Round table discussion with the participation of qualified psychologists and psychiatrists addressing the harm already inflicted on the personality of Elián González, the young Cuban boy being held kidnapped in Miami, broadcast by Televisión Cubana and Radio Rebelde and Radio Habana Cuba, February 3, 2000, "Year of the 40th Anniversary of Patria o Muerte"
(Translation of the Council of State Transcript)
Yamila de Armas (Family doctor).- Good evening. Once again, as on two previous occasions, we have here with us a group of prestigious professionals from the fields of psychology and psychiatry, who are here to expand upon and add to the opinions that all of our people have been forming with regard to the case of Elián González. We met for the first time on December 16, with the task of characterizing a six-year-old child, characterizing his school and family life, and predicting what could happen to him if a series of risk factors with the potential for harming him were maintained.
Then, one month later, we met once again to see how the situation was evolving and to expand upon the opinions reached, using the most telling evidence provided by cable dispatches, excerpts from foreign television footage, and so on.
This time, we have gathered together to address all of the people of Cuba, this big family of Eliáns, while we still have fresh in our memories the testimony of his grandmothers. In this case, we will be making observations and judgments based on the evidence provided by that testimony, in order to more fully inform Cuban television viewers, and the Cuban public in general, of the current situation.
Unfortunately, many of the assertions made at the very beginning have now become tangible in signs and evidence of harm that has already been done. Unfortunately, I repeat, for all of us, and most of all, for the child. This will be our task today.
There are a number of major figures with us here today both seated at this table and elsewhere in the room. Some of them will already be familiar to our viewers, since they have been here to address this theme on previous occasions.
Here with me are Dr. María de la Concepción Galiano Ramírez, a second-grade specialist in child psychiatry and professor at the Havana Medical University; Dr. Aurora García Moré, head of the Basic Training Department of the Faculty of Psychology of the University of Havana; Dr. Patricia Arés Murzio, head of the Family Research and Studies Department of the Faculty of Psychology of the University of Havana; Professor Cristóbal Martínez Gómez, head of the Child Psychology Group and head professor at the Havana Medical University; Elsa Núñez, M.A., a researcher from the Central Institute of Pedagogical Sciences; and Yohanca Valdés Jiménez, psychologist and researcher from the Center for Psychological and Sociological Research of the Department of Family Studies. Here in the room with us also are Minister of Public Health Dr. Carlos Dotres Martínez; Minister of Higher Education Fernando Vecino Alegret; and a group of other important personalities who have been accompanying us in our explorations of this theme.
Having made these introductions, and inviting our viewers and all of us here to discuss and share our viewpoints, to help us understand the situation surrounding this child today, I think it is now time to concretely address the subject at hand. I would like to ask Dr. María de la Concepción - whom we all now know affectionately as Conchita - to talk to us about the signs and factors that have become evident, especially as a result of the latest information provided through the testimony of the grandmothers, that will help us to evaluate the situation surrounding young Elián González today.
María de la C. Galiano.- Well, as we can all remember, during the last round table we addressed a series of signs or symptoms that we discussed based on the evidence provided by videos gathered from television broadcasts. We studied those videos here as a working group, and this allowed us to infer certain signs. These signs were somewhat limited, of course, by what was available to us through the media.
Today the situation facing us is very different from the last round table. Today we have access to a great many more elements in order to identify symptoms or signs that do, in fact, provide evidence of the psychological harm that has already taken place in this child, and the most irrefutable proof we have is the testimony of the grandmothers and the photographs that they have made available to us.
We are going to limit ourselves to the signs we can observe in these materials, undertaking an analysis of the childs behavior and affectivity, which are of great importance to us, because children this age generally do not say what they feel, they do not interpret things. As a result, when it comes to a psychiatric examination, we are obliged to look at everything related to affectivity, which is basically the demonstration of emotions, and to behavior.
I would like to base some of what I am saying on the videos we have available here. Start the video, please. (A video is shown.)
Journalist.- Upon returning to Washington, the two women once again asked Congress to turn their grandson over to them.
They added that their visit last night was interrupted and ended too quickly.
What was the first thing he said when you saw him?
Raquel Rodríguez.- The first thing we did was to hug him, and cry. We said he was handsome, that he had grown, and that we wanted him to come back and hug us. But it seemed to us that he is not the same as before.
Mariela Quintana.- I picked him up, hugged him and kissed him.
Journalist.- How did you feel?
Mariela Quintana.- Very sad, just imagine.
Journalist.- What was the saddest part?
Mariela Quintana.- Just imagine, I didnt want to be with him for just an hour, for such a short time. We wanted to have him back with us forever.
María de la C. Galiano.- I do not think there is a more eloquent statement than what the grandmothers said when they declared: "They have changed my child."
Obviously, what we see here is a child with an infinite number of symptoms that we will gradually be describing. We should show a few of the photographs we have chosen to demonstrate this.
Here we have a child (she shows a photograph) who, when he enters the room, does not seek contact with his grandmothers; it is the grandmothers who go to him. He does not seek out his grandmothers arms, as he has done for many years, as he always did before; it is the grandmothers who pick him up, it is the grandmothers who give him affection.
Take a look at this childs face as well. It is not a very expressive face, he seems rather dismayed, rather perplexed, doesnt he? It is as if he were in a state of confusion. Just look at how eloquent this image is. (She shows a photograph.)
Here we can see a bit more looseness in his behavior (she shows a photograph); of course, this is after the grandmothers have used a whole series of affective strategies to lead him into contact with them.
Look here. (She shows a photograph.) This is very eloquent, this child with this look of astonishment, of confusion - as I said before - as if he were looking at something unknown, when it is in fact the people with whom he lived and grew up.
Look, this is a very interesting detail, because it is one of the childs few demonstrations of affection towards his grandmothers, when he grasped his grandmothers thumb. (She points to the detail.)
What we are going to see in general is a child who is detached, indifferent, who appears indifferent.
It does not seem to us that he is indifferent on the inside, but the behavior he demonstrates, the appearance he gives, is one of indifference: a child who does not speak, and when he does, it is in a particularly low voice, confidential, with a certain sense of complicity, as if what he is saying to his grandmothers cannot be heard by the people that we already know are behind the door. He barely moves, and his posture is rather rigid, which is very rare in children, and in him particularly, because we have a series of images from the first round table that serve as background. He is not very expressive or affectionate, and seems very cold, or rather, he demonstrates a great deal of emotional coolness.
He demonstrates an extreme degree of obedience and docility for a child of this age and with his characteristics. This also denotes insecurity, fear; he is scared. But this is also a bit contradictory to what one of the grandmothers told us, which was that he demonstrated a great deal of restlessness and anxiety. He actually seemed desperate - to use her words - while playing with an attractive electronic game that was on the table in the room; despite his rather inexpressive appearance, he anxiously grabbed this toy and handled it incessantly and restlessly.
It should be noted, too, that it was only when saying good-bye that the child demonstrated a bit of the affectionate nature that was so typical of him when he lived with his blood relatives and caretakers.
There are other things that we could point out as symptoms, which are from other contexts besides the testimony of the grandmothers and the testimony provided by the photographs. For example, I read a foreign article where it said that the child is very restless, very restless - this is also something we had pointed out at the last round table. The child is refusing to go to school; this too forms part of the range of symptoms he is displaying. In addition, he told his grandmothers, "I am doing lots and lots of homework." And I ask myself, does this mean he feels overburdened by this homework? In other words, this could also lead to a series of interpretations from the symptomatic point of view with regard to school.
His uncle Delfín says he has nightmares. We had also talked about the sleep disturbances that he would probably display, because disturbances in habits are among the first signs of internal disorders in children. He is also irritable. Remember that he now yells at journalists to leave him alone; there is an image that we have all seen on the news here, where he turns away from the cameras and yells in very dysphoric terms, "Leave me alone, already!" He has also shown aggressiveness, and actually hit his great-uncle when he tried to take away a toy that someone had given to him.
I think that this proof is more than sufficient to state that the child really has suffered psychological harm. This is no longer a presumptive diagnosis, but rather a positive diagnosis based on the testimony available to us.
We wanted to add something here, and it has to do with an article written by Sister OLaughlin. She wrote an article and ended it with what I am going to read, and I quote:
The final challenge of finding the best way for Elián to heal and be nurtured should lie with a court that has experience in seeking the bests interests of children.
I believe this is extremely eloquent, because in saying this, she agrees that he is sick. There is no doubt about it, he is sick. But, in addition, something that has been said repeatedly is that this sick person is not receiving adequate treatment, and this is something we also addressed from an ethical point of view at the last round table.
As we can see, this is not only a matter of the childs psychological responses, which we have already discussed extensively; we also need to analyze a number of environmental variables that should be dealt with, and I think I should let someone else address this issue.
Yamila de Armas.- I think Conchita has given an excellent description of the symptoms that Elián is currently displaying, and this has served as ideal preparation. I believe that the quote from Sister OLaughlin makes it perfectly evident that even they now recognize the harm that has been done. And these signs, these supposedly casual things do not only come from the child. That is why I would like to ask Yohanca Valdés to discuss a series of other signs that we have gathered from the testimony of the grandmothers with regard to the surroundings, the setting in which the farce of a visit with the grandmothers was staged.
