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Johnny Morales, Florida, USA
"He should definitely go"
 real 28k

Narian Jambuthathan, Antwerp, Belgium
"Congressmen are prepared to bend the law"
 real 28k

Peter Minogue, Virginia, USA
"How do we take this freedom away from Elian"
 real 28k

William Nguyen, Washington, USA
"I think there's room here for both parties"
 real 28k

Kirstie Carter, North Carolina, USA
"There's no debate about it, he has to go back"
 real 28k

Monday, 17 April, 2000, 09:00 GMT 10:00 UK
Elian Gonzalez: Where does he belong?

Six-year-old Elian Gonzalez is at the centre of a bitter custody battle which goes to the heart of US-Cuba relations and the US presidential debate.

What do you think of the Elian row? Where does the boy belong?

The fate of Elian Gonzalez was also debated in Talking Point On Air, broadcast on the BBC World Service.

Select a link below to watch or listen to Talking Point On Air's debate:

The Ethiopian famine was also discussed on the programme with Judith Lewis of the World Food Programme.

Click here to see the discussion on Ethiopia.

Your comments since the programme:

What 6-year-old do you know gets the option of where to live? It is the parent's decision, and the father has decided Cuba. Respect it! It's not your kid to decide.
Adrian Woodside, USA -

One person should decide this whole Elian problem - his father.
Norman Horobin, UK

If it had been an American child held by the Cubans there would have been hell to pay

Lesley Frost, Zimbabwe
I often wonder if the people who object to Elian Gonzalez being returned to his father would feel if it was their child. If it had been an American child held by the Cubans there would have been hell to pay but because an "American" family chooses to separate a child from its parents it seems to be all right with them. Well quite frankly it's not. I don't know what right anybody in this entire world has to separate a child from its parent. The only time would be if the child was abused but this is not the case. Please give Elian back to his father - as far as I am concerned the only person who has the right to have his child.
Lesley Frost, Zimbabwe

I feel that if the father loved and cared for his as he says, then how come he didn't come to the states back in November 1999 when his son was first found?
Debbie, USA

Elian should be left to live with his relatives in Miami. It is disgraceful of that woman Janet Reno to speak in the rude way she did on TV. It is an insult to western Democracy, refugees should have the choice. They also have the right to protection under the UN law. Does the US break the UN law then?
Peter, Malta

Do the rest of you in the world have any idea how embarrassed most of us Americans are about the Elian Gonzalez fiasco? This is lawlessness, and we know it.
Larry Hurlock, Alaska, USA

Let the young child live where he likes.

Adrian K.M. Nyengella, Tanzania
Let the young child live where he likes. It is my belief that when he left Cuba and fled to USA, it was because his elders (his late mother in particular) influenced him to go where he is now. He has all the rights to be guided by his parent(s) and be enriched with the parents' love and wisdom, regardless as to whether the parents live in a poor state. The civilised society like USA (if really it deserves so) shouldn't involve an innocent Elian in their bad political play between USA and Cuba. Let this gifted kid be with his father and his future life destination be decided when such time arrives.
Adrian K.M. Nyengella, Tanzania

He belongs with his father. If the Cuban migrants to the USA are genuine in their cause they should unite him with his father rather than treat him as a 'Castro incarnate' and mobilise funds and to better the lot of suffering children in Cuba ...if that is what they think is the case.
Vikas Kuthiala, Cyprus

I think Elian Gonzalez is becoming a battle pawn.

Sara Jackson, USA
I think Elian Gonzalez is becoming a battle pawn. The Cuban government is trying to have this one small victory over the United States. The US knows it's bad relationship with this small island and is trying to fix it. It isn't right for these two countries to use him to fix their disagreements. Elian's mother wanted her son to reach America. These are her last wishes, how dare we challenge them?
Sara Jackson, USA

I feel really sorry for Elian Gonzales. The Americans and Cubans will stop at nothing and nobody for propaganda purposes. Why all this fuss? After all there are very many more Elians in Cuba whose cases could have been highlighted but just because the Americans are not involved nobody cares. I am scared for Elian's future. He was from obscurity and will definitely return to obscurity when all this political dust would have settled. Does Juan Miguel actually want to go back to Cuba from where many of his country are running? Whatever the case, the double standards of the Americans will forever surface. Poor Elian, he will go back to Cuba and be forgotten.
Sorie Kamara, Sierra Leone

I think this child should be reunited with his father and people who disagree with this are totally heartless, they should step into the fathers shoes for a week and see how they like it.
Jo Eatherington, UK (Wales)

I cannot see why (apart from the hope to won votes) Al Gore should disregard the law and throw his weight behind this political shambles.

Stelwagen, The Netherlands
It is a crying shame that a little boy is being abused by the Cuban emigrants. Putting words in the mouth of a six-year-old, bribing him no doubt with all kinds of luxury goodies, hysterically turning him into some sort of miracle boy with a direct line to God and Mary. The law is clear: he should be re-united with his father and I cannot see why (apart from the hope to won votes) Al Gore should disregard the law and throw his weight behind this political shambles.
Stelwagen, The Netherlands

Some American people say, "Why don't you let Elian live in a healthy environment". I never heard news about the child murders occurring in Cuba. I think a 6 years old child's destiny must be with his father.
Ibrahim, Turkey

On the one hand, you have the Father's right to raise his child. On the other there is the child's right to a better life and quality of life.

