On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Elian case blown out of proportion

Elian is now with relatives in Miami, Florida, where he
has been  staying since his dramatic
rescue  at sea last November. His
mother  and 10 other Cubans died when
a  boat full of illegal immigrants
capsized in their attempt to reach 

His father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, who travelled to Washington  10 days ago, has been trying to  meet his son and break the impasse over the
boy's future.

Under ordinary circumstances,  it would
have been a simple case of  a reunion
between father and son.

But they have been unwittingly  caught in
a political fight involving  politicians
and powerful Cuban exiles.

These forces have shown little  concern
for the child in the name  of democracy
and justice.

In the emotional debate, no one  has
bothered to ask whether  Elian's father
is fit to raise the  child.

Instead, Cuban President Fidel  Castro's
policy has become the issue of the dispute. Castro, the argument goes, is
unfit  not his father. In Cuba, the
Americans are  being attacked for their
unfairness  and injustice.

In Miami, Elian's greatuncle, a  distant
relative, has the biggest  say on
American TV and newspapers.

The child has been videotaped  telling
his father he wants to stay  in the US.
While his relatives say  the video is
authentic, critics are  claiming that the
child was  coached.

American politicians have ironically tried to force the father to  defect.

Politics has taken centre stage, 
involving people who have no business in the issue, while denying
parental relationship.

The judiciary system has been  blatantly
abused and subverted by  politicians and
relatives to keep  Elian in the US. At
this point, the  court has barred Elian
from leaving.

Elian's lawyer goes on TV every  night,
using superlatives to claim  that Cubans
“walked around fearful and scared'' and that children  were unhappy in the communist ruled

Being a lawyer, he has been convincing. Human rights activists  have nodded in support.

Elian may possibly have a better  future
in the US, one must concede, but six-year-olds do not bother about democracy
and communism. They just want to have a 
good time playing with other kids. 
Lots of children in Cuba are certainly happy.

Every child belongs to their parents  not
Castro, not Clinton and  certainly not
busybody activists.

The matter nothing to do with  politics
and everything to do with  simple values
like love and affection. These are what ordinary people talk and care about all
over the  world, not just in the US or

To strengthen their case, the 
anti-Castro campaigners are 
claiming that they “speak for the 
people.'' Like many politicians, 
they too have freely made such 

The fact is that they only represent a small section of the Cuban  community in the US. A survey has  shown that many Cubans in other  parts of the country are embarrassed by the
action of their brethrens.

The same people who speak  about the
right to protest peacefully have vowed to use force should  the authorities step in to take Elian  from his relatives.

And because these campaigners  are so
imposing, the majority in  Miami who
disagree are fearful of  expressing their

It is a case of self-proclaimed 
democrats who suppress the rights 
of others to speak up, simply because they disagree.

In Cuba, the same political rhetoric is being played up. Elian has  been reduced to a political slogan  without a thought to the psychological damage
on the boy.

Political rallies are being held, 
sometimes in heavy rain, in Cuba 
with Cubans listening to boring 
politicians reading from prepared 
text. These's no escape  it's
also  on TV.

Elian and his father should go  home
soon. They should be together as father and son, and that's all  that matters.