Return Elián González to Cuba!

On November 25, the U.S. Coast Guard discovered a five-year-old Cuban child, Elián González, clinging to a raft in international waters between Cuba and Florida. Elián had survived two days at sea after the boat in which he was in capsized, and his mother and nine other passengers drowned.

Elián's mother had taken the child, without the father's knowledge, in an attempt to leave Cuba for the U.S. After rescuing the child, the Coast Guard brought the child to Miami, where he was soon placed in the custody of distant relatives.

Despite the fact that the boy's father and grandparents, as well as hundreds of thousands of Cubans, are demanding that the child be sent back home, the U.S. government continues to detain the boy in Florida and has delayed any final ruling on the matter. On December 23, U.S. authorities stated that a final decision may be delayed until January 21.

In Florida and elsewhere, many U.S. politicians are exploiting the incident for political purposes. The two leading presidential candidates of the Democratic and Republican parties, for example, have threatened to detain the boy permanently in the U.S., while Senator Jesse Helms and other U.S. representatives are calling for legislation granting the boy immediate U.S. citizenship.

Many people throughout the world and in the U.S. are joining in the call for the return of Elián González to Cuba. They are pointing out that the U.S. government's decision to hold 6-year-old Elián González in the United States is not only inhumane, but a violation of U.S. and international law.

Many organizations have also recently organized actions throughout the U.S. demanding the return of the boy to Cuba.

Below we reprint a declaration issued by the Cuban National Assembly on December 20, as well as a few selected statements by U.S. organizations and individuals.


Contents:


Declaration of the Cuban National Assembly

For more than 40 years, the Cuban people have heroically resisted the permanent and systematic aggression of the government of the United States.

Washington's administrations have waged an economic war against Cuba since 1959 -- trying to cause diseases, shortages and suffering among the people, obstructing travel and normal communication between both nations, punishing its own citizens when they break their severe bans and, at the same time, disrespectfully and perfidiously manipulating migratory issues.

Since January 1st, 1959, the government of the United States welcomed the thieves, torturers and embezzlers of Batista's tyranny, and the exploiters whose interests were affected by the revolutionary measures taken in favor of the people. It has encouraged the island's doctors, professionals and technicians to leave and go to the United States.

Washington has carried out an insidious defamatory campaign which reached its highest and most repugnant climax with the so-called Operation Peter Pan that took more than 14,000 Cuban children away from their homes. It has also automatically admitted all those who reach U.S. dry land without first complying with migratory formalities, including those who used violence, hijacked boats or killed people in order to achieve their goal. Thus, the U.S. government "sanctions" that policy with the so-called Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, a law that only exists for Cubans, the reach of which now irresponsibly extends in a clear contradiction and violation of the migratory accords.

The kidnapping of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez is the worst and most abominable expression of that policy.

In a few hours, exactly a month will have passed since the tragic wreck of the boat in which Elian traveled to the United States without his father's authorization. It was another case of illegal trafficking of people encouraged, first of all, by officially- supported radio stations that broadcast 200 hours of daily programming against Cuba and, especially, by the already mentioned law and the tolerance of the U.S. Administration.

Initially, Washington hypocritically tried to ignore the child's father's right to the legal custody of his son and the clear international, Cuban and U.S. laws in this respect. Elian was delivered to a Mafia that has kept him kidnapped in a strange environment and separated from his father and his grandparents, and also away from his school, his friends and his home. What is more, he is under mental and psychological pressures in what is a cruel and inhumane act that violates his personal integrity.

However, U.S. authorities have delayed the possibility of reversing their mistake and are allowing time to go by without any consideration for either the pain caused to the child and to his family or for the serious consequences that this situation may bring to his well-being, his health and his personal integrity.

Many specialists around the world, including renowned doctors, psychologists and experts from the United States, agree that the longer the child remains in that strange environment, the deeper the psychological damage will become.

In spite of their just indignation, Elian's family has satisfied all the formalities requested by U.S. immigration institutions. Now, the United States has the obligation to immediately send the child back to the home from which he was illegally taken away.

How much longer will they wait? What else is needed to put an end to the suffering of the child, the father and the family? Can this situation be beneficial for the noble people of the U.S. and for the millions of U.S. citizens who believe in the family and the protection of a child's personal integrity?

The acts of a government that considers itself responsible cannot depend on the pressures of a terrorist Mafia or on corrupt individuals.