Richard, USA
As a concerned father currently engaged in a custody battle for my children, I see both sides. On the one hand, you have the Father's right to raise his child. On the other hand there is the child's right to a better life and quality of life. Cuba can be thought of as a prison. If you want to leave Cuba you have to sneak out and risk your life. People in Cuba live in terrible poverty. If you want to leave the US - buy a plane ticket and go. Until I am convinced that Elian's dad is not under duress - that he has the freedom to come and go as he pleases - the child should not be forced back to Cuba.
Richard, USA

Is it me or does this all seem to frivolous and petty? This is not about the boy, nor Cuba v USA. It appears by the self-interested 'family' to be about them. The report that 'the boy did not wish to travel to Washington, and his wishes must be respected' just seem to shallow and manufactured. I doubt whether anyone has really asked poor Elian what HE wants. I'd have to agree with the psychiatrists who stated that a return to 'familiar' ground - his home and (what is left) of his family are most important. One can only hope that this family feud will be resolved in his interest.
Chris Jones, Sweden

To Graeme: The reason why the people of Cuba are so poor is because Fidel Castro dictates his people how to run their lives! America and any other country has every right to boycott anything that defies democracy, and I think my child's welfare would be much safer in 'urban America' then to have him brought up in a Communist regime where the government can control what he thinks!
Robert, England

If is pleasantly surprising that the vast majority of the world have a consistent view on this case. And as a good by-product it has shown the world American politicians', in this case Republicans', shameless in their political dealings.
W Wang, USA

As a matter of international law, it is clear that Elian Gonzalez should be repatriated.

Charles Sviokla, United States
It seems that just about everyone in the world thinks that America is beyond reproach in all matters political/cultural. That is, except for the families of the tens of millions of people who have risked their lives to get to America. I wonder if people were as hostile and ignorant about Great Britain when it was the worlds hegemony?
Charles Sviokla, United States

Elian should be returned to his father as soon as possible. His so-called family has no right to keep him at all. The fact that our opinion of how Cuba is run is not an issue, Elian knew nothing else before he arrived, at six years of age he knows nothing of politics.
He may miss some of the material things i.e. all the toys he has been given, for a while. He will be better off with his father who has every right to have him in his custody.
Mike Meadowcroft, USA

It is a safer environment to bring up a child, than drug riddled, violent, obese urban America.

Graeme, England
Don't Americans realise that these Cuban "boat people" are economic refugees not political ones. And the SOLE reason they are so poor and desperate is US Foreign Policy on Cuba.
The US enforced illegal embargo on Cuba, just because it won't tow their capitalist line, is why Cuba is economically stunted, but no doubt it is a safer environment to bring up a child, than drug riddled, violent, obese urban America.
Graeme, England

What debate can there be about a boy whose mother has died and whose father wants to bring him back home ? No country in the world would deny a father the right to his son, even if he is Cuban.
The hype over where Elian belongs is yet another of those highly superfluous, overmediatised and damaging sagas of how Americans can spoil their own lives with absolute banalities.
Kilian S, Prague

The Cuban American Community in Miami is using the boy to score political points against Castro.

Farai D Majuru, Belgium
Elian should be handed over to his father immediately. The Cuban American Community in Miami is using the boy to score political points against Castro. It is very clear that there is no genuine concern about the boy's present or future well-being.
Farai D Majuru, Belgium

I hardly believe that the outcome or the details of the Elian Gonzales saga is of any consequence to anyone outside of the immediate actors. In the US, we are bombarded by "news" on this completely irrelevant topic. I am surprised that the BBC would even bother with mentioning it.
Yakov Tsyagnikovich, USA

America boasts that family is the most important thing to build society. Why then is there such a debate on where should Elian go? Obviously he belongs with his father.
Imagine an American 6 year old boy in another country where relatives want to keep him there without his parent's consent - would this tussle exist at all? Come on America live to your ideals - it's become a circus.
Bill Amira, Kenya

The boy clearly belongs with his father, it is rather simple. Should not even be an issue. U.S. should only welcome him after he is 18 and if he wishes so.
Ramón Insua, Venezuela

Is this the same Americans who shout for human rights? Amazing! Do they believe that a child should be brought up by relatives rather than his father? Whatever the reasons are, separating a child from his father during his childhood is nothing but torturing the child and a total mockery at human rights
Dilip, India

I have never been so sick of hearing a news story, as I am with this one.

Robert Reel, USA
I have never been so sick of hearing a news story, as I am with this one. This poor boy is a pawn in a pointless and archaic game against "our enemy" Cuba. There is no question that he belongs with his father and if the US government fails to do the natural and right thing I will be terribly ashamed.
Robert Reel, USA

I think that Janet Reno and all her Clinton friends should leave this child alone where he can have a chance at a descent life. His mother gave her life so her child could have a better way of life than he could have under Castro. I can't believe the U.S. is giving into Castro - John F. Kennedy would never have allowed this form of blackmail to work.
Eugenia Peek, USA

Two months ago I was visiting a Cuban friend in Miami (he left Cuba 5 years ago). He agreed wholeheartedly with me and seemingly the majority of people who have sent messages to this post: Elian should be sent back where he belongs, to his father in Cuba. My friend said so quietly knowing that he would be unable to speak his mind publicly because of the Cuban exiles and their total lack of respect for human rights, freedom of choice and democracy. I think that is it in a nutshell.
Derek Payne, Gibraltar/SpainLondon

We all know that America always sends every other ethnicity back to their country when they are trying to escape.

Saundra, USA
I am sick and tired of this nonsense. We all know that America always sends every other ethnicity back to their country when they are trying to escape. Why are we still debating this issue? This is equal to the USA separating the African parents from their children during slavery and selling them off later. Again the USA is breaking up another family. There is no reason why the father should not be with his son. If the Cubans are going to make a problem, then the USA should deport them all back to Cuba. Then let's see what will happen.
Saundra, USA

Why send Elian back when probably the entire world knows that by him staying here, it will ensure a healthy environment, and a safe environment? It will also ensure this country a very important person, who can become whatever he wants, and possibly play a crucial part in the economy later in the future. Who knows, he may later on be involved in politics and play a role in saving other immigrants. Isn't this something the President and Janet Reno should think about?
Jose Ruiz, USA

I'd hate to discover that Bill and Al are using Elian as a pawn in a campaign issue.

