosa, I want to say something to conclude: It is true that these womens work has been excellent, has been admirable, that they deserve all our recognition and we really want to tell them how proudly we have watched from a distance the very dignified, very noble, very efficient struggle they have carried out, under very complicated, very difficult conditions.
However, as they themselves have said they clearly stated it yesterday, and they have repeated it today -- the battle has not ended. The battle has to continue and with greater intensity each day, because every day that goes by increases the suffering of this child we must rescue. The most important thing is that every day that goes by with this shameless situation of public kidnapping, this scandal of a mob that can act as it pleases in Miami, does terrible damage to the psyche of a six-year-old, who is being subjected to pressures, mistreatment, abuse, which are forms of torture, and this has got to stop, and we must all fight, we must continue to intensify our struggle in every sphere so that this is put to an end to as soon as possible.
We must feel satisfied and proud of their heroism and the correct way they have done their job and will continue to do it. But nobody should think that we have any alternative but to continue fighting, because every day that goes by increases this familys suffering, and increases the shamelessness and illegality in the United States; but, above all, it increases the damage done to a little six-year-old, and that is a crime. This could only be conceived by people with demonic minds, and will only end when we force those who have to make decisions to make them, and we will force them to do so with our struggle, with our insistence, with our unity, as we have been doing up until now.
That is what I finally want to say.
Carmen R. Baéz.- Dear viewers, yesterday and today we have tried to fulfill two objectives: the first objective, focused on by the previous round table, was to be able to share Marielas and Raquels experiences in their meeting with Elián.
I think all the information they were able to give us has been very enlightening, the testimony they gave us yesterday about all the efforts they had to make to make good use of the approximately one and a half hours, with many interruptions, that they were able to share with little Elián.
A second objective was that of todays round table: to be able to assess, also with the presence of Raquel, Mariela, Marichal, of Eliáns family, this battle that has been waged in the United States in a week and two days, where undoubtedly the leading role was played by the two grandmothers of this little boy, for whom we have been struggling for many weeks now and will continue to do so.
The two of you and I dont think I will be able to convey with my words all of what our people would like to tell you -- I know, you have received many telephone calls, and many comrades have approached you, but I think that you must also know that you have helped us to learn a lot. With the help of the children also, we have learned from David and Goliath, and from something that has taught us a great deal: we have learned to read Martí. We have also learned what it means to be a Mariana (a Cuban patriot, famous for her stoicism at the death of her sons in battle). I think that to young mothers and to those of us who are going to be mothers, who are going to be grandmothers, you have also taught a lot: what it means to be a mother and what it means to be a grandmother; therefore, we have learned from you what it means to be a Mariana. Things that we were taught in school you have taught us in real life, and I know many young women would also want to convey these feelings.
During the welcoming ceremony that the pioneers held in the Conference Center, Juanito said that he was convinced that what you had done would be done by any Cuban mother or grandmother, because that is the way we are and that is the way we have been formed.
But I think that we have also learned here and you have helped us to learn, and the comrades that have been with us here today have also helped us to know about angels and demons. I dont have to explain why we have learned about demons; but we have also learned about angels, because there is also the example of a religious person such as Reverend Campbell, who accompanied them in the struggle, in the struggle for justice, in the struggle for a child, in the struggle for the family. And that is why I say that we have all learned about angels and demons: children, adolescents, adults, grandparents.
There is something that has been with us these days, and it is your emotions. We were talking today, and I was telling you that we havent found a single person who has told us that they havent cried. These days, your tears have been accompanied by the tears of all of the people. I want you to know that this weeping is not due to melodrama. It is because they share your pain, because injustice was made to tremble in the United States by your tears and the tears of all the people, and those tears made injustice tremble, particularly the injustice in the very heart of the monster which is Miami. This is also a lesson for the young people, for the new generations and for a whole nation which is going to continue struggling along with you, as comrade Alarcón has said.
You should know that that people were mobilized in a very short time, as soon as we learned that you were coming, and the television and radio networks followed you, in minute detail, to mobilize the people and to greet you, to greet you in the way that two people who have waged such a battle deserve to be greeted. That is the way of heroes and the way they are formed, and that is why we say that you are our heroines also.
You should know that we didnt want to hold a press conference that same day because we knew you were returning from a very exhausting trip.
The children also wanted to participate, to be with you, to convey their joy to you, because that is what we are always going to convey to Elián. And Elián himself, if another child were in the same situation, would be conveying this joy to that other childs grandmother.
That is why the José Martí Pioneers Organization headed the preparation of a ceremony that we wanted to be brief, and you can be sure that in that ceremony all of the people were concerned over how emotional you seemed, the people worried that we might have been doing you more harm than good, but everybody knew that it was part of what we all wanted to express to you, and that we wanted to feel you near us.
I think that, taking that concern into consideration, we feel even more grateful. We have to feel very grateful for what you have taught us these days. And at the same time, allow me to ask you to excuse us if due to all our desires to share your experiences, we have disturbed you in any way. And you should know that this people is going to continue supporting you.
We thank you very much.