ELIAN AND THE DESTRUCTION OF THE FAMILY
There is no event in Cuban history that has contributed more to the destruction of the family as the 1959 Castro revolution.
Since January 1, 1959, the Cuban family began its decline as a result of the political partitioning that was instituted during that first year of drastic changes.
The first were sudden family divisions due to departures from the island of family members that had been part of or employed by the deposed government of Fulgencio Batista, followed by the summary executions and kangaroo trials that sent thousands to jail.
The mass exodus separating Cuban families started once Castro’s tilt toward a totalitarian communist regime became evident within six months after taking power.
Early on in 1959, the opposition to Castro began. Many joined the movement to unseat Castro in hopes of returning Cuba to its democratic system. Others thought that Castro would not last and that he would fall on his own. Many who left Cuba in early 1959 did so in order to spare their family further suffering because of the bloodshed they foresaw.
By the fall of 1960, many Cuban parents, fearful for their children’s future in an increasingly militarized society where they were loosing their rights about their children’s education, took the traumatic step of sending them alone to the U.S.
>From December 26, 1960 through October 22, 1962, 14,048 unaccompanied children between 6 and 18 years old left Cuba in what it became known as Operation Peter Pan. It was the largest exodus of children in the Western Hemisphere and larger than the 1930s smuggling of 7,482 Jewish children out of Nazi Germany to England and other countries.
It left many Cuban families separated from their children in the U.S. while many of those who remained in Cuba with their children had them taken by the Castro government and sent for indoctrination abroad to the communist countries of Eastern Europe and to inaccessible places throughout Cuba.
The program to destroy the family unit for political reasons started 41 years ago in Cuba. Consequently, children a well as adults suffer.
After the April 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco caused by the betrayal of President John F. Kennedy and the October 1962 Kennedy-Khrushchev pact in which the U.S. became the Castro regime’s protector from outside invasions, the hopes of Cubans that they could get their country back and install a democratic government faded away.
That realization hastened even more the massive exodus from the island, which was becoming a huge prison.
The parents of the children of Operation Peter Pan wanted to reunite with them. But it was very difficult to obtain the exit permit from the Cuban government. Many of those parents were executed and sent to jails and concentration camps for their pro-democracy activities.
Others were eventually able to obtain the exit permit or escaped by boat and were finally reunited with their children in the U.S. But not all reunions were happy after years of separation.
Another way to separate the families within their own house was by fear and mistrust. The communist indoctrination process encouraged children to report their parent’s political and religious beliefs to officials at their schools. Children were discouraged from participating in religious activities. Parents became careful of what they might say and do in front of their own children.
A technique often used was to divide the parents by sending them to jobs far away from home. With the bad transportation and communications (two early purposeful casualties of Castro’s revolution), seeing each other became nearly impossible.
Housing became scarce since the 1960s. As children became adults and married, they could not leave their parent’s homes. As families grew, they had to continue leaving under the same roof in cramped and rapidly deteriorating quarters with no privacy.
Many newlywed couples opted for living apart from each other at the home of their parents, sometimes in different parts of the island. These arrangements and the lack of privacy contributed to the high rate of divorce that plagues Cuban society.
The lack of housing, resources, the loss of religious principles and family values, promiscuity and prostitution in order to survive, have given Cuba one of the highest abortion rates in the Western Hemisphere.
In spite of the prevalent propaganda in the U.S., Castro’s Cuba is lethal ground on which to raise a family.
Children’s education is taken from their parent’s control. Children are taught primarily allegiance to Castro and his revolution from kindergarten on. They are taught to hate all who do not agree with communism.
Institutionally, Castro’s regime deprives children of their right to drink milk at age 7.
Since Castro, Cuban children have to grow up without toys and other goods afforded them in most other countries.
>From age 11 they are sent for 45 to 60 days per year to work in the fields with no pay, in order to repay their "free education."
They are forced to work long hours, given an inadequate diet and dreadful living quarters. Many of them return home ill, with venereal decease and lice. Many girls get pregnant. Abortions are liberally performed upon request even at an early age.