Yohanca Valdés.- We certainly feel that there was an intentional purpose behind the decoration of the setting in which the grandmothers meeting with the child took place. We have always thought that there was advice given by specialists with regard to the placement of the material objects present, and their spatial distribution, and this leads us to believe that there were very concrete objectives behind all of this, such as that of preventing the proper development of the visit, and therefore, the establishment of adequate and genuine emotional contact between the grandmothers and the child.
We would like to discuss the environmental conditions that help us to explain the childs behavior, which Conchita spoke about; that is, the fact that he was fearful, detached, and that there was no direct emotional contact with his grandmothers during the first moments.
I think it would be good to back this up with the photographs of the meeting, which show the spatial distribution of the house. (She shows photographs.)
In the first place, if we take into account the testimony of the grandmothers, we can see that it is a large room, with big windows - that is what the grandmothers said - with two armchairs that are physically separated, that is to say, which maintain a physical distance, which could reflect an attempt to create a psychological distance. In other words we have to consider the extent to which they intervened to create a psychological distance, thus preventing physical contact with the grandmothers, and therefore emotional contact as well.
There was also a chair in the room (it is shown on the screen), where the box was placed with the things that the grandmothers brought to share with Elián.
The room was also decorated in such a way as to distract the childs visual attention, with colorful, attention-grabbing articles, which would be constantly drawing his attention and thus interfering with his concentration during the visit.
We must also take into account the fact that, although it cannot be seen in the photograph, there is a mattress on the floor with plush toys, of very high quality, which would also attract the boys attention. In the scientific literature, various authors have observed that plush toys promote affective contact with the child, or rather, that they are toys which facilitate a childs contact with them.
We should also add that the room offered no privacy, in other words, there was no door between the room and the space outside.
We additionally have to point out the events that took place and further impinged on the privacy of the visit. To begin with, the child was brought to the room by his cousin Marisleysis, and this was contrary to the terms of the initial agreement; it violated the agreements reached with the grandmothers regarding the conditions under which the visit would take place.
In the second place - and this is an event that was very significant, and which destroyed the atmosphere which the grandmothers were trying to create - there was the seizing of the cellular phones with which, as agreed, the family in Cuba were going to communicate with the child for the first time in 67 days without the interference of the kidnappers or the non-legal relatives.
Then there was a third interruption, and forgive me if I am repeating things, but I want the viewers to realize just how much these interruptions obstructed the grandmothers attempts to establish an affective exchange and direct emotional contact with the child. The third interruption was made to relay a message to the maternal grandmother from one of her relatives. There was yet another interruption to bring the child a snack, junk food, treats, all of it very colorful and attention-grabbing, and clearly, another distracting element that would affect the childs concentration. Then there is one more interruption to repeat the message to the maternal grandmother from her relatives; this is now the fifth interruption. They were interrupted again to offer them coffee, and all of these are things that the grandmothers did not ask for. In other words, they were all planned and organized in advance.
Later, a nun came in and offered the grandmothers the chance to have photographs taken; the grandmothers agreed. But the final photos led them to a table with highly sophisticated electronic games, which would obviously attract the childs attention with their bright colors and entertainment potential. (The photograph is shown.)
Given this climate, for which the grandmothers were not prepared, all of these external stimuli would not only affect the childs psychological stability, but also the grandmothers, because they would be placed in a state of uncertainty, asking themselves, what is going to happen? What happened in the end was that the nun came in to tell them that their time was up, even though the length of the visit initially agreed upon was a minimum of two hours.
All of these factors would interfere with the emotional link between the child and his grandmothers, and that is why we are asserting that this was a case of intentional manipulation that was very well planned, and very well organized, in order to distract the childs attention and obstruct the emotional connection with his grandmothers, an emotional connection that was very much desired and thought of by the grandmothers and the family in Cuba.
This is what I wanted to say with regard to this theme.
Yamila de Armas.- I think that what Conchita and Yohanca have told us has provided us with an answer to a question that we have all asked ourselves at one point or another: to what extent was it purely innocent, or casual, or a matter of chance, that all of these coincidences came together in one place? And a place that, furthermore, was previously changed, and carefully sought out. After all of the irregularities beforehand, which we are also well aware of, they could have avoided some of these infringements on the grandmothers contact with the child, which leads us to assert that this was neither innocent, nor casual, nor a matter of chance.
At this point, then, we have somewhat wrapped up the chapter on the incidence of these signs. I think this is an ideal time, since we have already talked about harm, to deal precisely with the harm that has already taken place, and I think the best person to address this theme is Dr. Patricia, who has already addressed it on the other two occasions. Now, based on the testimony of the grandmothers, she can provide us with new pieces of evidence to back the claims we have been making.
Patricia Arés.- Well, as Conchita was saying, we now have a large body of evidence, based on the latest images and the grandmothers testimony, which has fulfilled the prognosis we had made at the other round table discussions.
At this time it is clear that the child has suffered harm, and unfortunately, he has gotten worse between the first point in time that we analyzed, the post-traumatic stage, and the current circumstances, after two months and several days of this situation.
I think it is necessary to make a distinction between what we call primary harm, which comprises all of the initial reactions provoked by the traumatic event experienced by the child, something that we have already discussed, and this primary harm produced an immediate reaction in the child, in which, obviously, the images demonstrated (video footage is shown) a reaction of emotional shock, a reaction of dulled and flattened affect which, later on, was progressively altered in its outward expression.
What we are saying is that this primary harm, associated with all of the initial traumatic experiences, has been compounded by a series of additional circumstances that allow us to assert that what we are now witnessing is secondary harm.
This secondary harm has a great deal to do with the intensity and duration of the event, with the interference of a series of traumatic occurrences that have taken place, and in some way also with mishandling or the circumstances of the care provided to this child. We would say that this is practically a case of abandonment and emotional abuse, and if there has been any psychological treatment, it has clearly been ineffective in this case.
In other words, while we were initially dealing with a situational reaction, we have now reached the point in time when we can say that we are witnessing is a phase in the evolution of what we call separation anxiety syndrome.
This is very interesting in that, obviously, a wound on the body, a physical wound, is highly visible; that is to say, bodily injury is very visible, people can see it. Emotional wounds, however, are silent, and at times much more difficult to heal, and if the wounds are not healed immediately, they can obviously become infected. And in this sense we are talking about this kind of secondary harm, where the separation anxiety has evolved to a phase that is not as visible, but rather the phase that we call, and that is referred to in the literature, as the detachment phase.
In their testimony, the grandmothers referred to a whole series of indicators, or symptoms - which Conchita has addressed - of coldness, of a lack of emotional disconnection, a series of indicators that demonstrate a detachment reaction.
This detachment, which has also been called the fallen angel syndrome, or deficiency neurosis, or the abandonment syndrome, has a fundamental characteristic, which is that the child gives an outward appearance of deceptive happiness, an image of extreme docility, an image of obedience, an image of adaptation; nevertheless, the characteristics of this phase are not obviously visible.
The detachment triad fundamentally comprises three symptoms. In the first place, there is a certain emotional disconnection, or affective coolness, which is what we are seeing to some extent (video footage is shown), what we have witnessed, and what the grandmothers witnessed.
There is another symptom, which is the expression of aggressiveness, the expression of manifest hostility in certain circumstances, and we have already seen a number of images that provide evidence of expressions of hostility.
Obviously, this is a child who has supposedly had everything that other children have from a material point of view. Nevertheless, he has lacked other things that many children have, such as affection, a mother, a father, and this can generate in the child, to the extent that he becomes aware of it, a reaction of hostility, a reaction of aggressiveness to his surroundings.
The third symptom is severe distortion of self-esteem, of self-image, doubts about himself, and who he is. Elián has already expressed some evidence of this, when he has asked, "Am I really so important, am I such a valuable person?", as a result of being constantly pursued by the media.
What has this family done to deal with this harm? What has been done by the people who have linked themselves to this situation, who have sensed, obviously, some of these indicators? Well, this group of people, or this coexistence unit - we have been trying to avoid the term family, although it has been misused a great deal by the press - have continued to heap traumatic events on this child.
I want to stress three things, which can be viewed as extremely traumatic events, and are even pointed out as things that occur in kidnappings.
In the first place, there is the attempt to erase the childs history, his links, his identity. This is a genuinely traumatic experience. There has been an attempt, in some way, to replace his life, to replace his history, to create a prosthetic mother, as has been done in the images presented of his cousin. This is one of the most dramatic events.
At the same time, this child is being constantly overloaded with stimuli, information, harassment, which means that he does not have the mental condition in a situation of such heightened psychological vulnerability to grasp his true situation, his true history. The matter of mourning has been dealt with in a very sinister way, in that there has been an erasing, a silencing, and nothing has been said to him with regard to the problem of his mother. Nevertheless, in the entryway to the house he is faced with a mural depicting him with his mother, giving the idea that he has already found another mother. This is a truly cruel, truly horrific image, and at the same time, he has not been allowed to openly deal with this event.