The National Assembly of People's Power of the Republic of Cuba demands that Elian Gonzalez is once and for all sent back to his home and requests that all parliaments, governments, political parties, religious, social and non-governmental organizations and people of goodwill throughout the world also demand that the U.S. government releases this 6-year-old child so that he can go back to his father, to his home and to his nation.

The Cuban Parliament is also issuing a special request to the United Nations Secretary General, to the President of the General Assembly of that organization and to the Director General of the United Nations Children's Fund -- calling on them to demand that the U.S. government immediately return the child, in accordance with international law.

The National Assembly calls on the Cuban people to double their efforts in the fight for the liberation of Elian Gonzalez, who has become a symbol of the dignity of our nation. That the people raise their voices in every corner of the island and proclaim -- in one unanimous voice of men, women, children, young and old -- that they will not rest until this crime has been erased.

Passed unanimously by the Cuban Parliament, Monday, 20 December 1999, Havana, Cuba


Message Sent by Fidel Castro
To the People Gathered Around the Bleacher Constructed
Near the U.S. Interests Section

December 8

The perfidious idea to corrupt and buy off not only the child s innocent conscience but also that of his honest father and selfless family living in Cuba has not been abandoned.

Elián s father personally told me that in one of the first communications with the house where his boy is being kept since the abduction, they openly tried to bribe him so he hung up the phone deeply outraged.

We have learned from intelligence sources that the Cuban-American extremist mob was intent on putting a heavy pressure on him and on offering two million dollars if he traveled to Miami to claim the child, urging him to establish his residence in America with the boy. On November 29, that is, the same day we met in my office nine days ago, he told me that he would neither travel to the United States nor negotiate or accept to discuss his rights over the child at corrupted courts in Miami.

I had summoned him to learn his exact position. I also wanted to know what kind of a man he was. I asked him many questions and we had an in-depth discussion. Although he was still deeply affected I had the perception that he was sincere and stood firm; that gave me confidence. He was the only person with the right to decide on the future of the child. He had requested our support and pinned all his hopes on the revolutionary government.

The battle for Elián began that same evening.

Seven days after the conversation I have described, when our people had already undertaken that titanic struggle, a dispatch from EFE in Washington dated December 6 read as follows: "U.S. democratic Congressman Robert Menéndez advocated today that the father of the Cuban child Elián González, whose custody has given rise to a new confrontation with the United States, is allowed to travel to Florida to claim custody of his son.

"Why is it that the father and his immediate family are not allowed to come to the United States for our legal system to determine what is in the child s best interest? This was the question raised by Menéndez, of Cuban origin, in a written statement.

"According to Menéndez, once in the United States Elián González s father would have the possibility to submit to a U.S. court the documents certifying his right to the child s custody", the dispatch added.

We found this press dispatch highly suspicious because nobody from Elián s family in Cuba had requested permission to travel to the United States. Now, this man, one of the most notorious Congressmen representing the extremist mob that is keeping Elián kidnapped, Why was he so persistent?

Today, December 8, a few hours before this rally, an AFP dispatch issued at 3:30 p.m. in Washington reported the following: "The United States indicated this Wednesday that it will respond to Cuba, at the very latest on Thursday, on the case of the "little rafter", the Cuban child Elián González, and advanced that its decision would take into account the father s rights.

"The Immigration and Naturalization Service needs to contact González, the child s father, to establish according to standard procedure his will and his rights in the case , said State Department spokesman James Foley.

"The spokesman indicated that the INS rules recognize the parents rights to claim parental authority in an immigration procedure.

"Foley pointed out that Washington will be contacting the Cuban authorities this same Wednesday or certainly tomorrow, at the latest .

"According to the spokesman, Washington is willing to grant a visa to the child s father for him to contact the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the U.S. but he also said that the INS would be offered the opportunity to meet with González in Cuba ".

This same evening, when Elián s father was informed about the content of this cable, he said that he will neither accept to travel to the United States nor is he willing to meet with any U.S. government official if it is not to let him know the day, the time and the way that the child will be returned to Cuba. It is a logical reaction, for the man is already exhausted. Tens of national and foreign journalists keep calling him day and night. His wife is ill and the three-month-old baby she is breastfeeding has also been ill for two days now.

It is really ignoble that that traumatized child subjected to unbearable pressures remains in such condition one day, one hour and one minute more than is indispensable to immediately return him to his country and family.

We have spent the whole afternoon waiting for contacts requested by the U.S. State Department, both in Washington and Havana, and announced for 3:00 p.m. There has been no contact whatsoever until this instant when I am drafting this message and you are at that rally.

