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Elian is a weapon in right's war on Cuba
By Paul McGarr
THE CASE of Elian Gonzalez dominated US politics and the media this week, after a government raid to hand the six year old Cuban boy over to his father. Elian grew up in Cuba with his mother, Elizabeth, and father, Juan Miguel. The couple had split up and shared custody of Elian.
Last November Elizabeth was persuaded by her new boyfriend to join his attempt to flee to the United States. She took Elian without permission from his father and sailed on an open boat to try and reach the US some 90 miles away.
The boat sank off the US coast and Elian's mother drowned. Elian survived, floating on a tyre improvised as a life raft. He was placed temporarily in the care of his great uncle and cousin, Cuban exiles in the US.
As soon as he discovered what had happened, Elian's father tried to be reunited with his son and bring him home to Cuba. The case should have been straightforward, as a matter of human decency as well as under all international and US laws. Elian had grown up in Cuba and lived with his father, and had been taken away without permission.
His grandparents, including his mother's mother, lived in Cuba and also wanted the young boy returned. Three quarters of people in the US also agreed Elian should be returned to his father.
But Elian became a political football in the hands of Cuban exiles and right wing political forces in the US. His plight was relegated beneath a barrage of anti-Cuba propaganda. Elian's cousin and great uncle suddenly claimed that they were closer to the boy than the father and grandparents who had cared for him all his life.
They were backed by well funded sections of the Cuban exile community in Miami. The core of the exile community is made up of the families of the middle class, the rich and assorted pimps and gangsters who fled Cuba in the wake of the 1959 revolution.
Their political organisations are rabidly right wing and have backed the US blockade of Cuba (see left). Both main US political parties, Republican and Democrat, have backed the war against Cuba and courted the right wing exile organisations.
US politicians and some of the media claim Elian is a "refugee" who should be given US citizenship. Yet these same people cheer the deportation of thousands of other refugees who reach the US every year. During the last few weeks, for example, they backed the forced return to Haiti of a boatload of some 400 refugees including many young children.
The US state finally backed Elian's return to his father because not to have done so would have caused great complications. Some 10,000 children have been removed from the US by one parent without the other's permission and the US is backing legal cases to have them returned under international laws. To have behaved in the opposite way in Elian's case could have jeopardised those cases.
US keeps savage blockade
CUBA, LIKE most of Central America, was dominated by the US for the whole of the last century. US businesses made millions in Cuba while propping up client regimes which kept the majority in poverty.
The US government and military backed up this state of affairs. Even today the US maintains a massive military base on Cuba at Guantanamo. In 1959 a revolution led by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara toppled the pro-US regime. The new regime has never been socialist, and has carried out many repressive policies. But that was not why it provoked the fury of the US.
The Cuban regime wanted genuine independence and refused to bow to US wishes. It nationalised some land and interests belonging to US firms, and implemented a series of basic reforms. Whatever criticisms there may be of the Cuban regime, it has built a decent healthcare and education system.
The US wanted to teach Cuba a lesson and for the last 40 years has waged a campaign to crush the Cuban regime. It still continues a savage economic blockade on the island, claiming it is fighting "communism". It is 30 years since the then US president, Richard Nixon, "normalised" US relations with "communist" China, and ten years since the end of the Cold War. But US policy towards Cuba has not changed.