Timothy Carroll, USA
Elian belongs with his father. It is, in a perfect world, up to his father to decide where he wants to raise his children. Personally, I like living in the United States, but not everyone would be satisfied with life here. I'd hate to discover that Bill and Al are using Elian as a pawn in a campaign issue just to show the world that their party is open minded enough to "agree to disagree", much like the Bill and Hillary split on the release of the Puerto Rican terrorists.
Timothy Carroll, USA

I know that everyone's gut instinct is to reunite the boy with his father but it is not that simple. If you give the boy to is father he will be taken back to Cuba and he will never know freedom. That is the cold hard fact that no one seems to want to address. I guess no one cares about what's right and wrong anymore, as long as they're wallets are fat and the economy keeps rolling along. God forgive us.
Bill Johnson, USA

This issue is morally complex and is not as simple as it seems. There are two sides to the argument. First is the moral argument that the child belongs with his Father. The second argument is that it was the Mother's dying hope that her son lives in the US. But if the situation was reversed; What if the child was from the US and found washed up on the shore in Cuba. How long would it take before the US began bombing Cuban cities to force the child's return?
Lauren, USA

Lets respect natural justice and leave dirty politics out of this charade. The son should be reunited with his father.
J.P. Tan, Singapore

Let the boy go to his father. These so-called relatives are behaving exactly as they say Castro does - denying a father and son their inalienable right to be together
John Shoko, Zimbabwe

The very evident stalling on the part of politically motivated vice justice officials promises Spielberg a grand sequel.

Anthony, USA
Amazing, four months later and the world's most powerful country is "negotiating" with a de-facto sub-power within our own borders. Disgraceful. The child belongs with his father - the case isn't even close to the self-serving relative's claim. All else has shifted the case to one of abduction with the collusion of the state. What now, should we "evacuate" all children from parents living in questionable societies? As for Washington: Stop this now and get on with it. The very evident stalling on the part of politically motivated vice justice officials promises Spielberg a grand sequel.
Anthony, USA

The Cubans in the USA are abusing this young child to promote their political opposition with Castro. Please do not let our emotions hurt this boy. He belongs to his dad and it is up to the dad to decide where to live with his family now. I do think that he will have a better life here in the USA. The family in Florida just wants to make some money from this boy. They will get a lot of offers for interviews and movie rights, etc so they are only gold diggers in my opinion.
Habib Ghanim Sr, USA

The two parties have lost sight of the fact that their fighting is only doing one thing; hurting poor Elian. Perhaps the parties involved should consider asking Elian if he wishes to stay in the US or go back to Cuba. But when will they realise?
Chris, Australia

What is all the fuss about? Send the kid back to Cuba and start talking about real world issues such as famine and wars - what a load of nonsense!!
Peter Macciochi, England

It's not about Elian, its about trying to discredit Castro at all costs.

Martin, USA
It's not about Elian, its about trying to discredit Castro at all costs. Cuban Americans want to establish a system where International law that recognises that the rights of parents do not apply to them. When black children arrive in the U.S. in boats they are immediately deported. However, when Cuban children arrive, they suddenly seem to have rights that are protected by the U.S. constitution. End this double standard now!
Martin, USA

What is so special about Elian? How about Haitians kids, Somali kids, or maybe Ethiopian kids? I would like to see USA Republicans stop using this child. This is not a Republic Vs Democracy. Let this child to return his Homeland, where he belongs. He should be raised by his father, not the relatives.
Shukri, Canada

Ok, lets forget that Cuba has an oppressive government and the majority of the people there are in poverty. Let's push aside the fact that many people (mostly Castro) as their little pawn in foreign affairs. With that aside, it is now obvious that Elian should return to his father. But it makes me think, if so many people want to get out of Cuba, why send the boy back in? Cuba's poverty etc. probably would be solved if the communist government were taken away because then the embargo would be lifted. But for now, politics aside, the boy should be back with his father and he can come to the U.S. when he is an adult if he wants to.
Clay, USA

Half the world's population doesn't live in a democracy. Perhaps America should provide shelter for them all?

Johannes Spoelman, France
Why do all these Cubans who escaped Castro's revolution 40 years ago, and their descendants insist on still calling themselves Cubans? Do they live in the U.S and take advantage of all that it has to offer, or not? Are they still living in that world of 40 years ago when they were the lords and masters in Cuba, hence their vicious resentment of Castro. Cuba is very far from being a democracy? Half the world's population doesn't live in a democracy. Perhaps America should provide shelter for them all? Elian must be returned to his father, his country and his people.
Johannes Spoelman, France

The boy's story is a public relations tug of war. The US has been so misinformed and paranoid about Cuba for so long that their foreign policy dealing with this country is dated and silly. The US obsession with communism being evil is so childish that it defies belief. The poor boys is just a pawn in the battle to win the PR war.
Jas, Australia

I believe that the strength of feelings against the repatriation of the boy back to Cuba has, in part, to do with the fact that it's his father who's claiming him, and not the mother. There is a bias in our culture against fathers and fatherhood, with many, both men and women, seeming to think that a mother must necessarily have a closer bond with the child, with the father almost an optional extra. If it was the father who had drowned, and the mother remaining in Cuba, I'm sure that many who now defend Elian's "right" to stay in the US, might be otherwise swayed.
Lim Yuin Chien (Mr), Singapore

The quality of life in Cardenas is excellent for raising a child.

