December 5, 1999 — news from Miami: Elián González Brotóns, a young shipwreck survivor from Cuba, blew out the candles of his birthday cake. He had just turned six. With his mother, the “little Cuban refugee” had set out for the Land of the Free. She drowned. Elián was saved by the U.S. Coast Guard and then detained by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).
January 5, 2000 — the INS ruled that Elián belongs back in Cuba with his father. After six weeks of intense international pressure to set him free, Washington DC finally backed down.
Elián’s captivity is the latest manoeuvre in Uncle Sam’s dirty war against revolutionary Cuba. In cahoots with counter-revolutionary Cuban emigrés, Washington has manufactured Elián into a symbol of “what America means — freedom.” He was paraded around like a trophy. Even now, the ultra-right won’t let him go, working on Congress to give Elián citizenship and kidnapping him for keeps. The truth is: in Cuba, Elián has been raised in a society which provides for people’s needs. He’s grown up with free child care, health care and education; he’s been treated with dignity — things the poor in the United States can only dream of.
Washington’s 40-year-old blockade aims to obscure this contrast and starve Cuba into submission. Despite the material hardship, Cubans defiantly continue to defend their revolution. Immigration is the weapon of the moment. Undocumented foreigners are usually speedily repatriated — like 400 Haitians who reached Florida shortly after Elián. But for Cuba, the U.S. Government violates an agreement to return anyone illegally approaching U.S. shores. Using a 1966 law, it grants any Cuban arrival automatic residency. The human trafficking of Cubans, at up to $(US)10,000 per head, is the result.
Let freedom ring! International solidarity forced Clinton’s hand. Free Elián! Defeat the blockade! Viva Cuba!