saving elian
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elian's legacy

Damian Fernandez Damian Fernandez
Chairman of the International Relations department at Florida International University.

The Elián case has been disastrous for the Cuban-American community on several levels. One, in terms of leadership. There is no leader in sight now, and everyone is running for cover. Also it has been terrible for the image of Cuban-Americans. Once perceived as golden exiles, that image is tarnished because of the media portrayal of a handful of Cuban-Americans, when in fact there are 700,000 Cuban-Americans in south Florida. It has been very, very sad and has led to another level of frustration for this community.
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Elena Freyre Elena Freyre
Executive director of the Cuban Committee for Democracy

Maybe the one healthy thing that happened is that the idea that Cuban-Americans were some sort of privileged class of immigrants. . . . That's no longer the case. A friend called me three days later to ask, "Why have they [the U.S. government] done this to us? They don't do this to anybody else." And I laughed. I said, "Honey, they do it to Mexicans every day and to Guatemalans every day. Do you know how many times a day in different communities in this country INS breaks down the door and takes old people, children, women, and deports them? It happens every single day." ... It just didn't happen to Cubans before. Join the club. Welcome to the club. Welcome to the immigration club.
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Carlos Saladrigas Carlos Saladrigas
A prominent Cuban American businessman and civic leader

In the short run, the Elián case has not been good to the Cuban community. But over the mid-term and the long-term, we will find that it has had a very positive impact. Again, I want to emphasize, not for Elián--I think it was very unfortunate for the child. But clearly for the Cuban community, it has been a watershed event. It has helped the Cuban community realize that we all need to get involved in the cause for Cuban freedom and democracy; that we need to reevaluate our strategy; that we need to reassess what we're doing. We need to explore new alternatives, newer strategies. We need to do a better job of communicating to the world and to the people in America why this is important.

And then we need to reach out to our own brothers and sisters on the island, so that we can reach a process of better understanding and working together to develop a future for Cuba. In my opinion, we have, for too long, been focused on the past. We have, for too long, been focusing on the person of Fidel Castro and quite frankly, Castro and his ideology are not relevant to Cuba's future. His policies offer no future to young Cubans on the island. It is a bankrupt ideology.

We need to show the Cuban nation what the future can be like. We need to show them how we can rebuild a nation that's based on democracy, on free markets, on social justice, and on brotherhood or sisterhood and what love and reconciliation can bring to a nation. That is, I think, the important message for the Cuban people. We can make it happen. Castro is not relevant any more. Let's focus on the future.
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Max Castro Max Castro
Senior research associate at the North-South Center at the University of Miami

The defeat of the hard-line forces has isolated them in Miami from other communities and in the United States, to some degree. However, US policy is still made in Washington, D.C., and money and political organization still counts a lot. The Helms-Burton law nailed in very strongly many elements of that policy. There doesn't seem to be a political will by either of the presidential candidates to do anything to change Cuban policy. So the game may have changed somewhat, the momentum may have changed, but we'll still have to see if the score is going to change.
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Damian Fernandez Damian Fernandez
Chairman of the International Relations department at Florida International University

Elián was a catalyst for the opposition to the US embargo. It allowed people who had been waiting to attack the embargo policy to come out in full force and wage this policy battle in Washington. Elián served as a lightning rod, and that is why the frustration is running deeper in Cuban Miami.
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Lisandro Perez Lisandro Perez
Professor at Florida International University, where he founded the Cuban Research Institute.

I think the most important consequence of the Elián situation has been a real loss of influence on the part of Cuban-Americans in influencing US policy. A lot of the US has now, because of Elián, focused a bit on Cuba and focused on the role that Cuban-Americans have had in formulating US policy, and may be unwilling in the future to let US policy towards Cuba be determined by Cuban exiles in Miami. Certainly if you look at editorials of newspapers around the country, you can see that that's what they're saying: "Why have we, in effect, let these people in Miami run US-Cuba policy?"

From the beginning, Elián was a no-win situation for Cuban-Americans and was a win-win situation for Castro. If the child was returned, he could say it was a victory for the revolution. If the child was not returned, it was yet another injustice of the Americans and of the Miami Mafia, as he calls them. So it was always a win-win situation for Castro. But yet, Cuban-Americans plunged headlong into this and did not think of these consequences. read the full interview

Maurice Ferre Maurice Ferre
Former mayor of Miami

The Elián issue has exacerbated the feelings of this [Cuban] community, not only with the white American community, but also with the black American community. The relationship between the black community and the Cuban-American community deteriorated even further because of Elián. It's a symbol to them that they're being treated differently, that they haven't had the opportunities in their opinion that the Cuban community has had, that the immigration laws for Haitians who are black are not the same as for Cubans. So there is a major resentment. read the full interview


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