Mark Cramer, author of "Culture Shock! Cuba", France
I spent time in Cardenas, the town where Elian Gonzalez will eventually live with his father. My opinion: the quality of life in Cardenas is excellent for raising a child. The economy of the town is better than most parts of Cuba since many residents work in nearby tourist resorts, although few tourists actually come to Cardenas. The main form of public transportation is horse-and-buggy and the main form of private transport is the bicycle. Needless to say, there is neither pollution nor problems with physical fitness. Cardenas is near public beaches, has a zoo, and its high-ceilinged, large-room colonial dwellings are quite comfortable. Medical clinics are within two blocks of every resident. Contrary to Miami, in Cardenas there are no drugs in the school and guns are not accessible to citizens. In speaking with people from Cardenas, I noticed that many were remarkably critical of their government. I don't think Elian would grow up in an uncritical environment. This in no way is a defence of Fidel Castro's regime.
Mark Cramer, author of "Culture Shock! Cuba" and "Living and Working in Havana", France

Elian Gonsalez has not been allowed to return to Cuba because some of his mother's family and most of Florida's Cuban community think that Cuban society is so dysfunctional as to warrant taking a 6-year old boy away from his father. This is really a momentous claim and carries the profound implication that the Cuban government has no legitimacy. Cuba is clearly far from perfect, perhaps equally far from being the most dysfunctional society in the world. But it seems like there are a number of dysfunctional societies in different parts of the world. Why don't we set up an international forum to draw up minimal functional guidelines for societies in terms of what rights, freedoms and responsibilities the individuals, civil society, and the government of a properly functioning society will have? Then we can decide questions like at what point does a society become such a horrible place to live that children should be taken away from their parents?
Gene Williams, UK

Elian's mother wanted him to be in the US with her. She is no more now and if the father has come for him he must be sent back. If the American Government is concerned about him, they should allow him to come back to America when he is 18 when he can make up his own mind without any influence at all.
Dr K N Singh, Malaysia

Elian might have a better (read big buck) future in the US for there he would be guaranteed ongoing merchandise agreements and appearances on TV talkshows. But what about children all over the world who die silently of starvation and disease?
Steve Banhegyi, Johannesburg

Elian's mother certainly would have failed Solomon's test since preserving the life of her child was of less importance to her than the chance to live in the US.
Fred Roboz, Annandale, Virginia

This kid was taken out of Cuba without his dad's consent and yet the dad's insulted in the strongest terms for wanting his lost kid back. A few points:
(I) Defections from communist countries to non-communist fail to shock most of the planet these days.
(ii) Elian's dad has a right to be a communist if he so wishes. (iii) Al Gore, Governor Bush and Miami's mayor belong in the gutter for what they've done to democracy. America should wake up and spend money on the American children and veterans living on the street below the poverty line, instead of throwing away millions on a case which was obvious from the beginning that custody should go to the father.
Randy, Belgium/USA

The people who are in favour of keeping Elian Gonzalez in the USA are arrogant, ignorant or totally heartless. The right of a child to be with its parents must be above all other considerations. On the assumption that the USA is a paradise of freedom: America has 25% of the world's prison population. On the mother's last wish as an argument: the mother selfishly took the boy on that dangerous trip.
Paul Allery, England/Cyprus

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Your comments during the programme:

Why is the Cuban community stirring up such a fuss over this? This boy is too young to a decide so it's up to the father to make the decision for him. Any person attempting to determine the fate of this boy is putting themselves at odds with the basic principles of democracy.
Patrick Ng, Singapore

Any human being should have the right to grow up in a democracy. The people he's staying with now are looking after him very well. A dictatorship is always worse than any democracy.
Julia Mack, Holland

The most absolute right under US law is for a child to be raised by their parents. They send kids from other countries back all the time. Who in their right mind would send their child out to sea on a raft? As bad as it is now in Cuba, it is far better than it was in 1949.
Johnny Morales, Florida, USA / Puerto Rico

Elian is a special case. Juan Miguel is an instrument of the Cuban government.
Peter Minogue, Virginia, USA

Recently a number of Chinese refugees died trying to get to America. There was no media coverage of that.
Afework, Miami, USA

A Haitian lady who illegally entered some years ago was recently sent back. Her two daughters who were born in the US may be sent back too. Congressmen are prepared to bend the law to give Elian the right to stay. This is the politics of the votebank. It's not in the interests of the child.
Narian Jambuthathan, Antwerp, Belgium/India

There's room for compromise. He should go back now but be granted conditional US citizenship so that he can decide when he reaches the age of majority. If you don't give him back it will influence custody law in the future.
William Nguyen, Washington, USA

There's no debate. He should be sent back. Al Gore is trying to get his votes in in Florida. There's a huge population there who want Elian to stay.
Kirstie Carter, North Carolina, USA

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Your comments before we went ON AIR:

It is amazing and frightening that a small community of just 200,000 Cuban-Americans in South Florida can wield so much power in the US.

Miles Fusco, New York City, USA
Cuban-Americans influence virtually all candidates for office and effect foreign policy. They have been linked to everything from the Mafia and the Bay of Pigs, to the assassination of President Kennedy. They are now using this six-year-old boy to advance their cause - their hatred of Fidel Castro. They should wake up to the fact that it is their isolation of Castro's regime that is responsible for its remaining in place for so long. Let us not forget that they left Cuba because they themselves were aligned with Batista, one of the most brutal and corrupt dictators of our time.
Miles Fusco, New York City, USA

I hold no brief for Juan Miguel Gonzalez or for Fidel Castro, but Elian's detention in Miami is contrary to all norms of international law and is motivated not by the desire to do what's best for the child but to score political points.
Anand Doraswami, Bangalore, India

I find it annoying that some people assume that Elian's father is a bad father and does not care for the child because he was separated from Elian's mother. Divorce is commonplace in the USA. The main reason people are fleeing Cuba is poverty due to the USA embargo. Send the boy back and lift the embargo.
Andrew Milne, UK

It is wrong to play politics with a little boy's life. At 5 or 6 he belongs to his father and it is up to the boy when he is 18 to go wherever he wishes. Just because the US does not like Castro a little is being used in a political game. He should go back with his father to Cuba.
Alex Zomaya, UK

What if our "federal" government (meaning Clinton/Reno) would just "butt out" and let the state court hearing, already scheduled, do its job?
Joe Thompson, U.S.A.