In our view, it is unquestionable that at the moment the President of the United States is trying to find the right solution to the situation created. He gave such an example yesterday in announcing the return of the kidnapped and the kidnappers intercepted on board the "Albacora" yacht. But, that country is involved in an election campaign and the votes of the Florida State are very much sought after, so the President is under heavy pressure from circles of the U.S. extreme right.

We have just received news that the terrorist group intercepted while on its way to Marguerite island to murder me with powerful weapons --which were the property of that influential mob, just like the boat they used-- was acquitted and relieved of all charges by a U.S. federal court. Some of the most prominent leaders of that organization whose participation in the events was beyond all doubt were not even presented in court.

This shows that under the circumstances the courts in that country, which would have Elián s fate in their hands, are not very reliable. At this moment, we cannot be certain that justice would be made or that a humane attitude would be assumed to allow the immediate recognition of the rights of Elián s father and to take into account the terrible suffering that both the family and the boy have been putting up with for thirteen dreadful days.

We do not wish to humiliate the United States government, not at all, nor have we issued any kind of ultimatum. We simply stated that our people were so irritated and enraged that in less than 72 hours irrepressible protests would break out in Cuba and the world against such an abominable episode. That movement is already underway, just as we had foreseen, and it will not stop until the child, Elián is back in Cuba.

A formula that is worthy and honorable for both sides should be worked out leaving no space to suspicion, manipulation, dishonesty or deceit and avoiding any delay in the child s return. Then, I am sure that both Elián s father and our people will immediately support it.


Statement of the Interreligious Foundation
For Community Organization
(IFCO)/Pastors for Peace

The Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO) deplores the detention of the young Cuban boy González in Miami. On behalf of our board, staff, and supporters, and the thousands of participants in our project, IFCO/Pastors for Peace, in all parts of the United States, we appeal to the US government in the strongest possible terms to immediately return Elián to his family in Cuba.

Through our project Pastors for Peace, we have worked actively for reconciliation between the US and Cuba since 1991. We are well aware that US policy on Cuba has been held hostage by special interests; these same extremist groups are now shamelessly exploiting the fate of a traumatized boy who is barely six years old, as a propaganda ploy to further their mean-spirited agenda against Cuba. By responding to those special interests instead of to US law, US immigration officials have violated US immigration accords and have precipitated a serious setback to US/Cuba relations. We urge the US government to immediately correct this egregious error and send Elián home.

We are urging our supporters in all parts of the US to reach out to the State and Justice Departments to demand the immediate release and repatriation of Elián González. We intend to continue putting pressure on the US government until the boy is home with his family.

THE BEST GIFT WE CAN GIVE ELIAN FOR HIS SIXTH BIRTHDAY IS TO SEND HIM HOME TO HIS FAMILY, TO THE HOME AND COMMUNITY HE KNOWS AND LOVES.

Elián was picked up in international waters. After his emergency medical treatment, he should have been immediately returned to his surviving natural father in Cuba. Cuban law, US law, and international law all mandate this. If Elián had come from any other country but Cuba, he would immediately have been sent home.

There was no reason for the Immigration Service to issue Elián "parole" and thereby detain him in the US, except for the machinations of the right-wing Cuban-American community in Miami, including the Cuban-American National Foundation, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and others. They have shamelessly exploited the boy for their own political purposes. We are outraged that the US government has once again fallen prey to their extremist influence.

In detaining Elián in the US, our government is violating its own immigration accords with Cuba. This act of bad faith threatens to undo any progress which has been made in the area of US/Cuba relations -- as can be seen by the escalating protests from Cuba.

Elián's mother was enticed by a Miami smuggler; that smuggler was paid $1000/person to put herself, her second husband, and her son on that dangerous speedboat. Countless lives have been lost as US interests have continued to entice Cubans to emigrate illegally. Cuba has strong laws against this sort of trafficking in human lives; but the US has persisted in encouraging illegal and perilous emigration by raft or speedboat across the Florida straits. This must stop!

Elián was taken from his home without the consent or knowledge of his father or his four grandparents in Cuba; they immediately demanded, and continue to demand, that US authorities send him home. Elián's father, who lives in Cárdenas and works in the tourist industry in Varadero, is an upstanding citizen with a decent income. He has joint custody of Elián, after an amicable divorce, and has been a primary caregiver for Elián, who lives with his father five days a week. This is not a case of a boy being rescued from an abusive situation; it's a kidnaping, plain and simple.

