Wednesday, February 6, 2013

More than a battle of words...

Get it right!   It wasn’t an ordinary hunting trip. Almost over, he listened for his Dad; they’d planned to leave the woods together. He called again but there was no response. Finding his Dad was the only thing on his mind. Knowing it would be dark soon, he knew he had to hurry; he also knew he couldn’t panic.

What happened next has seemed a miracle to him ever since. Indeed, it inspired him to choose his profession. In the silence that replaced sounds his Dad should have made, he looked up, I think, and asked for guidance. His Dad was in a deer blind, one of many, in a tree. Within minutes, he found his Dad, unconscious, but alive. His Dad had fallen; his father’s hunting rifle was by his side.

From that day, he has been a minister. Years later, having completed his degree, he has started his own church. His Mom and Dad were among the first to join.

That heartwarming story is reminiscent of another that could be seen as being equally miraculous. Although it also involves a father and his son, the son, Elian Gonzales, was in mortal danger. Only six, Elian survived when the metal dingy that carried his mother and him, among others, capsized in ten to twelve foot seas en route from Cuba to America’s Florida coast. How Elian survived is told by the fisherman who found him:

QUESTION: What about the rescue, if you could? Tell us about the circumstances, please? What did he look like? Tell us what it seemed like?
CIANCIO: It was rough. We were in rough, rough waters, man. We were in really rough waters. We were fishing. We were out there, and it was just a, you know, one of those days, man, and we came across an inner tube in the water. We went by the inner tube. It looked like a doll was in there. We passed the inner tube. We were fishing for mahi-mahi. I know everybody keeps thinking a dolphin; we were fishing for mahi-mahi, fish you eat. As we went by there, we got -- both lines went off, we got two fish, right under the inner tube. We joked about it. We said what a sick joke. And we thought it was a joke that somebody tied a doll to an inner tube. That's what it looked like. (Elián González and the Cuban crisis: fallout from a big row ... [Feb 21, 2010] The Elián González saga ended abruptly ... from sharks and guide his tyre-raft to safety. ... off Fort Lauderdale saw what they thought ... )
Obvious questions about Elian’s safety beg to be answered. Why would anyone risk such a difficult crossing of more than 90 miles in rough seas in such a meager craft? And why would they take a child? Part of the reason relates to America’s embargo of Cuba, an embargo that continues due to anti-Castro Cuban-American exiles:
The central column of Cuban politics in Miami has always been the Cuban American National Foundation, in its heyday the most powerful national lobby in Washington DC apart from Israel's. The CANF had nurtured as articles of faith: total embargo against Cuba, as close as was possible to a travel ban, and restrictions on remittances and all financial or commercial transactions. And then, in 1999, the foundation raised the stakes by attempting to keep Elián in Miami – a campaign now bitterly regretted by its president, Francisco "Pepe" Hernández…(Elián González and the Cuban crisis: fallout from a big row ... [Feb 21, 2010] Elián's young mother, Elizabeth Brotons, drowned at sea ... to his father in Cuba.
Our answer to its crippling effects on that country is a policy that states it’s illegal to enter America or land on its coast without permission. However, our Cuba Adjustment Act stipulates that any Cuban who eludes our Coast Guard and makes it to shore can stay here and will be granted citizenship!
America’s mixed message to Cubans who want to flee Cuba has proved deadly to many who have sought to leave Cuba that way. With regard to Elian, it would prove deadly to his mother and her lover, purported instigator of the deadly crossing, Lázaro Munero. Nobel laureate, Gabriel García Márquez, in an op-ed to the New York Times on March 29, 2000, wrote:
On Friday, when Juan Miguel González went to school to pick up his son Elián for the weekend, he was told that Elizabet Brotons, his ex-wife and the boy's mother, had taken Elián at midday and had not brought him back in the afternoon. In his routine as a divorced father, this seemed normal to Juan Miguel. From the time when he and Elizabet had separated two years earlier, on the most amicable terms, the boy had lived with his father and spent every other day at his mother's house. But Elizabet's door was padlocked over the weekend and on Monday as well, and Juan Miguel began to make inquiries. This was how he learned the bad news that was already becoming common knowledge in the city of Cárdenas: Elián's mother had left with him for Miami, with 12 other people, in an aluminum boat 5 1/2 meters long, with no life preservers and a decrepit motor. 
It was Nov. 22, 1999. "My life ended that day," Juan Miguel said four months later…
…After their divorce, Juan Miguel and Elizabet continued living together with their son in Cárdenas -- where all the protagonists in this drama were born, and where they lived -- until she fell in love with Lázaro Rafael Munero, a neighborhood tough. Juan Miguel subsequently married Nelsy Carmeta and had a son, who is now 6 months old.
Juan Miguel did not have to waste time finding out where Elián was, because in the Caribbean everybody knows everything -- "even before it happens," as one of my informants told me. Everyone knew that the leader of the adventure was Lázaro Munero, who had made at least two clandestine trips to the United States to prepare the way. He had the contacts and nerve to take along not only Elizabet and her son, but also a younger brother, his father, who was over 70, and his mother, who was recovering from a heart attack. Lázaro's partner in the enterprise took his entire family… (Cuba Junky - Cuba Elian Gonzalez Gabriel García Márquez About Elian González: By ... Everyone knew that the leader of the adventure was Lázaro Munero, -)

