Q Can you give us an update on Elian Gonzalez, the boy rescued off the coast of Florida in 1999, then returned to Cuba over the protests of his U.S. relatives?--Mark Larsen, Calhoun, Ga.
A Elian, 15, has been well taken care of by Fidel Castro. His dad was rewarded with a seat in Cuba's national assembly, and the family was given a spacious home. Says Ann Louise Bardach, whose Without Fidel will be published next spring: "Fidel has been known to forget the birthdays of his own children, but never Elian's."
Heartwarming, isn't it? That Fidel is such a sweetheart. So massive is his affection for the young man that he, with the complicity of the U.S. government, forced the terrified boy back to Cuba. Just yesterday, the Associated Press reported that Cubans:
are preoccupied with staying afloat in a sclerotic economy where basics like toilet paper often disappear from store shelves and most people eat meat only a few times each month.
That's not surprising in a Communist country where, according to CNN, the average monthly income is around $15. Economic privations are accompanied in Castro's Cuba with a long history of human rights violations. As AP noted:
The last time Cuba carried out executions was in 2003, when three men went before a firing squad for trying to hijack a passenger ferry to the U.S. Their deaths followed a crackdown that condemned 75 government critics to long prison terms, dashing hopes of any relaxation following Jimmy Carter's visit, the first by a former U.S. president to Castro's Cuba.
In jails scattered across the island, Cuba holds 219 political prisoners, according to Elizardo Sanchez, of the independent Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation. In 1964 Fidel Castro acknowledged holding as many as 15,000 political prisoners.
Parade is correct about Castro placement of Elian Gonzalez's father into the national assembly. Placement's the right word when, as pointed out by the New York Times: "Candidates for the 609 seats run unopposed. . . "
Readers of more substantial periodicals than Parade may well recall that two of the men who forced little Elian back to Cuba were Greg Craig and Eric Holder. Craig has been selected by Barack Obama as his White House counsel and Holder's been named his attorney general. Hope and change, anyone?
There was little hope for poor Elian who, kicking and screaming, was taken back to Cuba. And for most of the country's 11 million residents, there's little reason for hope for change. Castro and the other Communist thugs show no signs of leaving.
If Castro genuinely wanted to take good care of Elian Gonzalez - and Cuba's other citizens - he'd release them from his prison.