If the US government feels so strongly that Elian should stay in the US, then they must give residency to Elian's father in US and allow him to live there with his new family where he can be close to Elian.
Amy, UK

As long as Elian's father is alive, other relatives and politicians should mind their own business. It is all political at the end of the day. The US recently ordered a boy of a Jordanian father to be returned to Jordan and let the Jordanian courts decide who the boy should live with.
Yvonne, UAE

Cuban Americans are spoilt because they are used to getting their way and simply can't see beyond their dogmatic view of Cuba or Castro. If things were to change in Cuba politically and the American Cubans were asked to go back, the few that do will make very bad Cubans.
Edward Kolawole, London England

Castro's oppressive regime does look ugly, but it looks prettier than the ethos of the Cuban neofascist enclave located in Florida.
Ian, Australia

The argument that Elian will have a better life in the luxurious environs of the USA rather than in the poor circumstances of his father's Cuba is no better than the discredited notions of:
(a) the white Australians who separated aboriginal children from their natural parents to be brought up in white Australian families (the 'lost generation' now fighting to reclaim its ancestry);
(b) the British ruling classes who sent off children from poor families, single parent families (because of the social stigma attached to unmarried mothers in the past) to other parts of the world (these children who suffered psychological trauma are now trying to locate their natural parents & to come to terms with their past);
Mohan Singh, India

Let the boy be where he wants to be.
Ed Rocha Da Silva, Switzerland

Elian may have a better material life in the US compared to Cuba, as would the thousands of other Latin Americans who go to extreme lengths to get to the USA. Most are escaping capitalist countries. Since the beginning of this year at least 100 Dominicans have drowned trying to cross the Mona Passage to Puerto Rico (first stop to the eventual destination of mainland USA), so desperate they are to get away from the poverty in the Dominican Republic. In the cases where they do manage to get across they are instantly repatriated by the coast guard, whatever their age and whether they have relatives there or not. Despite this, thousands more will attempt the crossing before the end of the year.

All the Dominicans, Haitians and so on who try to get to the States are fleeing far worse conditions of poverty than anyone in Cuba. And let's face it, most Cubans who leave do so for economic, not political reasons. So why is Elian different? His white skin, perhaps? The answer to the question 'where does Elian belong?' should be 'away from the media glare!' if anything is causing him irreversible psychological harm it is the attention he is getting, which at best should be enough to turn the most angelic child into an unbearable brat!
Ilana Benady (British), Dominican Republic

Although Elian's Dad is asking for custody, Elian was with his Mom when he left Cuba for the US. Maybe both parties can reach a compromise. Elian could take up US residency until an age when he is more mature.
H Prabhu, Ukraine

The Cubans in Florida appear to wield enormous electoral power when you consider that the current Vice President and presidential hopeful Al Gore seems to be supporting them. The child is a victim of a 40-year-old revolution perpetuated by exiles. Shame on them.
Ray Marsh, Australia

Let the child go home. I love my country's hypocrisy; if it were a child from the US in Cuba we'd probably see the military going in after him.
Vic, USA

The Cuban-Americans have turn this simple (return Elian to father) issue into a media circus

I.B, Canada
The relatives in Florida are not immediate family and have no business in Elian's future. The Cuban-Americans have turn this simple issue into a media circus. The law is the law and that's all. Janet Reno must settle this matter immediately, so Elian can be with his father and go back home to Cuba. We must all remember that Elian lost his mother in the whole thing. That I think is sad.
I.B, Canada

Of course the boy belongs with his father. That Cuba is a dictatorship has nothing to do with that. Or are we now saying that people living under dictatorships do not have the right to be parents? There are plenty of societies that offer a better quality of life than the US. I would like to see the first US parent who wants to take his kid back to the US be faced with that argument. Wonder if that would get the same response as here.
Rene von Rentzell, Japan

Sending him back to Cuba would be like selling him into slavery!

Richard, Wales
Although normally I would agree that children belong to the parents, this is a different situation. Let's not forget that Cuba is a communist totalitarian state where everybody is literally owned by Castro! Sending him back to Cuba would be like selling him for slavery!
Richard, Wales

Elian should go with his father. A six-year-old doesn't have the capacity to make such a choice himself. He's been mesmerised by all the attention he has been getting here in the U.S. Those who claim that sending him back to Cuba is condemning him to a life under communism must be forgetting that Castro is mortal and Elian may very will be living in a free Cuba in a few years.

Remember the "Iron Curtain"? When I was a child we thought it would last forever. The same will happen in Cuba. Elian belongs with his family in Cuba.
frank, USA

Elian's father has already started a new life after a divorce: new wife, new kids; if you say Elian are with relatives he doesn't know now, in Cuba too he will not know anyone except his father, and this father may be someone totally different now because of his new family. At least in USA he will live in a free society with his distant relatives. This incident will forever be on the tip of Elian's father and could be a barrier in the father-son relationship; but not with his Miami relatives because he didn't know them before; he was with them during the whole thing and will survive together. Frankly it looks to me as if Elian's father is doing the kidnapping.
Selena, Hong Kong

If Elian had been from any other country he would have been sent back right away.

James, Canada
I feel that this whole discussion over whether Elian should stay in the United States is a sheer waste of time. If Elian had been from any other country (Haiti for example) he would have been sent back right away. But, he is Cuban, and the anti-Cuban sentiment is strong in the US. Why? I don't know. Perhaps after-effects of the Cuban Missile crisis perhaps? And how fair is this criticism over Fidel Castro anyway?

The US accuses Castro of running a dictatorship that does not provide the people with adequate services when at the same time, the US places trade embargoes on Cuba banning the imports of the goods that Cuba requires to provide those services. And now they are saying that Elian Gonzales should not be sent back to this oppressive dictatorship, where the real tyranny lies in the country in which he is currently residing.