Tragic as this is, one must question its relevance almost thirteen years later. In large part, it’s due to my desire to correct a widely published article about Elian by Humberto Fontova: -Chuck Hagel’s Trust in Fidel Castro Posted By Humberto Fontova On February 4, 2013
The evidence —  frantically buried by the media-Democratic-Castroite complex — was overwhelming. Mauricio Vicent, a reporter for Madrid newspaper El Pais, wrote that during that first week he’d visited Elian’s hometown of Cardenas and talked with Elian’s father, Juan Miguel, along with other family members and friends. All confirmed that Juan Miguel had always longed for his son Elian to flee to the United State. Shortly after Elian’s rescue, his father had even applied for a U.S. visa.

That version of Elian’s return to his father is at odds with too many reliable sources. One is CNN:
CNN Transcript - Breaking News: Elian Gonzalez is Reunited ...
Breaking News Elian Gonzalez is Reunited With His Father Aired April 22, 2000 - 9:59 a.m. ET THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY ...

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Haunting images capture the moment. Outraged relatives seize the initiative.
O'BRIEN: All right. And, Bill, just a final note here. You spent some time with him [Elian’s father] and you've had an opportunity to size him up face-to-face. Is he a man of genuine intentions in your opinion?
PRESS: In my opinion, he is. I was very impressed with how strong he was, how articulate he was, how passionate he was, and that he really was speaking from the heart. He really was speaking his own intentions, and there was no gun to his head, there was no pressure on what he was saying. As I pointed out, he told me he had many opportunities to flee if he wanted to. He genuinely was happy if he could get his son and go back to Cuba. I do believe he is a man of integrity. I think he's a father who wants to be with his son and now he is.
O'BRIEN: Bill Press, our host of "CROSSFIRE," who had an opportunity to break bread with Juan Miguel Gonzalez last night by coincidence, thanks for shedding some light on him.

Although I’ve corroborated this with many other sources, the one I absolutely trust is one of Cuba’s most revered news reporters, a man I met in Havana more than a year before Elian landed in America. His family is dear to me. Indeed, in the many years that have passed, we have never lost touch. Although he did not know of Bill Press’ CNN interview with Elian’s father, he sent this message about the reunion of father and son:
…He [Elian’s father] flew to Washington with his new wife, his newly born son, Elian's cousin, a pediatrician, and a teacher. He had freedom of movement, expression and meeting there... He even met Janet Reno and one more high-ranking State Dept. official. Met lawyers, attended court hearings. If he would have liked to stay, he had all the freedom to do it, and with all his family, plus Elian. Another proposal by the Cuban Gvt was that Elian's Miami cousin who had acted or said would act as the legal mother to the boy, could come to Cuba any time to spend time with him. No one can tell whether she did.

For many more reasons than my essay relates, reuniting good fathers with their children must be a priority. There’s a special place in my heart for Moms who help make that happen. Perhaps Fontova should have focused on that instead.

                                           B. Koplen 2/6/13

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