Elián's arrival in the US is being used as yet another way to malign Cuba in the US media. We must not allow the many lies being told about Cuba to go uncontested, and we must not let those lies determine the boy's future. We know that Elián would have a good life in Cuba -- with fewer material goods, but with a loving family, and with his basic human rights assured. The question of different standards of living in the two countries is far from absolute. As Lesbia Cánova, Cuban Deputy Minister of Education, said, "Elián deserves to live where he will have free health care, and to be able to study in a school where there are no drugs, no weapons; where students and teachers are not being murdered in their classrooms..."

The US government may offer Elián's family the chance to come to a US court to petition for Elián's return -- but this is not an acceptable solution. Since Elián was kidnaped from Cuba and rescued in international waters, the US courts should have no jurisdiction, and Elián should be immediately and automatically repatriated without the need for any sort of appeal or hearing. A child from any other nation in the world, under the same circumstances, would be automatically returned to his/her home country, without any need for an appeal. We are additionally concerned that Florida judges, who are locally elected, may not be unbiased with regard to the historically loaded issue of US/Cuba relations.

Some in the US have said that the boy should stay in the US-- ‘to honor the dead mother's dying wishes.' But she risked the boy's life in shark-infested waters to kidnap him to Miami, without permission from his other custodial parent; and even her parents -- Elián's maternal grandparents -- are insisting that the boy be brought home to live with his family.

JUSTICE AND DECENCY DEMAND THAT WE UPHOLD THE LAW AND BASIC FAMILY VALUES -- AND RETURN ELIAN IMMEDIATELY TO HIS FAMILY IN CUBA!


Resolution of the National Network on Cuba
Seattle Conference 2000

December 5, 1999

Whereas the recent drowning of ten Cuban citizens has created tremendous emotional pain for the Cuban people, and Whereas among those who lost their lives was the mother of Elián González, a Cuban boy whose sixth birthday is today and miraculously survived by hanging onto an inner tube for several hours in international waters off the coast of Miami before he was found, rescued, and brought to the United States, and

Whereas this vulnerable Cuban child was taken from his home without the consent or knowledge of his father or four grandparents in Cuba, and

Whereas the father and grandparents of Elián González upon learning of Elián's tragic situation immediately declared and demanded from the United States authorities in the strongest terms possible the immediate repatriation of their child and return to his home, and

Whereas the child already suffering the traumas of the shipwreck, maternal loss, and separation from all that is familiar and dear to him has now fallen prey to exploitation by the media and by special interests groups in the United States, and

Whereas the refusal to return Elián González to his rightful parent and grandparents constitutes a flagrant violation of the best interests of the child and the legal and natural rights of Elián's father, and

Whereas Article 16 (3) of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes that "The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State", and

Whereas, the United States' detention of the child constitutes a clear violation of the United States immigration agreement with Cuba, and Whereas the United States has a legal tradition that in situations like the one presently involving Elián González recognizes and affirms that the best interests of the child are dependent on complete access to the love, protection, and care of the parents, and

Whereas the so-called protection and care said to be provided to Elián by relatives who are strangers constitute the kidnapping of a vulnerable child and a gross violation of the parental rights of Elián González's father and grandparents, and

Whereas the United States recognizes children have a natural right not only to their parents but to their home and cultural communities, and Whereas the kidnapping of Elián with total disregard for his emotional trauma constitutes child abuse;

Therefore, be it resolved that the US-Cuba 2000 Conference of the National Network on Cuba, meeting in the City of Seattle, Washington this fifth day of December 1999, resolves to demand from the United States government that Elián González be immediately returned to his legal and rightful parent and grandparents in Cuba without any further legal or judicial delays; and

Furthermore, this national body hereby constitutes itself into the first of many committees to be formed throughout the United States to launch a worldwide campaign to appeal to the United States Administration, to the United States Congress, and to international human rights organizations to demand the immediate return of Elián González to his father, to his grandparents, and to his home country.


Ten Reasons Why Elián González
Should Be United With His Father

Statement by Nelson P Valdés, Professor of Sociology at the University of New Mexico,
and President of the Cuba Research and Analysis Group -- a non-profit organization in Albuquerque, New Mexico

First, the U.S.-Cuba Joint Communiqué on Cuba-U.S. Migration, New York City, September 9, 1994 established that both countries agreed to procedures and measures "to ensure that migration between the two countries is safe, legal, and orderly." The agreement established that, "The United States and the Republic of Cuba recognize their common interest in preventing unsafe departures from Cuba which risk loss of human life.

