The battle over Elian
40 years of Communist rule under Fidel Castro
Tensions ease between the U.S. and Cuba
Immigration policy in the U.S.
U.S. immigration officials met Monday with the father of Elian Gonzalez, the 6-year-old Cuban boy caught in a custody battle that has caused tension between communist Cuba and the United States.
On Thanksgiving Day, fishermen pulled Elian out of the Atlantic Ocean, where he had been hanging on to an inner tube for two days. The boat that was carrying his mother, stepfather, and 11 others illegally to the U.S. capsized, drowning all except Elian and two others.
His mother had legal custody of Elian at the time, but with her gone, U.S. authorities turned the boy over to his great aunt and uncle living in Miami.
Elian's biological father Juan Miguel Gonzalez, who lives in Cuba, was outraged. He claimed that Elian was taken out of the country without his knowledge.
But after meeting with U.S. officials, Mr. Gonzalez appeared calm. He said they would try to return his boy as soon as possible.
Fidel Castro threatens the U.S.
Mr. Gonzalez's fight for his son attracted the attention of Cuban President Fidel Castro, causing more tension in what has always been an angry relationship.
The 72-year-old dictator appeared on state government television saying,"We are going to move heaven and earth...it will be a war, an international battle."
In Havana, the capital of Cuba, more 1,500 demonstrators protested outside the unofficial U.S. embassy. Grassroots communist youth groups and others have promised to hold noisy rallies until the boy is returned.
At one point, more a 1,000 grandmothers gathered in a government-organized march through the streets of Elian's hometown, Cardenas, a small city about two hours outside of Havana.
Thus far, the State Department has said the case will be treated like any other custody case and that Elian's fate should be based on what is best for the boy.
Forty years of anger
The case has been complicated by politics. Miami has the largest population of Cubans living outside Cuba. Many are members of political groups opposed to Castro's 40-year communist rule. They believe trade sanctions and other anti-Castro policies, will weaken the government and help Cubans inside the country turn towards democracy.
Elian Gonzalez has become a symbol of the battle.
Backed by anti-Castro organizations, Elian's great aunt and uncle have asked the Florida state court for permanent custody. They insist that Elian should stay and enjoy the freedom of the U.S., instead of face the harsh economic realities of communism in Cuba with his father. They say his mother imagined a better life in the U.S. And he should live out her dream.
What do you think? Should Elian be with his father in Cuba or his relatives in Florida? Send us your comments and we'll post selections on this page.
Posted December 14, 1999
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