The fact that a large number of Republicans support Elian's stay in the US confuses me because it is in clear violation of custody laws, and the Republicans pride themselves on family values. As well the sometimes violent protest to keep Elian Gonzales in the US has given the Cuban-American population a black-eye in the world's view. Perhaps they should take a moment to stop and think about how they look. The rest of the world is watching.
James, Canada

We know Fidel Castro is not a leader who really cares about the boy but reversal of the US embargo. We know the Cuban Americans in Miami don't care about the boy just that Fidel Castro and his regime must continued to be alienated by the US government. But whatever side you are on, remember that family is higher that politics. That boy must go back to the one person left in this world who has a legal claim to him. End of story!
Anil Mathai, USA

Does anyone really believe that a minor should have the right to pick who raises him, or that wealth and "a better life" allows someone to kidnap anothers child? What idiocy !! And if the US Cuban community has a problem obeying the law then they should seek asylum in a country where the rights of parents are less Cuba for instance.
Krow, USA

Where was this "wonderful" father who drove Elian's mother to such desperation so as to take her son and embark on the tragic mission that cost her her life?

Joe Brikha, USA
Where was this "wonderful" father who drove Elian's mother to such desperation so as to take her son and embark on the tragic mission that cost her her life. Did he care then what happens to Elian? Obviously not. On the other hand, his Miami relatives embraced him and have made a genuine effort to provide him with whatever his father did not. He belongs with them.
Joe Brikha, USA

This is the situation. A young boy was put on a journey across an ocean with dangers everywhere to get him to the US. Why would his mother do all this without fully knowing that this was the better choice. The poor kid almost died getting all the way here and now we send him back? Sounds like too much politics and not enough morality.
Sam, USA

If Elian's father truly loves him and wants what is best for his child, he should give up his demand for custody of his son

Jeff, U.S.A.
Elian belongs in the U.S. He was with his mother trying to flee the tyrannical Castro regime when he was picked up by the U.S. Coast Guard. Elian will have a much better life in the U.S. than in oppressive, poverty-stricken Cuba living under an oppressive regime. If Elian's father truly loves him and wants what is best for his child, he should give up his demand for custody of his son.
Jeff, U.S.A.

Is Elian an exploited pawn? You bet! Where should he be? With his father! Regardless how this tragedy plays out I believe he will be psychologically damaged, with the blame resting on the attention-getting distant relatives. Family is more important than material goods! I think the egos keeping Elian from his father have lost sight of this simple truth. Most people don't even know what a grand uncle is. I'd be furious if my son was kidnapped by unknown distant relatives.
Ray Heberer, Taiwan

I don't quite understand all the fuss, except to make another "fashion" statement for the Cubans in "Little Havana". If they used half of their energies they are using for Elian, in trying to oust Castro, he may not be still smoking his cigars in Havana. Enough...send the boy back with his father!
V. P. Spasic, Ohio, United States

The publicity given to this drama is make me think how bankrupt the US media is.

Joseph P, Canada
This is a media circus. The publicity given to this drama is make me think how bankrupt the US media is. There are hundreds of stories which need wide publicity, like Ethiopia famine and so on. What on earth this little boy story gets this amount of publicity, I cannot understand.
Joseph P, Canada

First some facts, Elain has been recorded telling his Miami relatives he doesn't want to go back to Cuba. Second his supposedly loving father hadn't seen the boy in 3 years. Third at age 11 the Cuban government will take him away from his family to go to "schools" that include working in the cane fields and instruction in how to inform if your friends and family (when you are returned to them) say something against the government. Learn what you are talking about before you start criticising the actions of others!
Richard T. Ketchum, USA

I really feel for the poor child. materially he will be better off in the USA but a child needs his father, especially as his mother is dead. It disgusts me that both sides have used this child as a political football particularly the rag bag circus of teachers, doctors, other kids etc that Fidel Castro wanted to send with along with Elian's father and step mother. Thankfully the US blocked this obscene farce. I hope this matter is resolved quickly for the sake of the child and damn the opinions of the others!
Steve Foley, England

He belongs with his father, but in order to be equitable, perhaps he should receive shared custody as in a divorce case. Spend part of his year in Cuba and part of his year in Miami. Then when he is of legal age, he should be allowed to decide where he wants to live.
Mary Connor, USA

It would be a crime to simply send the child back to the father he barely knows to lead a life of hopelessness under Castro's regime.

Stephen Kenney, USA
The child's mother had sole custody of Elian, she sacrificed her life and risked her son's to take him away from Castro's dictatorship. Maybe we should be paying more attention to her motivation to leave than the father's desire to "reclaim" what he never had in the first place.
Stephen Kenney, USA

Yet again a small but vocal minority believe they know best...the Cuban community in Miami are no better than kidnappers at the moment and the US State their co-conspirators for not taking positive action sooner. Imagine the consequences if the roles were reversed and an American child were being detained by Cuba, or even worse somewhere like Iraq. Arrogance of the highest level
Pablo Arenas, USA

The only voice of any concern in this whole case is the one we have yet to hear, Elian's.

John Watson, Scotland
Surely it is Elian's decision where he wishes to stay! I can't imagine what that young boy is going through. He has lost his mother and for all we know is being kept from his father, and what for? To satisfy the political agenda of the Cuban exiles in Miami. This is obviously a very simple view of the whole Cuban issue, but I believe it is Elian's choice what happens to him and nobody else's.
John Watson, Scotland

Six year old Elian is a hostage of US foreign policy. Elian should not have been kept in the US for one single day. Those who claim "life of freedom" should look around them and will find millions of children who go hungry, who do not have health care, who have the worst educational system even compared to third world standard. For Elian, his father and his country are his birth right and no one should take it away from him. The one person that could have done so, his mother unfortunately has died. If she hasn't then her decision to bring him to the US would have been indisputable.