In other words, there is evidence that no mourning has taken place, and it cannot take place, because he is not among the people who have experienced this loss.
Lastly, I want to say that one of the most traumatic events is the state of ambiguity in which the child is living, which is something truly alienating and truly maddening. This is a child living through horrific situations under the apparent guise of love. This is a child receiving loving care, in quotes, when he is actually a child who has been torn away from his memories, his life experiences. This state of ambiguity is a very confusing state for a child living through a post-traumatic situation, a situation in which he has been subjected to such a heavy load of emotional harm.
These three facts, in addition to all the other things we have denounced, are what provide us with the evidence that we are facing a situation that is practically a psychological kidnapping, an annulment, a robbery. The term brainwashing has been used, in quotes, and there is clearly evidence of secondary harm in this child.
I would like to finish by saying that these people around the child have demonstrated their incompetence and their irresponsibility when it comes to helping this child recover, and trying to limit or protect him from this harm. And if there are any professionals dealing with this situation, it has also been demonstrated that he has not received adequate treatment in order to recover. The harm we are facing here is not irreversible, because we must continue to think that as the situation improves, when the child is returned to us, this harm could be reversed; but we are facing harm that has already been sensed and felt by the grandmothers, and witnessed in almost all of the most recent images.
Yamila de Armas.- Actually, Patricia has provided us with a definition that has established a guideline in the course of our reflections here today, because she has precisely defined the harm that we have before us right now. At the same time, in a way, she has established a bridge to something that we think is of great interest to the world, based on the images we have seen, and that is the theme of that group of people who have been called many different things, but whom we have carefully avoided referring to as family, as Patricia noted, or at least as Eliáns family.
With regard to that coexistence unit, or those guardians, whatever you want to call them, there are a series of new elements to be considered with regard to these people, in addition to the incompetence that Patricia described so well, and other things besides incompetence, such as irresponsibility. There is also the matter of the supposed professionals involved, and I believe we will expand on this later. But speaking for the moment about that group of people, a new series of elements have emerged -- I think it is important to talk about them -- as they have entered a new stage in their actions aimed at keeping the child.
I would like to call on Laritza Turtos Carbonell, who has a Masters degree in psychology and is a researcher at the Center for Sociopolitical Studies, to address these elements and describe for us these new aspects, as well as others we have already discussed, of course, regarding these individuals.
Laritza Turtos (Masters degree in psychology, researcher at the Center for Sociopolitical Studies).- I think it is important to consider everything that Dr. Patricia said about this coexistence unit, these guardians, this group of people who cannot be called a family, precisely because they do not meet a whole series of requirements that were addressed in the first round table of psychologists and psychiatrists, requirements that are needed in order for a family, or for parents, to ensure the harmonious, adequate raising of a child. Among these, we could mention the emotional ties needed for this process, and knowledge of the characteristics of the development of a child this age. And that is not enough, because the personal characteristics, the history of these "parents", can also lead to the establishment of inadequate guidelines for child raising.
We should, therefore, return to the idea of not calling this group of people family. Why can we not call them family? Because, obviously, they cannot provide the affection that this child needs, there is no one person who can meet all the basic needs of a child of this age: the need to be accepted, supported and made to feel secure. And nor can they fulfill the necessary role of socializing and educating, that a supposedly functional family should fulfill, since they reject values which are important in our society , such as simplicity, instead showering him with material gifts, things that have no emotional value; they are trying to strip him of his faithfulness to the flag, to his principles, his love for his family, unity, and replace these with the values that the great-uncle Delfín and Eliáns cousins want to teach him, people who we know have serious criminal records in that society.
Therefore, having taken into account these family characteristics, we want to emphasize new aspects that have come to light publicly, which reveal the true character and interests of this group of people. Among these we could mention the way that they are projecting the image of the cousin, Marisleysis, as a true replacement of the mother figure. In this case they are not only trying to discredit the public image of the family in Cuba, but also to discredit the family, in emotional terms, for the child. That is what the doctor, Patricia, was saying , the aim is to distance him from his experiences, from his emotions, and empty him of his memories. Here we have the image of the strong link that they are trying to develop between Elián and his cousin (it is shown on the screen).
We could also mention a whole series of rituals that they are imposing on the child. We have had the chance to see an article which describes a normal day for Elián, in this supposedly free city. This article talks a lot about Eliáns life, from the time he gets up at 7:00 in the morning, that is to say that activities have been established for the whole day, which is a way of trying to ensure extreme behavioral activity, which distances him from emotional development and ensures an emotional inertia and future submission.
We could also refer to the excessive control that they are trying to maintain over Elián, and as an example of this, let us talk about a statement made by Delfín González, in the same article, regarding phone conversations that Elián has had with his father -- I am talking about the article that was published in the Daily News on January 30 -- which explains that all conversations with his father are recorded -- according to Delfín -- in order to show, some day in the future, that the child wanted to stay in Miami; but this excessive control conflicts with the fact that, at one point, for propaganda purposes, to serve the interests of this family, Lázaro and the cousin Marisleysis, who is the one who is looking after him, went to Washington for an interview with some people from Congress, and Elián stayed behind -- here we see him in these images -- in the house with Delfín and the cousins. And we have already mentioned the familys criminal background.
We could also mention the request that the family made of certain specialists, which also shows us the character, the principles, and the interests of this family; given that the conditions are not in place to give the kind of psychological treatment, which Dr. Patricia talked about, this leads us to ask ourselves what they had in mind when they made the request. And the answer that we come up with is that they were desperately trying to maintain a position of authority, a position of power, which was falling apart, because this familys resources are running out, are being wiped out.
Regarding this, I would like to read a letter which we received from a mother, with her evaluation of the great-uncle, Lázaro. This shows that the way in which this coexistence unit is running out of the resources needed to deal with this situation, and to control Elián, is obvious, not only to specialists and psychologists, but also to the public in general.
The mother says:
I follow the news every day, and today, Wednesday, February 3, on the news at 12:30, they showed a picture of the child playing sword fights with the uncle. The man, Lázaro, was quiet. I noticed that he looked miserable, and I asked myself several things. Does he want to be playing with the child, in the way that loving people always do? What message is this man giving, through this game, and in his daily life, to this child who needs so much tenderness and joy, but from within?
It is obvious when a superhuman effort is being made, and in this way, when the feeling does not come from within, the attempt to be affectionate is a failure, because the message does not reach the one who is supposed to receive it.
That is to say, we realize that the coexistence unit is using other ways, is attacking, is revealing itself to be different, and the most glaring fact that we have is their refusal to meet with the grandmothers, the previous search of the room, which displays an agression, not only regarding the emotional and psychological stability of the grandmothers and the child, but also towards the family, not only Eliáns family, but also towards the family as an entity, as an institution that could represent a negative system of reference for the childs future development.
Yamila de Armas I believe that it is important, that we make the most of this forum, to define both the harm and the consequences of that harm being caused by the people surrounding this child. I would like to ask professor Aurora to refer to another group of aspects that can elaborate and expand upon this harm, which Patricia already started talking about.
Aurora Garcia Thank you, Yamila.
Let us return to the matter of the childs psychological problems. We have talked about the current situation, we have talked about the family, and we would like to stress the basic psychological processes that are going on at the moment, and which are going to be the subject for analysis tonight.
Regarding the basic psychological processes, we would like to ask the television viewers to focus on three basic aspects: reason, or in more psychological terms, the cognitive processes, or rather, the learning processes and since we are talking about a child, this is very important, because he is just six years old, and is of school age; the emotional processes, which have already been briefly mentioned; and finally, behavior. That is to say, we are going to work principally around these three processes.
At six years old, learning is the most important thing, it is the starting point in school, it is the step from concrete thought to abstract thought, as we have said in previous round tables, and apparently, emotional processes are on a second level; but that is what happens in a normal environment, that is to say, in the case of a child who is not subjected to the problems and stresses that this child is being subjected to. In this case, what we assume was a situation that was more or less in order, whereby he could move on to the second level, because learning is prioritized and considered to be of utmost importance, it now turns out that where this child is really lacking is in the emotional sphere, since on many occasions -- this week is school holidays in Cuba, and of course, the children have been constantly watching images of Elián, and we have been working around this issue -- we have witnessed behavior by Elián that sometimes cannot be understood.
Elián has changed a great deal. Elián switches from happiness to sadness, to aggression, something which in psychological terms is known as dysphoria, and here we have him attacking a child -- we do not know who he is -- (video is shown) who is in the yard. Here he is with the bat, it seems he is playing with the dogs, he is running. It is apparently healthy play; but it is disorganized play, not a game where he is playing with children of his own age. It is basically a game with objects and animals, and therefore, is not linked to the basic elements of the fundamental emotional processes, on a level which is appropriate for his age.
Here we have Elián again, bat in hand (an image is shown), incidentally, he changes the bat from one hand into the other, something which is also interesting in terms of his behaviour, and we see how the child becomes aggressive and defends himself in a certain way, because the behavior of the dogs has been very ambivalent.