Males from age 15 to 27 have to face a compulsory military service that did not exist in Cuba before Castro. No Cuban males between those ages are allowed an exit permit to travel abroad until his three-year military service is concluded, even if exempt from military service for health reasons.
Youngsters are not able to attend college or university unless they and their parents have fulfilled all of their communist obligations.
One of the tools used to repress and blackmail people in Cuba is the separation from or punishment of family members. Children are innocent victims of this practice.
During the 41 years of the regime, there have been thousands of cases of families that receive Castro’s permit to leave while permits for their children were denied. Some families have left their children behind to try to get them later while most have decided to stay with them.
When a person defects, his or her children, spouse or other family members are denied permission to leave. In fact, they are being held as hostages to prevent defectors from talking abroad.
In the case of Major Orestes Lorenzo, the Cuban pilot who defected in a military MIG jet plane, his wife and two children were harassed and denied exit permits to reunite with him in the U.S. Lorenzo, after trying all legal ways to get his family back from Castro, took the extraordinary risk to clandestinely fly to Cuba to rescue them.
Manuel Amigó Trejo is a Cuban exile resident of Sweden. His wife Isabel and his 4 and 5 year-old sons have been denied their exit permit, preventing family reunification.
Exiled living in Texas, Luis Grave de Peralta Morell’s 6 and 12 year old sons have received their exit permits four years ago but the Castro regime denies the permit to their mother. Six other children in his family have received the permit to leave Cuba but not their parents. So his family remains separated.
Jose Cohen, exiled in the U.S., explains that his parents Isaac and Daisy Cohen, his brother David, his wife Lazara and his three children, Yanelis, 13, Yamila, 9 and Isaac ,4, are being forced to live in Cuba against their will and subjected to psychological pressures in an attempt to destabilize them emotionally.
Cohen says, "My family is not being allowed to work; they live on the funds I can send, however, this is illegal, and as such, their situation is desperate.
"My mother was fired from her job, my wife was detained and taken to the headquarters of the State Security in view of our children, where she was questioned like common criminal. My home was brutally searched by 7 goons from the tyranny in full view of my children."
Cohen states, "My family is hostage to Castro's tyranny. They have visas to travel to the United States, but the Cuban government, in open violation of the most basic of human rights, keeps them against their will, abusing the innocence of three children and the impotence of two elderly persons and a woman."
Bewildered, Cohen asks, "How is it possible that something like this is happening at the end of the 20th Century, and the world is passively looking at the criminal who has betrayed and subjected his people to a life of absolute material and spiritual misery, without hope for the future, and no one is doing a thing to put end to such suffering?"
Concluding, Cohen repeats what all Cubans know but apparently goes over the heads of most Americans, "My children are forced to study a false history, backward and unjust doctrines. At school, they teach them to hate and resent. They live without freedom. My children want to live with both their parents, to have a happy childhood and are branded by the suffering which is imposed on them by Castro's criminal dictatorship."
On July 6, 1980, of the 60 passengers trying to escape Cuba in the riverboat "XX Aniversario" in the Canímar River in the province of Matanzas, fewer than 20 survived after being massacred by the Cuban authorities. Among the dead were innocent women and children.
On July 13, 1994, of the 72 passengers aboard the tugboat "13 de Marzo" that were trying to escape Havana Harbor, only 32 survived the massacre ordered by Castro’s coast guards. Among the 40 dead were 23 innocent children.
A Wall Street Journal editorial on January 6, 2000 asks, "Does anyone think a man [Castro] who considers escape a criminal act has Elian's welfare at heart?"
These are just a few isolated incidents of the ongoing tragedy Cuban people have been enduring. Throughout 41 years in power, Castro has not shown any concern for families or children.
So, why the big fuss he has staged for 6-year-old Elián González?
Elián’s father divorced Elizabeth Brotons in May 1991. Elián was born in 1993. In November 1999, Elizabeth escaped Cuba with Elián and gave her life for her son’s freedom.
