saving elian
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a protest in havanadiscussion: What are your reactions to this program? Surveys show most Americans want a new approach to Cuba?  What are your views?


Dear FRONTLINE,

You deserve to be commended for the compassionate, intelligent and unbiased presentation of the Elian saga.

I am saddened and shocked to see, however, the irresponsible accusations toward your program posted here. The biased and unbalanced views expressed in the program were not those of the director Ms. Bikel, but of those many Cuban-Americans who were explicitly willing to reduce Elian into a mere "symbol" of their own suffering, and a "metaphor" for the Cuba they hope for.

This erasure of the boy himself is the real indictment, coming directly from the mouths of those who could not imagine that this was a real little child with a father, rather than a projection (indeed a textbook example of Jung's theory) of their own obsessions, a mere pawn in the hands of a political agenda for which BOTH sides were responsible.

Any politics which reduces humans to mere symbols, willing to practice violence against all those who disagree, has as much in common with Stalinist thinking as any dictatorial regime.

Why were so many Cuban-Americans afraid to speak? Was it perhaps the example of Bernardo Benes, who deserves to be lauded as a hero, a peacemaker, but was beaten and ostrasized by those whose ideology must intimidate and silence all those who fail to join them in dehumanizing others? When the nobel epithet "dialoguero"--one who pursues dialogue and negotiation over rigid silence or violence--becomes a term of treachery, it should be very clear that we are in the presence of the ancient human disease of blind hatred. We can only pray that people like Sr. Benes and those other Cubans who had the courage to recognize the sacred bond of father and son will in the end triumph over those who fail to understand that the Christ with whom they aspire to commune did not teach a doctrine of hate and violence but of reconciliation.

For all his many faults, Castro is at once more and less than a real person--just as Elian is--rather a phantom, a devil, whom they allow more power over their lives than if they had remained in Cuba--by turning him into an idol of hate to whom they were willing to sacrifice the life of a young boy and the love of a father. For all separates the fanatics of Right or Left, they are chained together in the knot of forgetting that real people may not be destroyed by abstractions.

Dr. Michael Bradburn-Ruster
prescott, az


Dear FRONTLINE,

Watching this program brought back some very bad memories. I lived in Miami when my husband was stationed at Homestead AFB. Homestead, Fla. (73-77) I attended and graduated from FIU. I was in daily contact with the Cubanos and it wasn't a pleasant experience. Never, ever in my life I've met such an arrogant mass of people who believe themselves to be 'needed' by the U.S.

I'm a Latino woman, I was born and grew up in South America, however I quickly found out that Cubanos weren't people with whom I could have a normal conversation or much in common, unless I thought, spoke, and looked like them.

I resent the especial treatment the U.S. has accorded to the Cubanos. They have been made to believe that they are important, that they are not like the rest of us that came to this country, obeyed the laws and are good citizens. The melee in Miami over Elian Gonzalez is no suprise to me. I knew they would defy the government of the country who fed, housed, and clothed them. I do hope that the power they've wrested from other citizens in Miami is taken away from them.

Delia Stichick
eureka, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

Congratulations on a program well done.

Having visited Cuba a number of times I have found the people there to be warm and friendly. Political discussions, covering views both left and right, were lively and open. The people there are extremely poor but gladly share their hospitality and their opinions.

I have not and will not visit Florida. I would be afraid to join in a political discussion in the Cuban-American community. Dissenting views are obviously greeted with hostility and censure. Tell me once again which community espouses freedom of speech?

Ric Cuzner
nanaimo, bc


Dear FRONTLINE,

i am very thankful that someone finally looked at the elian situation from a point of view that did not just belong to the sensationalist media. i thought the documentary was good and accurate, but i was disappointed at how the cuban-american exile community was portrayed. in all honesty, all i got to know about them was that they like to protest, are snide towards american culture, and are close-minded individuals incapable of thinking outside the impermeable political bubble created by the Castro regime. perhaps the producers of the documentary couldn't think outside their own opinions concerning the cuban-american situation. and by trying to interpret it intellectually, they rationalized their preconceived notions and buried the cuban exiles in a deeper hole of public and scholarly opinion.