Look at this picture, which is going more slowly, how he is behaving defensively, see? With the bat out towards the dogs, dogs which are also substitutes, because here in Cuba, he has a little dog, called "La Niña", which was always with him before this unfortunate incident, and which, of course, is one of the many things that they have tried to replace.
Patricia was talking about the emptiness; but the terrible thing is not that he has been emptied, but that they are now attempting to fill this vacuum. That is to say, they have created a vacuum, attempted to depersonalize him, and besides the depersonalization, see how they start to impose automatic behavior and behavioral training as a substitute.
We do not want to talk here about psychological schools, we do not want to talk or hypothesize about what is happening; but it is very significant look at this image (it is shown) -- the child is coming from the meeting with the grandmothers, and when he arrives from the meeting with the grandmothers, he has an automatic response, which is the V sign -- i.e, a victory salute -- and this woman, the young one, the prosthetic mother, as Patricia I think very well described her -- I loved that name she gave her of maternal prosthesis -- immediately runs up to give him a kiss. In psychological terms that kiss is known as positive reinforcement.
Let us look at that image again (it is shown). The child makes the V sign, the prosthesis comes over and gives him a kiss, a depersonalized kiss, a kiss that does not come from the heart, that does not have its origins in affection, and that is trying to to fill the vacuum which they have created, and which tries to hinder and prevent the child from recovering, and thus evolving and being treated.
But that is not all. These incentives, this conditioning is not only positive conditioning, because if it were completely positive, then we would say that at least they are trying to fill the vacuum. But unfortunately, because the child is resistant, and the child has ways of trying to defend himself -- in quotation marks --with those changes, happiness, sadness, depression, which children display in the most varied ways, it turns out that he also has negative reinforcements.
The article in the Daily News has already been mentioned here. In that Daily News article, in the part where this being, this person who belongs to this coexistence unit, through illegal custody -- because it is not only custody, it is also a coexistence unit with illegal custody, because it was even declared illegal by them -- in this case, a problem arises because the child is given a toy, just like the many he has been given, because they have inundated him with toys, they have created a completely object-based relationship, they have tried to substitute love with other things.
Unfortunately well, I do not know whether to say it is unfortunate or not -- a few days ago, they showed footage of another one of those beings that surround the child, one who has not managed to be a maternal prosthesis, but who at times has made statements, where she very casually states, "The only thing the child can have in Cuba is love", as if love were something that can be substituted, as if love could be bought in a drugstore, and could be given as a pill. I believe that is very significant.
But this uncle, or this relative, who claims to be an uncle, scolds the child, because he tries to take a toy away from him, and when he tries to take the toy, the boy exercises his right over what he has been given: "Thats my toy! Its not yours to take away!" And when the boy claims his right to the toy that they have given him, and the uncle tries to take it away from him, the boy punches him. The uncle then scolds him, he asks him why he reacts in that way, and a relationship based on blackmail begins: why is it that he is aggressive with people, with authority, and he starts to form a relationship with the child based on guilt: We have given you attention, we rescued you from the sea -- he did not say all of this, but that is the underlying message -- we have given you all the care you need, how can you respond to authority in that way? What is the answer? The punishment will be that if you do not reply and do not respect authority, all those people who are out there, all those people who love you so much, will go away and leave you all alone.
What does loneliness mean for Elián Gonzalez? Loneliness could very well mean being in the sea again, being in the darkness, spending days, being left not knowing what is going to happen, being without the people who are most important to him; but what is more, they have been conditioning him, depersonalizing him and giving him a false identity.
During the first round table we talked about identity, and in a moment we are going to see some images of the new substitution that they are trying to subject Elián to.
I believe that this last example that I gave, of saying that it is over and done with...look at this (she shows a photo) here we have some important factors. Within this entire current situation, and the problem as a whole, here we see the child with the only person who has obtained any reactions (shows a photo), where he is capable of holding on more closely, or in another photo -- which we have not seen today, but that you surely had the chance to see in the past few days -- where the boy is gripping the edge of his grandmothers blouse, shyly, with his little fingers. Look at how he is here (she shows a photo), how his little hand rests, holding on to his grandmothers finger. Never has a photo like this been seen before.
That is to say, in this terrible current situation, of conditioning and behavioral training, with positive reinforcements, and negative reinforcements, Elián is even punished with the threat of losing the only thing that he has, which is the public and the show. This makes us think that there are certain people who are called specialists, but whose credibility we doubt, who are behind all of this.
In fact, we now have an image that I believe speaks for itself. It is the new image that they are offering to Elián; that is to say, they are filling the vacuum with this image that you are now about to see on the screen. It is not the only one, he is hardly recognizable: the boy wearing a pair of huge glasses, with very aggressive T-shirts, behaving in a totally different way to how he previously behaved. Here as well he is with objects, that is to say the relationship is with objects. At other times the Batman photo has been shown, the child dressed up as Batman.
There are other photos, where the child is shown with a police T-shirt, and police cap, they even put handcuffs on him, which is a monstrous thing to do to a child.
Let us pause again for a moment, I think that this image is very important (she shows a photo). See how the process is advancing, look at the paraphernalia, all the objects, and all the trash as our people say that Elián is loaded down with, and that is part of the new image that they are trying to give as a substitute for what they cannot give him.
Yamila de Armas In that very article, which the doctor referred to, and which is perhaps a first version of an inside account of a day in the life of Elián in that country, I would like to refer to something that immediately precedes what the doctor was referring to, and it says here:
"What we try to do is make life as normal for Elián as we can," Delfín González said -- normal, just think about what sort of normality we are talking about. One day, the cameras will go away, and we have to make him ready -- I emphasize, make him ready for that. What resources does this group of people have in order to face the follow-up of this affair? And these resources are certain to be exhausted, for they are superfluous and unsustainable.
But in the end, he tells the child what they doctor mentioned: I scolded him. I told him that he has to respect his elders. I said to him, "See those people out there? They will stop liking you if they learn that you do not respect your elders." And what was Eliáns response? Elián became quiet and lowered his head after hearing that. Is this not the same series of events that we have already seen in various other images?
We did not make this up, this is something that was published , and the title of this article is "Eliáns Floating Nightmare". Look how descriptive the title is, and what is more, it is the title of an article that nobody could say we wrote, nobody could suggest it came from Cuba, and yet that is the conclusion they arrive at.
We have gone through all the evolving evolving aspects this problem, and I now want to go back once again and ask Dr. Aurora, because she already spoke briefly about the theme of evolution in this case, and I would like to ask her to classify and categorize more precisely the evolution that is taking place at this moment, in this case.
Think about it, we have talked about signs, then we talked about harm and we went on to introduce the theme of how the situation is developing. For this reason, I am going to stop for a moment, because I think it is important, for the conceptualization by the people who are watching and listening, that we classify the evolution in this case; because we are then going to carry on to talk about risks, and to talk about a prognosis, and this will then enable us to talk about two very important concepts. Not all has been lost, it is reversible, but it is very urgent, and it is this that I would like to ask Dr. Aurora to talk about, to introduce the theme, deal with the issue and classify it, so that we have this concept well established in our minds, in order to then continue with the debate.
Aurora Garcia We do not like to be the bearer of bad news, do we? But if we are asked to give a diagnosis, we are left with no option but to say that we are faced with a case of evolution that is not positive.
At the first round table on December 16, we talked about time, and we
noted that we were fighting against the clock to save Elián. We are already at a point
where his evolution is not positive, he is not even in a stable state, nor is his state
merely critical; it is a critical state with the addition of certain circumstances, as
Patricia explained very clearly -- I do not need to expand on
that -- and the situation is unfavorable.
Why is it unfavorable? Quite simply, it is unfavourable because a very extreme, very serious problem is being created, of disassociation. What do I mean by disassociation? The child is living in two superimposed worlds. In one of those worlds he is continually receiving conflicting messages: these are the people who kidnapped him, and at the same time they are the people who are supporting him; these are the people who tell him, "Your father hasnt come for you, your family is there, you are here, we have you," but at the same time, they are the ones who prevent him from being reunited with his family, they are the ones who are stopping him from living a normal life, not in quotation marks, as described in the Daily News, but the normal life of a child, of playing, going out in the street, the type of life he had in Cárdenas when he could run out of the house and play in the street with his little friends, in puddles, which is what any Cuban child does, and any healthy child playing.
That disassociation is creating a very serious situation, in terms of norms and moral values, but also in terms of the changes in his affections. That is why, at times, Elián, to the surprise of some people -- people who are not used to dealing with this type of case, whether from a clinical point of view, or a psychological point of view -- Elián did not run when he saw his grandmothers; but Elián cannot run, because Elián is in a situation of severe blocking and disassociation. That is why we talk about serious harm, with unfavorable evolution, because we cannot expect things from him that he is not capable of doing, and at this time he needs to be treated in his own land, in his country, with his family.
When we talk of treatment, it is primarily the return to his natural surroundings, to his family, to his neighborhood, to his school.
