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Published on Wednesday, April 5, 2000 in The Progressive
Elian Gonzalez, Miami Mobsters, Al Gore, And The Embargo
by Matthew Rothschild
Since when did Miami become its own little Cuban American protectorate, above the laws of this land?

It didn't just start happening with the Elian Gonzalez case.

For decades now, the rightwing, anti-Castro Cuban Americans have used goon tactics to get their way.

During the 1980s, you could get beat up or receive a death threat if you were in Miami and you dared to publicly challenge U.S. policy toward Central America.

During the 1990s, if you were a Cuban musician with a gig to perform there, forget about it. The death threats successfully kept the performers away.

But the case of Elian Gonzalez shows how flagrant this vigilantism has become. For four months now, little Elian has been kept from his Cuban father--an act that would be called kidnapping if ideology didn't so distort the political dialogue in this matter.

The law is clear: Elian should be returned to his father; Janet Reno's right about this one.

But the mobsters in Miami are defying her to enforce the law. On Tuesday, demonstrators formed a human chain around the house where Gonzalez is staying. Some yelled scary slogans, like: "Miss Reno, are you ready for another Waco? We are."

What, exactly, are they suggesting?

That they are willing to martyr this little boy in their frenzy to fight Castro?

Has it really come to that?

I sure hope not.

But some Democratic elected officials haven't helped matters any.

The mayor of Miami-Dade, Alex Penelas, said he would not call out the police to maintain order if riots broke out protesting any decision by the U.S. government to reunite Elian with his father.

Such a stance of disobeying the federal government has not been heard from an elected official since the segregationist days of Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, Georgia Governor Lester Maddox, Alabama Governor George Wallace, and Birmingham Police Commissioner Bull Connor.

And then Al Gore comes along and says that Elian should not be reunited with his father.

Thanks, Al. A real profile in courage you are.

Let's turn this one around for a second.

Assume an American couple went to Cuba with their kid, and the dad returned home on business, while the mom stayed on.

Say the mom dies in an accident, and distant relatives in Cuba insist on keeping the kid.

Do you think the United States would sit still for that?

No way.

The Green Berets would be there in a second.

But when it's a Cuban kid in the United States, all of a sudden it's a lot different.

It shouldn't be. The principle is the same: The bond between parent and child should not be severed except in the most extreme circumstances when the parent is unfit.

That's not the case here.

The people who are unfit are the Cuban Americans who are using this poor child as a pawn in their ancient and pointless game against Fidel Castro.

Ancient and pointless, too, is the whole U.S. policy toward Cuba.

And it was that policy that killed Elian's mom and embroiled the boy in this ghoulish controversy.

The United States has given disenchanted Cubans every incentive to board any vehicle, no matter how flimsy, to come to the United States across treacherous waters.

If they make it here alive, our Immigration and Naturalization Service treats them as privileged, while other immigrants face deportation. And if they don't make it here alive, their deaths are used as another example of Castro's brutality.

But it is equally our brutality.

And the logic of the Cuban embargo, which the United States alone imposes, is impossible to follow.

Today the United States is friends with China and is doing all it can to give it permanent trade status and membership in the WTO. But China has a human rights record that is worse than Cuba's by far.

So, too, does Colombia, but the United States is preparing to send $1.7 billion in military aid there--most of it for Colombia's notorious police and armed forces.

The reason for the embargo on Cuba can't be its human rights policy. No, the policy is an ideological atavism, and it persists because of the political cowardice of people like Al Gore.

The U.S. government needs to return Elian to his father and bring Miami back into compliance with federal law. But it also needs to end the folly of this forty-year embargo.

Copyright 2000 by The Progressive


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