The United States underscored its recent decisions to discourage unsafe voyages. Pursuant to those decisions, migrants rescued at sea attempting to enter the United States will not be permitted to enter the United States, but instead will be taken to safe haven facilities outside the United States. Further, the United States has discontinued its practice of granting parole to all Cuban migrants who reach U.S. territory in irregular ways."

In 1995 both countries signed the Companion Agreement on Migration by which the US government agreed to return to Cuba all those who were intercepted at sea, if they did not reach the US mainland. This is known as the "wet feet you go back, dry feet you stay" (in the US). The 1994 agreement also established that "The Republic of Cuba will take effective measures in every way it possibly can to prevent unsafe departures using mainly persuasive methods."

The record indicates that the child was found at sea, he never reached the US mainland on his own. Moreover, fishermen found him and turned him over to the US Coast Guard. If this is the case, then the child has to be returned, as the 1994-1995 Migration Agreement establishes.

Second, the 1994 agreement has a section on "Alien smuggling" between Cuba and the United States. It reads, "The United States and the Republic of Cuba reaffirm their support for the recently adopted United Nations General Assembly resolution on alien smuggling. They pledged their cooperation to take prompt and effective action to prevent the transport of persons to the United States illegally."

The Coast Guard, the US media and the State Department spokesman have stated that this was an illegal smuggling operation. In fact two of the survivors stated that they paid to get into the boat that would bring them to the United States.

If this is the case, then, the Migration Agreement has been violated as well. It should be noted that the 1994 agreement established that, "The United States and the Republic of Cuba are committed to directing Cuban migration into safe, legal and orderly channels consistent with strict implementation of the 1984 joint communiqué."

Third, the United States has signed the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, done at The Hague on October 25, 1980, which established the legal rights and procedures for the prompt return of children who have been wrongfully removed from one country to another, or retained in one country. Cuba has not signed the Convention but has the right to accede to it. Under The Hague convention children who have been wrongfully removed or retained abroad are to be returned promptly.

No one has denied that the child was removed by his mother without the consent of his father or of Cuba's authorities. Nor that the father has requested that the child be returned to him.

Fourth, the U.S. Congress has ratified the International Convention on Child Abduction. In fact the Congress has declared that, "(1) The international abduction or wrongful retention of children is harmful to their well-being. (2) Persons should not be permitted to obtain custody of children by virtue of their wrongful removal or retention. (3) International abductions and retentions of children are increasing, and only concerted cooperation pursuant to an international agreement can effectively combat this problem." (See: Section 1 of Pub. L. 100-300 or the International Child Abduction Remedies Act.)

Fifth, if the issue of custody is raised, then a custody jurisdiction dispute between the United States and Cuba (a country that has not ratified The Hague Convention) is to be handled in accordance with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act or the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act of the U.S. It should be noted that the federal legislation establishes under Section 105. INTERNATIONAL APPLICATION OF [ACT] that the court "shall treat a foreign country as if it were a State of the United States for the purpose of applying the law. That means that the rules that apply to another state in the United States also applies when it comes to the foreign country. That means that " (c), a child-custody determination made in a foreign country under factual circumstances in substantial conformity with the jurisdictional standards of this [Act] must be recognized and enforced under [Article] 3." U.S. federal law is consonant with the International Convention, which, under Article 3 recognizes that "the law of the State in which the child was habitually resident immediately before the removal or retention" is the one that applies in the case.

It has been argued that the mother's intent of taking the child to the United States should be respected. However, the law says otherwise. The moment when the child was removed, it has been argued, constitutes a "loss of residence" even if a new habitual residence has not been established. But U.S. Court of Appeal for the 6th Circuit concluded otherwise. (Friedrich v. Friedrich, No 92-3117, 983 F.2d 1396, decided 22 January 1993)

Sixth, the 1999 Florida Statutes also support the father's claim. The following sections are pertinent to this case:

a) the father's Cuban custody is to be recognized according to The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act, Section 61.1348 International application. (It reads, "The general policies of this act extend to the international area. The provisions of this act relating to the recognition and enforcement of custody decrees of other states apply to custody decrees, and decrees involving legal institutions similar in nature to custody institutions, rendered by appropriate authorities of other nations if reasonable notice and opportunity to be heard were given to all affected persons."