Within this context there are very serious problems, such as the agression which he is displaying. This is serious because it is an evolution within the process of the different stages of separation anxiety, but also not so serious in the sense that it is, at least, an emotional reaction, an incongruent, changing, dysphoric emotional reaction, but at least he is reacting. That is to say, he is not developing autistic symptoms, psychotic symptoms, that is not the case. That is to say, it is not that it is not reversible, it is reversible; but if after a month we said that time was running out on us, we are now on day 74. Day 74 means that we are getting close to the period when Eliáns situation ceases to be reactive, and starts to become a stable disorder, based on personality development, and therefore, much more difficult to work with, and much more difficult to obtain positive results.
That is what we hope to be able to show at some point. Let us hope that we never have to gather together here and say: "Look, this is Elián." It will not be like that; instead, Elián will be in his house, in his neighbourhood, and we and the whole world will receive the news: "Thank goodness, how well he has recovered, he is happy again." But in order for this to be the case, we desperately need to be able to start working with him.
The problems of identity are also important. He is already displaying identity problems, for example when he asks if they are making a TV series about him; there is talk of a film. They talk about making a film with Elián, therefore Elián must be someone very important. He will wonder: Up until just the other day, I was a child, and now I see myself as...
This person that they have tried to get to work mysticism with dolphins, etc., with his name, with the dog, with the ring, and with everything that surrounds him, they even used a T-shirt from our country, and showed it to him. I think it was the first smile that Elián gave, but it was not for the relative, or that person, it was because he discovered his picture within the other.
It is very difficult, because they are crushing his identity, and they are substituting it with certain elements that have nothing to do with our idiosyncrasy, neither with our traditions, nor with our country, nor with the values that he has held until now.
Fortunately, he still has many strengths, which we are going to work with, and for this reason, we still believe that the situation is reversible; that is to say that even though the harm that has been inflicted is serious, the harm is serious we are already talking about structured harm, we are already talking about an unfavorable evolution we still believe there are certain factors that will help us.
I believe that it would be very useful if Elsa could help us to expand upon those related factors, and we are not talking about Eliáns basic activity, but rather about the school.
Yamila de Armas.- Indeed, this aspect of Eliáns psychopedagogic development has also been assessed in the round tables, and it would be good if Professor Elsa could tell us how this situation is today. Because we have new signs that evidence new developments in this matter and that allow us to sum up and finish this section where we have been talking about the harm done, the harm inflicted and systematized, which has all the aspects and angles we have analyzed.
I think that way we leave a clear image, with an open door to do things when he returns, because we continue to think he will return, because we also continue fighting for his return. Then Professor Elsa is precisely the person who can talk to us about that angle.
Elsa Núñez.- We dont know about Eliáns school life as much as we know about his family life, and that is interesting information, thats an indicator that is interesting to analyze: why arent the cameras going into that school? Whats with this gentleman Demetrio Pérez -- in the education round table they delved deep into that project of the Lincoln-Martí schools, so Im not going to deal with that today. Why dont the paparazzi go in there as they have gone into his family life and made it possible for us to follow it and make a series of inferences in that regard? But, even so, we can perform a series of analyses in Eliáns case.
Evidently, what we had stated from the very first is being confirmed: Eliáns family and school life are not at all acting as protective factors in the childs life, and not at all either as sources for satisfying his basic needs, which -- as we said at the beginning -- the school and the family do at this early stage in a childs life.
We have systematically demonstrated that too: the family is here, he continues to be separated from his natural family, his original family. He is staying with a group of people who act as a coexistence unit -- I liked the opinion you gave in the psychiatrists and psychologists round table, concerning that group of people that were acting as an enterprise. I also like the term coexistence unit that we are using today, those illegal guardians -- in other words, those persons are not at all meeting the expectations that a family always meets for a child, and even less with that prosthetic mother, who is making her debut as a mother with a six-year-old child, with a void for previous history. And school life continues to be --as we said earlier --dependent on a political-financial project where Elián is a means to obtaining certain things. The development of that childs intelligence and his school life are not an end in themselves. It is simply so.
Elián was beginning the first grade when this event took place. (They show the video) Afterwards, I would like to go over that scene again, because that scene has greatly attracted the childrens attention, and I would like you to play it again at the end.
I would like to refer to the first grade in the life of any child. The first grade is a very important step because it lays the groundwork for the development of thought, and this is fundamentally the moment --and that is why in the previous round table we called it a transitional stage from pre-school life to school life --when some external interests appear by way of the school, but it is also now that the bases for a true interest in studying appear, and this would require a stable family life for the child, it would require from any family a positive attitude toward study, a calm atmosphere, a family that would be willing to support all the requirements of school life. This is so much so that in our country it is common to hear young parents say, when they have their children in the first grade: "Im going through first grade again," because they know how much support a child needs, both from the point of view of developing these intellectual skills...
Imagine, in the first grade the child has to learn to read, to write, and to do basic mathematical operations: adding and subtracting. In other words, Elián is now in a crucial stage of his school life.
Now, what sort of situation is this boy in? First, his emotional and affective life, which is a very important component for all of this learning process, is distorted and fractured.
A very important sign for any educator is a child who falls asleep in class. A child who falls asleep in class is a child who witnessed a family fight the previous evening, who has an alcoholic relative at home, or something like that. Well, even though the cameras have not entered the school, it is possible that Elián is falling asleep; Elián has recurrent nightmares about the shipwreck, and this has been said by that great-uncle --and the fantastic great-uncles who exist throughout the world, please forgive me; but that gentleman has said that the child has recurrent nightmares. Recurrent means that he has systematic, repeated nightmares about shipwrecks.
But, apart from that, look at what the New Herald stated on February 1, 2000, in other words, just the other day; it is not we who are saying it.
In addition, the constant harassment by the national and international media is also affecting Elián, who from 5:00 a.m. on sees streaming in through his bedroom windows the strong glare of the powerful spotlights of the TV networks stationed in front of the house in Little Havana, which begin broadcasting at that early hour and last until nearly midnight.
How many hours might Elián be sleeping? What with all the interference to the normal sleep of a child that age and all of those disturbances, I dont doubt Elián is falling asleep in class, I dont doubt it!
Also, we have no guarantee that the way the family is managing things, the way these people around him are managing it, is the best way, and the child has been missing school due to this. And here we have more proof, also stated by them in the New Herald of the same date.
Listen to what they say:
According to sources close to the family, since the prospect of the child meeting his grandmothers became real, as occurred last week, the child entered a state of tension that has kept him away from school during the last few days.
If it is true that he missed school during those days because he was going to meet his grandmothers, the family management has been terrible. Grandparents represent special figures, they are well-loved figures, beautiful figures for any child. A child is told, "You are going to see your two grandmothers, who you havent seen for two months," and he runs like mad to meet him. Here we are seeing bad family management of this problem of separation.
Furthermore, communication with his original family is constantly manipulated and interfered with, and he senses, he must realize all of these things.
The child misses school when they need to exhibit him in this political-financial project. The child also misses school in order to be exhibited and to be seen with all of those public figures.
Another important thing during this stage is that as part of all the intellectual exercise posed by daily life, play is a major factor, and through something you are going to read afterwards -- also stated by them -- we sadly found out that Elián, who liked to run into puddles at home, as the two grandmothers have said, and who was a normal boy, now has 15 minutes devoted to playing in the morning, and in the evening, if he is still restless, he is once again entitled to 15 more minutes for playing. And I use the word "entitled" because he is being deprived of a fundamental right.
Another thing I have carefully analyzed: I think that a child who is subjected to all those tensions, to all that stress, to all of this distortion of his daily life, when hes sitting in his seat -- which is when all our children stop being the center of the universe we make them feel they are, and become one more child among their classmates, for the good of all our children. When hes one more pupil in the classroom, perhaps thats the only time he has to be alone by himself and to think, ponder, remember positive and negative things, and all those repressed desires that perhaps he must turn into fantasy. And that little head, at various moments of the day, will obviously take flight.
Thats why I think that this childs mind is not in the condition it should be, that it might be, for example, if he were sitting in his classroom in Cárdenas. This mind is in no condition, let us say, to develop the attention and concentration necessary for all of these challenges posed by the first grade for any child. I see the first damage here already.
In other words, the demands of the first grade and the processes necessary to develop the thinking abilities necessary at that age, which -- as I was saying -- are the path toward abstract thinking, which characterizes us as human beings, all that has been damaged, who knows what state that can be in. Who knows, for, unfortunately, neither do we have that... but, evidently, it has to be damaged.
Speaking about the development of thought, I would like to refer to something many people have asked me about, many teachers have asked me about: the problem of the development of thought and bilingualism.
When Dr. Lidia Turner spoke about the Lincoln-Martí project, she said that these schools were bilingual, and many people have asked us: "Well, is that good or bad?" Many teachers in particular have asked us, because they all know the close relationship that exists between language and thought.
There are many children who are educated in bilingual school, and this is even the age when allegedly this type of learning can be very good, without any problem.