But for now, so called politicians and desperate Cuban exiles in Miami are so blinded that they think they know better for Elian than his birth father, his close friends and relatives in Cuba. No matter how the US wants to discredit Cuba, even by holding a six-year old boy hostage, Cuba is one valiant brave and honourable nation. Let Elian go back to his father and to his beloved country. Toys and useless material things do not make up for a father and a country.
Gorgorewos Weldenegodgwad, Ethiopian in USA

The Cuban exiles should be ashamed of themselves for the way they have exploited and used this child and his tragedy for their own ends

Arthur O'Neill, New Hampshire, US
Without question Elian belongs with his father. The local and federal authorities were well intentioned in trying to find his relatives in Miami and could not have foreseen the way he would be turned into a political football. The Cuban exiles should be ashamed of themselves for the way they have exploited and used this child and his tragedy for their own ends. Castro will soon be gone and with him will go the personality cult that surrounds him. By the time Elian realises what is going on, his Cuba will be very different. Return him now and deal harshly with anyone who interferes.
Arthur O'Neill, New Hampshire, US

Before criticising the US establishment remember that the US has ruled in favour of the father

Hannah, UK
Elian should, of course be returned to his father. The poor boy had never met any of these 'relatives' before and they are just as strange to him as I would be. He has survived an horrific situation, witnessing the drowning of his mother, step-father and a number of other people. Of course he has psychological issues to address, but he seems to be a resilient little boy, with a loving father and will do well in life.

The Cuban exiles should stop using such repulsive methods to make their point. But heck, Im a WASP in a country that is currently refusing to provide any support to those seeking refuge to people fleeing from persecution and torture so I'm not really in a position to comment.
Hannah, UK

Just because Elian's parents were divorced, doesn't mean Juan Migual is an unfit parent.

Andrej, Russia
It seems that in the West we are so used to divorces and single parents, almost all of whom are mothers, too many people don't take a father seriously. Meanwhile, just because Elian's parents were divorced, that doesn't mean Juan Migual is an unfit parent. Journalists found out a long time ago that Elian is very bound to his father or at least his paternal grandparents.
Andrej, Russia

It is in Elian Gonzalez's best interest to stay in the USA where he can grow up happy and have a good future.

Chris Cagle, USA
Cuba is a communist Stalinist state where there is absolutely no freedom. Fidel Castro is a cruel oppressive dictator. It is in Elian Gonzalez's best interest to stay in the USA where he can grow up happy and actually have a good future.
Chris Cagle, USA

Elian deserves an opportunity to have a life of freedom after his mom sacrificed her life. There has already been a case of a child who sued to stay in the US while the parents emigrated back to a communist country. Also the Nun who mediated the meeting with the grandmothers changed her mind about keeping the boy in the US after observing him at the meeting. For Castro this situation is very similar to the way he kidnapped his own son Fidelito from his mother in Mexico, years ago. If back in the seventies during the cold war, a women had been shot while handing her child over the Berlin wall, would we have sent the child back? How is this situation any different?
P Minogue, USA

Elian deserves an opportunity to have a life of freedom after his mom sacrificed her life

P Minogue, USA
The child belongs with his dad. It's not only U.S. law, Cuban law, but International Law. But as you have seen, the Cuban-American community in Miami, have their own interpretation of the law. They ONLY obey the law it the law rules in THEIR favour; otherwise, they don't.
Luis Fernando Oneto, U.S.A.

The boy belongs with his father. The Cuban community is behaving disgracefully. They came to this country and agreed to follow the laws of this country. They should return to Cuba if they can not. They are damaging this little boy because they can't see beyond their hatred of Castro.
B James, USA

Elian belongs with his Father, Grandparents, and family in Cuba. This is not a political issue. This never should have become such a thing. The Cuban- Americans in Miami are a bunch of anarchists who are trying to 'dictate' U.S. foreign policy. And, that is the business of the government. The business of a boy being with his Father and family is the business of that family. Since when has it become the responsibility of any country to delay or deny parenthood from being recognised? It is time to return the boy to his parents and to hell with what any Miami Cubans think about it.
Dave Adams, USA

What his distant relatives are doing in Miami, amounts to international kidnapping.

Somdev Roy, USA
Elian Gonzalez, in the absence of his mother, belongs to his father. What his distant relatives are doing in Miami, amounts to international kidnapping.
Somdev Roy , USA

Regardless of the fine details of this case the rights of the parent must be paramount. Many fathers are absent during the raising of their kids. They may be working away from home regularly or be based overseas either on business or with the military. The rights of fathers are all too easily overlooked. The pragmatic solution in this case is for the US government to acknowledge its complicity and grant residency to both father and son. They will almost certainly remain in America but would be able to travel to and from Cuba as they wish.

With his father, where else? If he were a little black Haitian boy, he'd be sent back so fast he'd meet himself coming the other way. And Haiti is FAR worse off than Cuba.
B D Keener, Germany

I think there is a misconception about how the majority of Americans feel on this subject. Of course most of us (85 percent in a recent poll) think he should be returned to his father, and most of us are sick to death of the "controversy" created by the two shamelessly self-interested sides. As long as he has a living parent who has never demonstrated any ill-treatment of the child, he should be with that parent.
Amy, USA

All the research shows that in the absence of physical, sexual or emotional abuse by the parent(s), the child is psychologically better off with the parent(s)

Mr G. Zusk-Ryste, UK
All research shows that in the absence of physical, sexual or emotional abuse by the parent(s), the child will be psychologically better off with the parent(s). All the rest - poverty, dirt, religion, politics is merely a veneer which will not harm the child fundamentally. Depriving him of his parent, will, whether we like it or not.
Mr G. Zusk-Ryste, UK

It is silly to keep that boy in the USA when his father lives in Cuba. It is ridiculous for his relatives to ask the US to permit him to stay in Miami. Let him go and live with his father.
Chris Roberts, Australia

Yes of course Elian was a political pawn, exploited by politicians and activists on all sides right from the beginning. How incredibly selfish, people forget that before the revolution Castro was a lawyer. He would not have started this if he did not know he would ULTIMATELY win. He does not care about Elian, he just wants a cause, another, Che or Camillo, this is his expertise, to make martyrs of others.