b) the child is to have frequent and continuing contact with his father, which obviously cannot happen if the child is in the US and the father in Cuba. (See: "Section 61.13(b) 1. The court shall determine all matters relating to custody of each minor child of the parties in accordance with the best interests of the child and in accordance with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act. It is the public policy of this state to assure that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of child-rearing. After considering all relevant facts, the father of the child shall be given the same consideration as the mother in determining the primary residence of a child irrespective of the age or sex of the child."

c) responsibility for a minor child is the province of both parents; obviously in the absence of the mother, then the father is responsible "unless the court finds that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child." There is no evidence of any felony or of domestic violence on the part of the father. Moreover, the International Convention as well as the U.S. law does not apply here because the issue should not be who has custody, but rather whether the child should be returned to his parent.

d) Florida law recognizes that decisions concerning custody should take place, " ordinarily in the state with which the child and his or her family have the closest connection and where significant evidence concerning his or her care, protection, training, and personal relationships is most readily available, and that courts of this state decline the exercise of jurisdiction when the child and the family have a closer connection with another state." (Fla. Stat. § 61.1304 (1999))

e) A court in the state of Florida should not be considering the case at all, first because Florida is not the "home state" of the child nor has the child resided in the state for at least 6 months. (See: Fla. Stat. § 61.1308 (1999), 61.1308 Jurisdiction. (1) A court of this state which is competent to decide child custody matters has jurisdiction to make a child custody determination by initial or modification decree if: (a) This state: 1. Is the home state of the child at the time of commencement of the proceeding, or 2. Had been the child's home state within 6 months before commencement of the proceeding and the child is absent from this state because of his or her removal or retention by a person claiming custody or for other reasons, and a parent or person acting as parent continues to live in this state;) A mere physical presence of the child in the state is not sufficient to confer jurisdiction on a court of the state to make a child custody determination. (FLORIDA STATUTES 1999, HISTORY: s. 4, ch. 77-433; s. 326, ch. 95-147.)

Seventh, the very fact that the child has been held in Florida without the consent of the father, the only surviving parent may constitute kidnapping as defined by the Florida Statutes, TITLE XLVI, Chapter 787. Kidnapping refers to the confining of a child under 13 "against her or his will" meaning, confinement "without the consent of her of his parent or legal guardian." (See: Section 787.01b). The Florida courts have not yet determined who the legal guardian is; but the Cuban courts state it is his father..

Eighth, it remains to be determined whether in fact there has been a concerted effort to interfere with the custody of the child's father. (See Section 787.03, (1) Whoever, without lawful authority, knowingly or recklessly takes or entices, or aids, abets, hires, or otherwise procures another to take or entice, any child 17 years of age or under or any incompetent person from the custody of the child or incompetent person's parent, his or her guardian, a public agency having the lawful charge of the child or incompetent person, or any other lawful custodian commits the offense of interference with custody and shall be guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084; (2) In the absence of a court order determining rights to custody or visitation with any child 17 years of age or under or with any incompetent person, any parent of the child or incompetent person, whether natural or adoptive, stepparent, legal guardian, or relative of such child or incompetent person who has custody thereof and who takes, detains, conceals, or entices away that child or incompetent person within or without the state, with malicious intent to deprive another person of his or her right to custody of the child or incompetent person, shall be guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s.775.084.)

Ninth, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child ratified by Cuba and the United States in its Article 11 declares that "States Parties shall take measures to combat the illicit transfer and non-return of children abroad" and "to this end, States Parties shall promote the conclusion of bilateral or multilateral agreements or accession to existing agreements." Article 35 calls for "all appropriate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent the abduction of, the sale or traffic in children for any purpose or in any form."

Tenth, human decency, family love and common sense dictates that this child and his father should be together.


Statement of Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA)

December 8, 1999

With conviction, I stand with family law experts and child welfare advocates who demand the return of Elian Gonzales to his father in Cuba. In addition to the traumatic experiences that this child has suffered in losing his mother, being shipwrecked and nearly losing his own life, he is now caught in an International custody battle in which the position of our government has been both unfounded and contradictory.

The United States' failure to immediately return the child to his father is incongruent to the agreement between our two nations that mandates repatriation of Cubans who are rescued or discovered in International waters. Furthermore, with the passing of Elian's mother, traditional family law requires that custody of a child be afforded to the living parent, unless that parent is unfit to care for the boy. In this case, the legal and natural rights of Elian's father have been violated, as have the best interests of Elian. It is unclear why this child has not been returned to his father in Cuba, unless the motivation is political which, coming at the expense of the child's well being, is immoral and unethical.