Now, what is wrong? That bilingualism as such is not the only factor associated with Eliáns school life right now. Bilingualism and his school life are connected with a series of factors, with a series of negative elements -- which the participants who preceded me have spoken about, and, therefore, I need not go into -- it is then, that bilingualism can become a difficulty, especially if we bear in mind that his Cuban teacher Yamilín said that he had a phonetic problem, that here he was helped through parents´ school and a whole treatment was applied, but we dont know if that went on over there.
I want to remind you that one of the reasons why young children stutter can be stress, and together with this, the influence of various languages at the same time, so some damage can come from this too.
Another thing I wanted to point out is Eliáns relationship within his group. The place a child occupies within his school group is a factor that can very much influence his self-esteem, and Elián was already adapting to his school group here in Cuba in a positive way, so much so that one of the photos that his grandmothers took there was one of his first grade group in Cárdenas, and he was able to recognize those who had been with him since kindergarten and those who hadn't. He also recognized his notebooks. That process was interrupted, was broken and Elián is now adjusting to a new group, but a new group with all these distortions; and in that new group hes a latecomer. Thats the situation we have in that group.
But besides being the last one to enter the group, is Elián perhaps the oddball of the classroom? Might he not be considered a strange child? And might they not call him the "little rafter" in the classroom as others around him constantly do? Here we find a difficult situation also.
Many children here have been struck by this image showing a prosthetic mother (They show the image), how she takes him by the hand and drags him forcibly. Here we also have Elián (They show the image) dragging a knapsack he can hardly lift.
Now, the Cuban children are associating that first image with the Programa para la Vida TV ads, where mothers are advised not to do this. In it Yolanda Ruiz is seen hurrying a little girl on her way to school. And the children have asked me "Cant they teach that woman there that shes not supposed to drag him?" As if saying, "Dont they have a TV ad there to teach them?" And we would have to explain to our children that they know this very well, the concept of educational society, where the media also share these educational attempts with the school, with the health sector and with the intersectoral concept that we have of education in our society.
This last picture with the knapsack is frankly a whole symbol for me. That knapsack dragged by Elián is like a heavy load for him. He lowers his head because its hard for him to lift it (They show the image), and it seems as if he carried in it the heavy load his current life has turned into.
I want to finish by saying that the grandmothers confirm all this, unfortunately, when they state that the child complains. "I have a lot of homework, I have a lot of books; I go to school so I wont be a dunce." They say he said this, "I go to school so I won´t be a dunce." In other words, not because he enjoys school, or because he is going to meet his friends there, like Hanser; no, no, so he won´t be a dunce, which shows us that hes an intelligent boy.
Yamila de Armas.- What notion of school, of training, of studying, are they putting in our boys head? What does this have to do with the values that we have said are part of that foundation of that strength, in a child who has already been acknowledged as an intelligent boy? In other words, we cannot say that hese are problems of intelligence. Could it be that our boy is showing signs of that heavy burden Elsa was telling us about? Is he showing exhaustion as to his academic performance? Think then how when we sum up discussion of the harm done, we see that our child has been harmed.
Now we feel the need for opening a door so the people who are listening to us know how much optimism we have found and the reason for that optimism. And this optimism lies in some strong points we have found in all the conception and in all that we have seen in this childs development.
Im going to ask Yohanca, who has been insisting that these elements lead us to those strong points, to take the floor.
Yohanca Valdés.- As you were saying, I think the time has come when the TV viewers are asking themselves how Elián has been able to adapt to such a hostile environment, to such adverse situations, what resources does the boy have to compensate for all of these difficulties?
I want to underscore something and make it very clear: it is not that the child has adapted to the new reality, because this is an argument that the other side is manipulating, saying that the child is adapting to that reality; no, no, no, we see no evidence of adaptation.
But I would like to briefly list the resources or compensation mechanisms that have allowed the child to survive in such adverse conditions, and Im going to say it clearly so the TV viewers and radio audience can understand what we are talking about.
We have an element in our favor, which is precisely the childs age, the development stage that the child is currently undergoing. The child is beginning to discover his inner world; in other words, he is a child who can incorporate new events without evidencing a disarrangement of his personality. There is a prevalence of rational elements in the child that allows him to incorporate the different changes that are taking place in his reality, without this implying that he is adapting to it, as I was saying.
Another resource the child has is precisely a strong family life (they show an image), which reinforces the existence of strong affective ties, stable affective ties with his parents, with his grandmothers and that make us think -- and I think this is clear from the preceding round tables -- of a family environment of security, support and protection, in which the child is constantly showing signs of identification with these figures.
Another point of contact with the current reality the child is living through, is that he is a boy who has been taken care of by more than one person, in other words, not one single person has taken care of him, but he has different relatives or reference patterns that allow him to adjust to a reality where the people are constantly changing: theres the cousin, the great-uncles, which does not mean -- I insist on this, for I think it is important -- that he is adapting to this situation.
As I was saying, there is a whole historic memory which summarizes the childs subjectivity which is unrepeatable, a historic memory which reflects the affective ties with the family, his ties with his classmates, with the teacher, a whole historic memory which, although they have tried to empty it, they still have not been able to. And we have proof of this in the grandmothers testimonies, very trustworthy testimonies.
I want to note at this point that the child was able to recognize in the album the grandmothers took him who his friends are, he recognizes his notebooks, asks about his school. In other words, the child still makes reference to concrete events that make us think that his memory is activated when he remembers all of these phenomena.
I think this was also evident when the child cheered up in the meeting with his grandmothers. He is a child who, although he acts fearful, speaks in a low voice, livens up at times, especially when reference is made to this life that was so familiar to him for six years.
Another resource is that there is no background of being a sickly child from the physical point of view. There is no background of psychological or psychiatric alterations in the child. In order not to repeat many of the ideas presented by his pediatrician, who has attended him during the past six years, stated in the first round table with the psychologist and psychiatrists, Ill just say that she says that he is a child who has suffered only mild diseases. He is not a child whose health one has to worry about. She literally states that "He shows proper psychomotor and psychological development."
As Elsa explained, hes a child with a good intellectual level, which is evidenced also in his teachers remarks in the first round table, when she states that he is a child that can make fluent, rapid analyses. In other words, he is a child with an adequate I.Q.
Another element which we consider important is that he is a child who easily adapted to non-formal education and to school; he is a child who, despite the short time he has been in first grade, has identified with the school as a source of security, support and help.
If possible, I would like to play the scene where the grandmother shows that he is a child with very stable, strong affective ties; that he is a very affectionate and kind child (They play the video).
Mariela Quintana.- ...He hardly spoke, he wasnt expressive. I didnt see him cry, or hug me, or kiss me and that is not the way he used to be; he was very affectionate, he was always kissing me, hugging me, teasing me.
Yohanca Valdés.- Before we finish, I would like to stress an idea. Elián is not just a kidnapped child, but a child with evident damage to his psychological development. Pay close attention to this. I think it is an aspect that we must take into account now, and, as doctor Aurora said, time is setting a deadline. Thats what I wanted to point out.
Yamila de Armas.- Well, we are approaching the last part in which we will talk about risks, about a prognosis; but I deem it important to go back for a moment to a very specific risk that is related to some symptoms that were reflected at the beginning, and I would like to ask professor Conchita to very quickly, very briefly talk about some other threats that we can warn about, and which can be a message for all.
Maria de la C. Galiano.- Yes, Im actually an advocate of working on the protective factors, because that places us in the road of all we can achieve with an individual, with a person; however, there is something that worries me greatly, and it has to do with Eliáns current life style, which is among the risk factors.
I understand that later we are going to talk about risks, but I would like to stress this.
Im really very interested in reading part of this famous article, entitled "Eliáns Floating Nightmare", and Im going to read it so those who are here and the TV viewers will have an idea of what an average day in Eliáns life is like, and from it we will draw that which is of interest for our work.
As I had already said, this was issued on January 30 of this year, and it says:
Elián is a little boy who wakes every day at 7:00 a.m. for school, who loves chocolate milk and Nintendo, and who, like almost every other younhg child, seems happiest when playing outside with other kids his age.
He is taken to school at 8:00 a.m., followed by a throng of journalists and police officers, who watch his every move. School ends at 2:30 p.m., when again he must make his way home through cops, photographers and curiosity-seekers.
Once in the house, Elián changes into his play clothes, has his chocolate milk, watches television and plays Nintendo games.
He then is allowed out into the yard for what has been dubbed by journalists covering the event as his "15-minute run" -- as these l5 minutes of playing in the yard are the moment when the journalists can film him.
It is during this time that Elián is allowed to play, sometimes with visiting children his own age that visit him since he generally plays with his dogs, runs back and forth, or plays with some adults.
After the run, Elián is escorted back inside the house. He has dinner, does his homework, watches TV, plays Nintendo, or watches his favorite videos.
In the evening, if he is still restless, he is allowed outside for another 15-minute run. He then comes back inside and is in bed by 9:00 p.m.
This has already been analyzed by other participants who have preceded me, and it is the problem of the little time Elián has for play.