Christopher Li
new york, ny


Dear FRONTLINE,

I am a Cuban-american and your program about Elian keeps on poisoning the enviroment I have to live in. I do not know how you can get away with your distorted view of our community. Why are you trying to destroy us?. Is it because you want to be able to go to Cuba an interview the tyrant?. All we want is a FREE CUBA. We want freedom and elections in Cuba. We have powerful enemies but as long as we fight we have not lost. You only lose when you give up, when you surrender. WE WILL NEVER SURRENDER OUR PRINCIPLES no matter how much we are attacked by institutions and individuals friendly to the Tyrant. Your program helped the Tyrant may be you can sleep without your concience bothering you but you helped to prolong the suffering of the cuban people.

silver spring, md


Dear FRONTLINE,

It seems the documentary (and the discussants) failed to point out an importantpart of the dispute; that matter concerned the right of Elian to have a court hearing over the question as to whether his interest would be best served by forcing him back to his father or left where he wanted to be, with his saviors in Miami. The government prevented a fair hearing.

George Holcomb
miami, fl


Dear FRONTLINE,

I expected more. I did not expect an apologia for the Clinton/Reno actions on behalf of Cuba. The interviewees were selected to further an agenda against the Miami Cuban community, ignored the machinations of the US government, and gave Elian's mother's dream of freedom for her and her son not a wit. Frontline should have issued a disclaimer before and after this 'program' stating that it is not entirely factual or unbiased.

kingsville, ontario, canada


Dear FRONTLINE,

This program failed completely to mention this child was wrongfully abducted by the United States government, perhaps with the malfeasant representation of an attorney (Kendall Coffey) that now is known to have questionable ties with (then) President Clinton. Further, Elian was returned to a known murdering dictator who just under 40 years ago was ready to attack this country as an ally of the former Soviet Union.

A child in communism is a child abused.

Freedom Beacon
st. augustine, fl


Dear FRONTLINE,

Your Frontline Program on Miami's Cuban Community was a great propaganda piece for the regime of a dictatorial tyrant and despot. Shame on you. Why don't you make an attempt at fair balance by traveling to Cuba and instead of showing the self appointed/never FREELY elected "Maximum Leader" in opulent revolutionary propagandist glory... show the "dollars only" stores, show an interview with dissidents, show how many houses throughout the island he has, show what the free hospitals vs the dollars-only hospitals have, show an interview with "fallen star" Roberto Robaina, show their CDR and "Rapid Response Brigades", show the properties and industrial power illegally confiscated without remuneration and driven to the ground, go ask the Bacardi Family how they feel, GO ASK ELIAN HOW HE FEELS...SHOW SOME GUTS, SHOW SOME FAIR BALANCE!!!

A Gutierrez
tampa, florida


Dear FRONTLINE,

I am very glad that the obvious anti-american anarchy that was made apparent during this small boy's tragedy did not prevail. The mother, who, it seems was not escaping anything, but rather coming here to be with her boyfriend, chose to place herself and her child in peril. Having to witness her death and being stranded and alone at sea will be a horror this child will have to live with all his days. Add to that the manipulative, cruel usery his Miami relatives heaped upon him in a seeming attempt to create personal, public attention for themselves, he will have to deal with the bewildering onslaught of conflict they created. To have him berate his father, on inter-national television was pure abuse.

I am glad this child has been returned to a loving father, who can now raise him as he sees fit.

I believe an injustice was done to the boy and his father by American citizens who decided what they wanted prevailed over the law of this very land that gave them exile.

Bravo Janet Reno

fredericksburg, va


Dear FRONTLINE,

Whereas the flashpoint of the "Elian Gonzalez" saga is passed there is the lingering schism between what is perceived as an over-privileged and ungrateful segment of our community (exile Cuban community) and others.

the "Exile Cuban" political faction has sought the bounty and freedom of America but has attempted to squash the freedoms of their host country. They have done this through bombing travels agencies , throwing bottles at concerts, endangering lives and public safety by blocking major roads.