One can understand that the Miami Cuban Americans went through a great struggle to get to the USA, but they have no right to impose their desires on a minor. That minor should be with his father - period. If an American mother has fled to Australia and died on a boat of their coast, then the Australians would have returned her boy to the natural father without hesitation. If that Mother had lived, she should have been charged with reckless endangerment of the child.

In Cuba the two TV Channels have been dominated EVERY day since November with the STRUGGLE to get Elian back. The Cubans are sick to death of it and everything stops when a rally is organised. The Miami family may think they mean well, but in the long term they will just make it harder for the boy to return - which he will ultimately do.

My wife is Cuban and the life there is hard, but only because we are used to so much and take it for granted. They have excellent healthcare - including a vaccine for their strand of Meningitis B - and one of the highest literacy ratings in the world. So both sides should just put aside their own interests and just let the boy back with Father to lead as normal a life as is possible.
Mike Allen, UK

Has anyone asked Elian where he wants to live and with whom?

Rachel, UK
Has anyone asked Elian where he wants to live and with who? This is a six year old boy is probably quite able to speak his own mind. If that means going back to father in Cuba, then so be it.
Rachel, UK

Elian belongs with his father. The Cuban exiles who would attempt to argue with that statement, which has the backing of US and international law, should realise that by doing so, they damage their reputation in the eyes of the world. If the reports in the media that they attempted to restrict Elian's father from seeing his son are true, then they are damaging Elian as well.
Mike Fay, UK

Elian is being used to further promote the Cuban struggle by the Cuban exile population in Miami

Ronnie Stewart, USA
Elian is being used to further promote the Cuban struggle by the Cuban exile population in Miami. For the Miami relatives to claim he is psychologically disturbed is a result of the public parading they have being doing of this boy. How many six-year-olds give the peace sign on their own accord or are treated to such public outings as he has. Elian may be saying he doesn't want to go home but that's only because he has been here on an "adventure holiday" which most six year olds would not want to leave. Elian belongs to his real family and not people who have only become his family in the last four months.
Ronnie Stewart, USA

As a father who fought in court for 6 years to see my children again, I would say the answer is obvious. His father has not been proved to be unfit, in fact he is married with another child. A stable home life is important for Elian. What right do the Americans have to pass judgement on the political climate in Cuba. Castro is a complete idiot, but that is where the father chooses to live. Castro won't last much longer anyway, but the majority of Cubans do support him, the majority that are left anyway. Elian won't have to dodge 8 year olds with guns in Cuban schools either.
Collin, Canada

The child-parent bond must not be severed on the basis of political ideology

Mary Macdonald, Canada
The child-parental bond must not be severed on the basis of political ideology. The miami-cuban exiles exhibit a deep contradiction in their quest to deflate Castro's power. They claim that Cuba under Castro is a totalitarian country with no respect for human rights. They are prepared to openly defy and show contempt for the laws and judicial system of the United States to prove their point. I shudder to imagine a post-Castro Cuba controlled by right-wing Miami exiles.
Mary Macdonald, Canada

Elian belongs with his father. Bottom line. Irrespective of what one might think of Cuba as practising a defunct communist system, children need their parents. There was no suggestion that Elian's father is not capable of looking after his son. If it had been a mother trying to get to see her son there would never have been this mess. We must learn to treat fathers equally with mothers.
John Foley, England

Elian is just a pawn, who will immediately be forgotten about when all this nonsense is finally over.

Josh Mintzer, Michigan, USA
If a mother from China or Haiti escaped with her child, leaving the father behind and illegally immigrated into the US, and dies in the process, that child would be IMMEDIATELY returned. Especially to China, which is a LOT worse than Cuba, but is one of our biggest trading partners. Elian is just a pawn, who will immediately be forgotten about when all this nonsense is finally over. I fear that his psychological development has been seriously impaired at this point. I wish the Cuban expatriates would just grow the hell up and realise that the rule of law needs to be applied with an even hand in all situations. The boy should be returned to his rightful father.
Josh Mintzer, Michigan, USA

The US is being completely arrogant about this whole situation.... Who do they think they are, trying to decide where a child "should" grow up? If an American child landed on Cuban soil, the US would have declared war on Castro months before. Does this mean that we should start importing children who are growing up in political situations that the US does not approve of?
Kirsty Carter, USA

Like all children he belongs in a world where politics is not allowed to interfere with the meeting of basic human emotional needs
Douglas Murray, Scotland

Elian should go home with his father. The US officials instead of taking custody of the child and sending him back to Cuba has handed him over to his Miami relatives to complicate things.
Sanil, India

I personally think that Elian will be very comfortable in the U.S. because he will be better off in the U.S, in the sense that he can be somebody there, America is a place of opportunities. But of course we have the family to think of especially his immediate family that is his father and his half brother, but I will insist that the boy should be united with his father but they should stay in the U.S for the future of this little boy who is innocently got in the middle of this fiasco.
Regina Malizu, Nigeria

Nobody seems to be resolving this case and to play politics with Elian's life is unbelievable. I think the American authorities should target the Cuban exiles in Miami and if necessary, deport them. They appear not to be interested in Elian, but want to make anti-Cuban protests and even are protesting at Elian's father. What do they think they're playing at?
Colin, Netherlands

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07 Apr 00 | Americas
Cubans threaten Miami disruption
07 Apr 00 | Americas
Elian's father urged to defect
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