It is important to remember that play is of vital importance for school children of this age. It is practically food for the soul. Through play, children learn all about roles, they interiorize behavioral norms and values, and they develop as human beings. In other words, play is extremely important.
But what do we find instead of play? Something that is of great concern not only to us, but to the international scientific community as well, known as ludopathy, or pathological play.
With the advent of scientific development, computer equipment, and so on, there has been an epidemic of childrens computer games. Children spend hours playing Nintendo or other computer or video games, and become so self-immersed that they become addicted to these games. It is a true addiction, in that children stop doing everything they should be doing at their age and do nothing but play these games.
As a consequence, these children become alienated, and their social relations are diminished. Moreover, what do we usually see in Nintendos? Images of aggression, in which the use of force prevails, and children are fed on these images. Unlike proper, harmonious interpersonal relations, these activities make children more and more alienated, and create a vicious cycle in that they not only experience difficulties and learning problems, but also develop emotional disturbances that lead to further addiction to these games.
Yamila de Armas.- I think the particular risks you have been warning us about have been made very clear, and the picture has come across completely.
While we are talking about risks, I will put myself in the place of our viewers, and I think that what they need now is to address once again the issue of prognosis, especially with regard to the passage of the relentless variable known as time. I think professor Cristóbal -- who has accompanied us here on other occasions -- would be the best one to summarize these ideas by speaking to us about the risks and the prognosis, as well as much more forcefully reiterating how urgently we need things to start happening.
Cristóbal Martínez.- Our health care policy is characterized by a preventative focus -- this is something we are all aware of, and which is known both nationally and internationally -- and this preventative focus is based on what we need to do to prevent risks. In other words, we must prevent the risks that anyone could run.
Of course, a great deal has been said about risk factors, and we have also spoken about protective factors. But I think it is important to define what a risk is, because the public might think, well, a risk is when you fall down, or get hit, or get run over by a car. But no, that is not what we are talking about. We are talking about the conditions, or the characteristics or qualities of people, of individuals or the environment, that favor or increase the probability of harm to ones health. This is why we talk, for example, about the risk involved in smoking, or drinking too much alcohol, or being obese. These are risk factors that lead to the probability of suffering a heart attack or cancer or cirrhosis of the liver. These things increase the odds, which doesnt mean that everyone who smokes will get cancer, but rather, they have a greater risk of getting cancer.
Therefore, obviously, in the case of Elián, we will specifically analyze the risks that this child is currently running and what the future risks will be; this is something we will also attempt to predict.
We have talked about protective factors. What are protective factors? They are the conditions in the environment that favor the development of a strong personality, able to confront these risk factors, and Elián has shown evidence of having a great many protective factors. He is a strong child, as we have already stressed here quite a lot. But I wanted to define what protective factors are in order to make it very clear to the public: they are those factors that prevent or oppose risk factors.
Cuban doctors, including child psychiatrists, among others, have developed a classification system for risk factors, and they are grouped by spheres, and so we talk about family risk factors, for example. Family risk factors are those produced within the family, and in this supposed family, these people who try to call themselves the boys family, there is currently a fact that is a risk, which is the fact that they have migrated. In other words, the child is in a migration situation, which has been well defined as a risk factor; we have discussed this on other occasions, and other scientists have stated it.
Whenever there are people with antisocial behavior in a family, this is a risk factor for every member of the family, and we already know, through all of the cables that have arrived from the Daily News, about the backgrounds of some of the people who are apparently pretending to be Eliáns family, these criminal cousins who have frighteningly long criminal records.
There are also a group of risk factors known as educational risk factors, in other words, the risks that children run at school. It might seem that they do not run any risks at school, but they do. If the school has inadequate conditions, that constitutes a risk, and these inadequate conditions are obvious in that society. This child, as has already been explained here, arrived after everyone else. He has no friends to support him, and perhaps he is a bit discriminated against. In other words, there are many things that lead us to believe that the conditions at this school are not the most suitable ones for this child, and he is already showing signs of this, because he is withdrawing, and saying that he doesnt want to go. If he really liked the school, and if it was really that good, he would want to go under any circumstances.
Another thing to take into account is the behavior patterns of the teachers at the school, and obviously, the behavior patterns of the teachers there are not like the behavior patterns of the teachers here. There is no need for us to demonstrate this, it is very much implicit.
Another factor is bilingualism, which Dr. Elsa Núñez already referred to, and the problems related to bilingualism.
There are community risk factors, and this is something I think we need to deal with at length, the risk factors in that community. In the community where Elián is living, there are no outdoor recreational areas; all he can do is play in a small backyard for 15 minutes, and he is not allowed out onto the street. Here in his country, however, he was free to go out on the street. As we have heard, he played on the street with his little friends, splashed in puddles, and had a great deal of fun playing with those friends, whom he recognized when they showed him the photo album.
Social activities are extremely scarce. There are no social activities for this child there, or at least, social activities are very, very limited, and they are not really social because they do not involve a relationship with the established society there.
There are no sports activities. This child cannot play any sports. That bat he has, I dont know with what ball or with what other child he can play. He walks around with a bat, but there is no ball. That is not sports. A bat for hitting the dogs, for hitting his uncle. Is that how a bat is meant to be used? A bat is meant to be used for playing baseball, but who knows what this child is using it for.
There is an absence of traditional games. This child cannot play with marbles or tops, like children in this country do. He has to play who knows what, Nintendo, television games, things that have been proven to produce the harmful effects described by Dr. Conchita. In addition, it has been demonstrated that in sensitive cases they can even cause convulsions. This is what some people say. In some countries they have to put a warning on Nintendo boxes -- like the ones on cigarette packages -- that the use and abuse of this product can cause neurological damage. That is how they are controlled.
Poor socio-environmental conditions. Everyone here knows what Little Havana is all about, we dont have to describe it here. The environment there is one of aggression, they say that there are gangs constantly roaming around. All of these things have been reported in the newspapers here, and we are not going to repeat them.
Some of the media are very aggressive, and not only because they are harassing him, but also because what he sees on television is full of aggression. They say that a child in the United States witnesses thousands of murders every month on television.
Individual risk factors are yet another category. In this case, there is the lack of play, the overstimulation, and the emotional and psychological mistreatment that we have already discussed and that have been demonstrated.
We have talked in a general sense about the risk factors on an intellectual level, on an educational level, on a behavioral level, the behaviors that this child has displayed. But there is a category of risk factors to which I would like to refer specifically, because I believe it is the most serious of all, and the one that causes me the most pain, and that is the category of emotional risk factors faced by this child.
This child is in a process of mourning. We all know what mourning is; everyone has lost someone, some loved one, and knows what mourning is.
Mourning, as a process, is carried out in all cultures. All cultures have a process for carrying out mourning: a wake, crying among relatives, burial, a whole series of rituals of all kinds established in every culture, because this is a human need; humans need to cry over their dead. Popular wisdom says so: "You have to cry over the dead, because crying is a form of psychological relief."
When sadness is not expressed, it harms our minds, and it not only harms our minds, but rather, sadness that is not expressed will eventually harm our bodies, our digestive systems, our cardiovascular systems, our kidneys, our sexual functioning, our respiratory systems, all aspects of health. When emotions are held in, they harm the body, and this is expressed in many ways: tachycardia, hypertension, heart attacks, stomach aches, and many other disorders, and of course, this is even more true from a psychological point of view.
Mourning must be carried out. Children mourn in a very curious way, which is not the same way that adults do it. Mourning among adults is expressed in a very clear way. This is not true of children. Children sometimes begin with furious crying, with aggressive reactions, and then pass on to stages of more subdued crying. Sometimes they ask if the person who died is going to come back, or they will say things like, "when he comes back," or "when he is alive again." We have had extremely painful experiences in which children three or four years of age constantly say things to their mothers like, "When my dad comes back, Im going to tell him what you did to me." They say things like this constantly, or sometimes ask other questions. But if children have something to do with the death of the person who died, if they think they have something to do with it -- because sometimes children, for some reason, will say to someone, "I wish you were dead," and then that person dies -- they will be filled with a dreadful sense of guilt, because they believe that the person died because of what they said, or because their thoughts are magical.
The public should know that these things should not be allowed to happen.
Mourning progresses through different stages. There is the crisis stage, marked by disorientation, confusion and anxiety; the stage of sorrow over the lost love one; the stage of denial, or anger, or resentment; the stage of hopelessness; and then the stage in which mourning is fully carried out, during which one recovers from all of this and feels a sense of relief. If there is no mourning, the child withdraws, and loses confidence, and the loss in this situation, when it is a violent situation, is even worse.
There are factors that make it difficult for Elián to carry out the mourning process. What are they? The massive changes in his life, the magnitude of which surpass the childs capacities; and the lack of a family to confront and contain the logical sadness this child feels. In other words, this child needs a family that can help him contain this sadness, a real family: his father, his grandmothers, who also feel sad when he cries for his mother; a real family that feels the loss of his mother. Those people there have no reason to feel the loss of his mother, because she wasnt even a member of their family, not even a distant relative.
