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Leave the kid alone


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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Dan Cassino

By Dan Cassino
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
January 12, 2000
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By all rights, Elian Gonzalez should be sent home. That's where his father is, and since his mother is dead, he should be returned to his surviving kin. However, he should stay here in the United States, where he has a better chance of being left alone.

By federal law, any Cuban that reaches American shores becomes a citizen. There were good reasons for this law when it was put into effect, but the meaning of it has been corrupted in recent years. Initially, the law succeeded by encouraging middle and upper class Cubans, who could afford to leave their homeland, to flee. These doctors and lawyers and engineers established themselves in Miami, and are largely responsible for the success of that city.

If the situation had been resolved quickly, things might be different. But now, no matter who wins the fight over the fate of the 6-year-old boy, Elian is the loser. His doesn't have a chance for a normal life, the kind of life every child deserves, in either country.

Were he sent back to his father in Cuba, his life would be forever changed. Certainly, he won't return to the relatively normal life that he had before with his mother. First off, his mother is dead. Second, he will be forever exploited by Castro as the living symbol of a tangible victory over the United States. Any hopes of a pleasant, anonymous childhood are forever gone, but his celebrity would certainly have a larger effect on his life in Cuba. If he stays in the United States, he will be forgotten in a matter of months, at the longest. In Cuba, he will be dragged back into the limelight as propaganda whenever Castro needs to rally the people against America. As things stand now, Castro will probably be in power until he dies sometime in the mid-21st century, and can be counted on to drag Elian out at least once a year until then. This isn't the sort of life that anyone wants for the boy, but the longer the United States holds out, the worse it will be.

If he stays with his extended family in Miami, his fate will not be much better. If he will be a figurehead in Cuba for Castro and the anti-American movement, in America, he will be a figurehead for the anti-Castro movement. While he will be the focus of the radicals in Miami, we can be assured that the fickle American media will stop paying attention to him before too long, and this is the best thing people that really care about Elian could hope for.

There are compelling reasons to keep him here. His mother died in a failed attempt to get to the United States. Many say that he should be kept here solely in honor of her memory. Some point out that it would be unfair to send him back to Cuba, now that he's tasted the freedom of the United States. In the past, the only Cubans to have reached American soil and later lose their citizenship were criminals.

None of his supporters are pro-Elian. Rather, they are anti-Castro. He is just a symbol, just a figurehead. They want Elian to stay not because he would be better off in America, but because they will do anything to deny Castro a political victory.

For years, all the Cuban anti-Castro movement has been able to do is stop any progress in American-Cuban relations. It would almost be appealing to send him back, not because life would be better for him in Cuba, but to show the viciously anti-Castro groups in Miami that they cannot hold back the tide any longer. For years, they have enjoyed special consideration in American politics because they are very vocal and have the money to influence policy-makers to champion their ideals. They are especially dear to Republicans - they are the only Hispanic group that the GOP can count on in an election.

However, even the anti-Castro movements in Miami are losing their coherency. Younger Cuban-Americans, who have never known a home outside of Florida, have failed to pick up the rabid anti-Castro feelings of their parents, who fled the dictator in the 70s and 80s. Sadly enough, dissent in this group isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the more dissent they have, the more likely that the United States will be able to restore normal relations with Cuba, helping to ensure that the tragedy of Elian Gonzalez doesn't happen again. That is something that we can all hope for.

Dan Cassino is a political science junior. He can be reached at editor@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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