Testimonies from Elián’s family in the U.S. say that his father has stated his desire to leave Cuba. On one occasion, he made the comment that he wished to escape Cuba "even in a bathtub." On two prior occasions, he filed papers at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana to come to the U.S. legally but he was rejected.
That explains why Castro does not want him, his wife, his daughter or his parents to come unescorted to the U.S. as any normal family would do in a similar situation. Castro fears that they would defect.
Getting the hell out of Cuba is very much on the mind of everybody trapped inside that island. That is why Cubans take their chances risking their lives to cross a shark-infested sea.
And the lucky ones that survived have to face the challenge of Clinton’s Administration inhumane coast guard and INS officers who are not concerned about the writing on the Statue of Liberty.
Elián’s father’s family in the U.S. say that after he learned that his son was safe with them he asked them to care for him. Knowing what Elián’s life would be in Castro’s Cuba, that is what any normal father in that situation would ask from their relatives in the coveted U.S. With his son here, he could live in freedom.
What happened next is that Castro took control of this private family situation and manipulated them as his puppets. The real hostages in this case are Elián’s father, his current wife, his daughter and his parents that have to follow Castro’s orders under duress.
No matter what appears on the surface to the U.S. INS Commissioner Doris Meissner, to Rev. Joan Brown Campbell of the National Council of Churches (who gave Castro $10 millions in aid), Attorney General Janet Reno and other fools, Cuba is a country held hostage. Cubans everywhere are very much acquainted with the situation.
In a pathetic display of ignorance, INS officials asked Elián’s father in Cuba (!) on December 31, if he was acting "under duress" from Castro’s government.
If he would have opened his heart, what was the U.S. prepared to do to protect him from Castro’s resulting rage? Cubans know they are on their own and they have learned to lie very well to survive.
Rev. Brown Campbell said that she, along with Elián’s father and his four grandparents had a late-night dinner celebration with Castro in Havana on January 4. Obviously, Castro is exercising his power on them.
George E. Balbi, a Cuban exiled in Flushing, New York, said, "Castro has played with the lives of eleven million people. He has made a mockery of family values, religious beliefs and self respect."
Castro created a crisis with the U.S. in order to divert attention from the dire economic situation in Cuba, his latest political and diplomatic failures and the wave of repression unleashed against pro-democracy groups after the IX Ibero-American Summit in November 1999.
Sources inside Cuba say that over 200 people have been apprehended so far including women with her children. The families of some of them do not know where they have been taken. Nothing has been said in the U.S. media about this.
While Castro is destroying Cuban families, he is distracting the world’s attention with Elián’s case.
If Elián is returned to Castro’s Cuba, he will not be returned to a family that can make decisions about his education, welfare and future like any family in a democratic country. He is being given on a silver platter to a totalitarian society in which his family is a front devoid of power that has to bow to the absolutist whims of Castro.
Mario Luis Ramirez, founder of the Cuban American Democracy Project in New York City says, "The Clinton Administration's decision to send Elián back is not only immoral, but it shows how the White House either fears or is sympathetic to the last remaining dictator in the Western Hemisphere. Clinton's gesture will not deliver the boy to his father, but to a repressive system where children become property of the communist party as outlined by Castro himself."
According to the 1976 Cuba Communist Constitution, the state has the power to intervene in family matters such as raising children. Our concept of family does not apply in Castro’s world.
On June 30, 1978, Cuba’s "Gaceta Oficial" published Law No. 16, Children and Youth Code: Title One - General Dispositions: "Article 1. The Children and Youth Code regulates the participation of children and young people under the age of 30 in the construction of the new society and establishes the obligations of persons, agencies and institutions that intervene in their education in observance of the objective of promoting the formation of the communist personality in the young generation."
Americans thinking that Elián would be better served with his "family" in Cuba, are showing how misinformed and naïve they are.
The last wish of Elián’s mother, to see her son live in a free country where his human rights would be respected were trampled by the cruel decision to return him to the person they were escaping from: Castro.
Agustín Blázquez with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton
Mr.Blázquez is the Producer/Director of the documentaries
COVERING CUBA and CUBA: THE PEARL OF THE ANTILLES