It is time for the Cuban community in South Florida to act more responsibly towards the U.S.A and it's citizens

Jihad Rashid
coconut grove, florida


Dear FRONTLINE,

I am not a Cuban-American, and I ultimately believe Elian had to be reunited with his father.

That being said, I also believe that your program was extraordinarily biased, and condescending to the Cuban-American community. The primary problem is that you made no effort to introduce balance. Out of perhaps a dozen speakers, I can recall only one who favored keeping Elian in the United States -- and then I recall only a few words on the subject. The vast majority engaged in the same litany: the Cuban community is obsessed, heavy-handed, irrational about Castro, too prone to silence dissenters.

Indeed, your coverage was so "party line" that you unquestioningly defended Janet Reno's raid, and the futility of Cuban sanctions. Surely there can be two views about these issues. (Your website engages in the same loaded monologue, talking about a Castro "fixation," the "real reason" for the fight over Elian, and so on.)

Human Rights Watch has published an excellent monograph on oppression in Cuba. I can send you my copy if you are unable to obtain it on your own. Amnesty International also has some unpleasant things to say about the state of civil rights in Cuba. Perhaps you could have made reference to Castro's human rights abuses.

And perhaps, just once, you could have acknowledged that Elian's mother died in the effort to bring Elian to the U.S.

An honest discussion of other points of view would have greatly enriched your program. Instead, you chose sides. That is a shame.

Robert Popper
new york, new york


Dear FRONTLINE,

What would be the reaction of the Cuban-American community if Elian were a Black Afro-Cuban with dark skin and kinky hair. Would they have pushed as hard to let him stay in America?

Alphonso Montgomery
queens, new york


Dear FRONTLINE,

It is an absolute disgrace that this documentary focused not on the human rights of a child, but on the clashing whims of Castro vs. a Cuban "community," vs. the whims of a black "community," verses the feelings of being ostrasized from some community. The entire premise of the documentary is unity and collectivism, not freedom as a necessary absolute of an individual's life and happiness.

It was a disgusting to see that liberal church group lady preach about child abuse, when these liberals have no concern about child rape in Cuban prisons or slavery of children to Castro's fruit farms. It was another disgrace to hear that Elian's father choose to go back to Cuba. He emphasized that he "did nothing." It obviously revealed that Castro was in charge the whole time and that if he did anything, he would see his own family destroyed. I haven't seen a more non-insightful documentary that glossed over the terrible meaning of commmunism to a child's future.

Shame on Frontline/PBS.

Lorenz Kraus
albany, ny


Dear FRONTLINE,

The Cuban Americans are exiles from anti-democratic Cuba and its dictator, Fidel Castro, yet those in power in Miami maintain perhaps the most intolerant, anti-democratic community in the whole USA.

They channel their hatred of Castro into unrealistic, cruel policies that they have persuaded the USA to impose on Cuba. It really doesn't seem to matter to them that the Cubans in Cuba suffer the most from the USA's embargo -- if it hurts Castro at all then it's worth it.

Because they allow their hatred to consume them they are incapable of rational debate or understanding contrary opinions.

It took the Elian incident to wake up many Americans to the depth of their irrational hatred. To take a boy away from a father (who is not guilty of child abuse) is an obvious injustice, but if the father's Cuban then it's ok. Sorry, but that didn't wash with Americans. Now we saw through your whole philosophy.

If the embargo had been dropped years ago (because it didn't bring Castro down, because it brought hardship on the Cuban people) Cuba would have long ago become democratic.

Nothing can stand up to American popular culture. Nothing. Give Iranian kids the choice between mullahs or MTV and you know what they'd prefer. Same goes for Chinese kids, North Korean kids, Vietnamese kids even Cuban kids... Stop the embargo and let the Cuban people decide what they want to do.

tony brower
brooklyn, ny

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