We have had many experiences in which this has been carried out very well, in which children manage it, and their families provide them with support.
Of course, this is a painful situation, it is true that mourning hurts, it really does hurt a lot.
People avoid this because it hurts, and thus I have often had to deal with the pain of being the one who tells the children.
Losses are felt on different levels. In this case, there is the loss of a loved one, loss of a pet -- of "La Niña", as we know -- loss of friends, loss of the home, loss of the neighborhood, loss of culture and loss of family. All of these are sources of grief for that child, not only the loss of his mother; he lost his culture, his family, his home, his neighborhood, his friends and his pet. Adapting to this involves a lot of pain, but this pain has to be suffered, and it is essential that all these losses are made up for, and the other, which is irreparable... Well, you can never make up for the loss of a mother, but the others, yes.
The deeper the risk factors run, the more harm there is going to be. Now, if we analyze and we take actions which put in place protective factors for this child, we can surely come up with a likely prognosis. What is the likely prognosis? Taking into account the protective factors that he has, and taking into account the resources that we have here in order to care for him, what is the prognosis? If the logic, the ethics, the decency and the sensitivity of certain people in other places are demonstrated, and they return him to us, which is what they have to do, then we can make up for the loss of his friends, his home, his neighbourhood, his culture and his family, because we have the necessary resources to do that, and the family is equipped for that.
If this is prolonged for whatever reason, the risks in terms of education and family continue, the losses continue to be the same, the pain freezes and the mistreatment continues. He is going to move from the goldfish bowl that the Daily News describes him as being in, to a cage, because they are already building a fence; he was in a goldfish bowl, the Daily News says, and they are going to put him in a cage. That is why we are warning of the urgency of the situation; since December 16 we have been warning that the need is urgent, that time is against the child, and up until now they have not paid any attention to us. As each day passes, the risk increases.
And I ask myself, in conclusion: How long can they allow this abuse to go on?
Yamila de Armas: -- Indeed, I believe that Professor Cristóbals convincing words portray the sense of urgency of this prognosis, and really leave us with the feeling of a stronger than ever demand for this.
I believe that it was in fact professor Cristóbal, who, at the first round table, called upon the international scientific community, and there have been numerous people accompanying us from this community, coming forward to say that they agree with what we think, with what we have said, and from their point of view, and with the same theoretic and scientific basis that is our foundation, they support us. Many of them could say it right now if they were here.
I am going to request that some footage be shown of some of these professionals statements -- in this case, only two, due to time constraints, we cannot allow for many more. All of them, like Federico Mayor, whose prestige and authority nobody would dare to deny, are in total agreement with what we are saying.
So, we have had the support of these very documented criteria, and I think that his words are the best to confirm what I am saying (a video is shown).
Federico Mayor: As a scientist, as a specialist in neuroscience, I wish to warn about the dangerous conditions that Elián is being subjected to, which may seriously threaten his biological and psychological stability.
Yamila de Armas: There is a place in our America where the child population has been subjected to very difficult circumstances of this sort, and for us, as professionals, the opinion of Argentine professionals who have dealt with this theme is a very important point of reference.
I want to quickly pass the floor to Patricia, so that she can talk about this, and certain information that we have regarding this, which I believe supports what I am saying.
Patricia Arés. Many professionals from different parts of the world have joined us in denouncing this situation, and are providing evidence that the level of emotional harm which this child is suffering is already fairly advanced. That is to say, we are not alone in this endeavor; however, we could say that those professionals who have access to the child are violating two important ethical principles: in the first place, they do not have the resources to work with this childs emotional damage, because his family is not there, because his fathers permission has not been given, that is to say, they do not have the appropriate circumstances, and secondly, their aim is not to repair this childs emotional harm.
I think that there has been an interesting experience, which is the experience of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, who were able to portray to us, as psychologists, their experiences of what the emotional impact of being kidnapped is on a child, and what all the disarrangement effects are on the human psyche in the case of a disappearance and a kidnapping. This experience is very much in keeping with what the Cuban psychologists are experiencing for the first time, in a case of such magnitude.
Regarding this, I would like to read you an excerpt of a letter from Mrs. Laura Bonaparte, a mother from Plaza de Mayo, also a psychologist, who denounces the kidnapping, and says the following:
Dear Don Roberto:
This time its about Elián González, a child, born in Cuba, of Cuban parents and Cuban grandmothers. You must have read his story.
You are aware that the kidnapping of Elián is a very serious matter. And even though it has to do with politics and economics, I want to ignore these two factors that are drawing so much obnoxiousness to the case. I just want to talk about the kidnapping
The kidnapping creates a very serious situation, due to its complexity. It s not a case of illegally obtaining an object, a theft. Were talking about the appropriation of a human being. Of the theft, in this case, of a child, which makes it more serious. The American jurors know: the kidnapping has turned this person into an object, with psychological harm caused to the kidnap victim.
It is criminal to make a child, in such a confused state, decide, repeating gestures, as if he were in a film, with props.
Here we need Don Roberto. Do you remember, Don Roberto, why you turned my grandson over to me, risking your freedom and your life? Do you remember why there were so many risks? You, Don Roberto, said to me: "This child, your grandson, has nobody to turn to. You can tell him who his parents were, who his grandparents are. You, as grandmother, are the only person alive who can tell your grandson who he is. You saw his birth, you know about his parents, his grandmothers and grandfathers, and can sing him the songs that his mother and father used to sing." Don Roberto, Don Roberto, cant you go to Miami and return this child to his father and to his grandmothers, just like you returned my grandson to me, and to his real identity?
With love from Laura.
Obviously, Laura is here declaring how important it is to work with a child in a kidnap situation. And I believe that we Cuban psychologists have united in this endeavor, which at a certain point the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo undertook, to turn pain into a fighting spirit, vulnerability into strength, and personal and private injuries into a committed social action.
Yamila de Armas:- Does that mean we need a Don Roberto? Unfortunately.
I am now going to read from a cable which came from AFP, dated February 1, and I am going to do it in order to bring something to the table which we find truly disgusting, and that will justify and explain something that will later serve as a formal complaint, from an ethical and professional point of view, and also morally and scientifically. For this reason, I am going to refer to a contradiction that even they recognize. AFP says:
The lawyer and spokesperson for the little shipwrecked Cuban, Elián González, on Tuesday gave different reports as to whether the child is receiving psychiatric care or not.
We have all agreed on how important it is that the child receives care. That is obvious.
The child has undergone a lot of stress recently it continues according to Spencer Eig, a lawyer for the relatives of the child who in November survived a tragedy at sea, in which his mother died, along with 10 other Cubans.
Further on it says:
Elián has been looked after regularly by psychologists, since he arrived here in Miami, Eig explained to the press.
"Well, there are two of them, a psychologist and a psychiatrist who work together. I have spoken to them, but I dont know how often they see the child," explained Eig.
"One of the doctors, the psychiatrist, accompanied us to the house of sister Jeanne (OLaughlin, in whose house the meeting with the grandmothers was held last week), because for Elián, it was an extremely stressful moment."
It then carries on:
Nonetheless, Armando Gutiérrez, spokesperson for the relatives living in Miami, categorically denied that Elián had ever been seen by a psychiatrist.
Is it possible that they have not even had the decency to agree over such an important issue? Could it be that this, which is a fundamental factor in what we are saying, and in what the international scientific community is warning, and to which we have all referred, is so unimportant for them that two of the people who are closely tied to that family cannot even agree when it comes to talking about such information, and above all, 74 days after the incident occurred?
This analysis, from the point of view of an article, confirms, without a doubt, that technical and scientific support is being received. And we believe that the time has come to denounce this scientifically limited behavior.
And it is important that we insist on this: scientifically limited, and it has been shown, without a shadow of a doubt, why it is limited, using inappropriate resources at this time. At the time when his grief really does need to be dealt with, when the child is at his weakest, everything appears to indicate that there is evidence of behavioral treatment, of manipulation, of control, of emptying, of managing.
And why do they remain in the shadows? Why have they not gone public, if they supposedly represent such wonderful things in terms of the childs care? What are they hiding behind their behavior?
We have seen a lot of evidence of emotional blackmail, which the child has been subjected to, and I ask myself where did these people train, which universities did they go to, which colleges welcomed them?
We should ask these professionals to think again about their ethical, moral and scientific behavior, regarding this affair, and we should also ask the same of their colleges, their universities, to feel ashamed to have professionals of such dubious conduct. I say dubious because we have no evidence other than what they themselves have said. But dubious, yes, ethically unsustainable, morally unsustainable and scientifically questionable.
For this reason we have reached the consensus that the time has come also to denounce their behavior, and that should possibly be the conclusion for tonight -- the recognition that a child who has been harmed should be urgently returned to his country, in order to recover. This is a matter of urgency, our prognosis is also one of condemnation, and we denounce those people who, hiding in the shadows -- we do not know precisely why, or maybe we do -- are not prepared to show their faces, and manipulate and control our child.
These have been our thoughts on the issue, 74 days after the incident, and just a few hours after the grandmothers told us about what has happened to our child.
Thank you very much.