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Sunday, 23 April, 2000, 17:13 GMT 18:13 UK
Elian: Was force necessary? III
They stormed the house where Elian had been staying, broke down the door, and then drove off with him. There were shouts and scuffles as a small crowd of demonstrators outside the house were pushed away and sprayed with gas.
Do you agree with the decision by the US authorities to use force to grab Elian? Or should they have tried to find a negotiated solution to the problem?
As an ex-pat Brit in the US, I can understand some UK astonishment at the events in Miami. However, the strength of feeling held by the ex-Cuban population has to be seen to be believed. They simply would not be told that the due process had taken place and the child should be returned to his father. The relatives had LOST the custody case but were not prepared to accept the fact. Janet Reno was in a no-win situation, as is any politician in such an emotional scenario. The federal marshals were merely upholding the law. The guns, flak jackets etc. I hear you ask. Until you have lived here you can have no grasp of the number of firearms in circulation. A house without a gun is probably an exception in that part of Miami. I think the result is the best that could be made of a situation that should (and could) have been avoided at the beginning.
For somebody who has lived in a communist country, I wonder first of all why the authorities didn't wait for the court decision? Second, I wonder why America, which is regarded as a human rights champion, simply ignores Elian's mother's sacrifice to offer him a chance of living in a free country? Reuniting a family is an important thing, but one must also think of Elian's "future" in communist Cuba. Does anybody care what will happen to Elian in Cuba?
The Miami relatives of Elian should be arrested and thrown in jail for violating the law. A child's place is with his parents - unless the parents are criminally negligent. That the boy was kept away from his father for so long itself is grave injustice. The authorities did try their best to resolve this in an amicable manner, but the Miami relatives of Elian thought themselves to be above the law. It is time that they faced appropriate charges in a court of law.
One must empathize with both sides in this dispute. The Cuban American community in Miami has an understandable distrust and animosity to the regime of Fidel Castro and I believe that they have allowed that understandable bias to overtake their senses. These people are not lawless hoods who are seeking to destroy democracy. They truly believe that Elian has a better prospect for a happy life in a free country. Unfortunately they have allowed that belief to overrule the basic right of a father to be with his child. The actions taken this morning, though drastic, were however necessary. The US government was not seeking to harm the boy but to uphold the basic rights of a father to his child. I only pray that reason and compassion on both sides can be achieved and that all the politics can be laid aside and the interests of this boy can now be put in a place of primary importance. Everyone wants what is best for this boy and if only they would lay aside their prejudices perhaps that can still be achieved.
I have followed this case closely and with mounting disgust at the way a bereaved child has been used as a political football. I think the US authorities had no option but to seize the child. The Miami relatives enjoyed basking in their "star" status. They should hang their heads in shame for what they put Elian through.
The Miami relatives never intended to hand over the child. Their views were represented by the mayor of Miami, who on Saturday morning complained about Elian being returned to his 'atheist father'. Does being an atheist makes you unfit to be a parent?! That clearly shows that they simply didn't want to hand him back, in whatever circumstances. That's why it was necessary to use force. I personally think the military garb and heavy weaponry was unnecessary and unpalatable, but it was a mild affair compared to the methods of the pre-1959 Batista regime in Cuba, and of so many other rightwing dictatorships in Latin America supported by the US over the years.
If Castro had not seen an opportunity to humiliate the US the boy would probably have been granted residence without any fuss. Janet Reno painted herself into a corner where she was forced to use ridiculous force. Swat teams trashing the house in a pre-dawn raid and tearing a terrified child from the people that comforted him in his time of need was really over the top.
As someone who was stationed in West Berlin during the height of the Cold War, and a witness to what Communism can do, I am disgusted with what our government did with Elian. His mother's wish was that they live in freedom. His parents were divorced, so why the so-called "concern" by his father? This is what happens when the so-called "law" is put ahead of what is morally right. It reeks of a 21st century Dred Scott decision, where the "law" was used to return a slave to his owner.
Wonderful reunion! It would have been naive to believe that "excessive force" should not have been available for use given the fact that the rightwing Cubans had already defied the law and had already promoted an atmosphere of fear, tension and dread if the rule of law was to be applied. Now Elian won't have to be used as a propaganda pawn for the redneck Miami Cubans who now have egg on their faces. Maybe now all sides can use this opportunity to engage in some effective and mutually beneficial diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba. It's time that we all grow up out of the stupidity of the old redneck American cold war ideology. It's costing all sides too much lost money, time and potential goodwill. The opportunity is at hand for more mature, sober minds to seize the moment and reunite under more cooperative US-Cuban relations.
Clearly Elian belongs with his father. I am embarrassed as an American that it took so long to return him to his father. However, justice delayed is better than justice forgotten. I am also grateful to God that it did not turn into another Waco. Perhaps Ms Reno did learn something after all.
Force was necessary. To try and remove the child without it would have led to greater conflict and a more dangerous situation. This whole situation was brought about by the stupid attitude taken by the Miami relatives and their constant manipulation of the child. Who are they to stop the child from going to his natural father?
I believe it's best to say that force, unfortunately, BECAME necessary in the end, although Janet Reno could have avoided it if she had acted more responsibly at the beginning. In my view, although the most important issue at the beginning was what was in the best interest of Elian, another important and competing interest came into play once the Miami relatives and the Cuban community openly defied the laws of the State. It amazes me how people who complain about the absence of justice in Cuba are so willing to seek to become a law unto themselves in the US. Reno acted shamefully at first, in my opinion, in allowing the Miami relatives to act in this fashion. What she was doing was sending a message to the whole world that the government is impotent to act and uphold the integrity of the law. The message that came across was that every individual in the US has the right, if it seems good to him or her in his own eyes, to act as he pleases and spurn all authority. This is very damaging to the US, both internationally and domestically. It sends a message to the whole world that the government's word and threats are meaningless. This is a recipe for failure in foreign policy abroad and anarchy at home in the US.
It seems that we live in a country no better off than Cuba. That the government thought it was right to 'kidnap' a little boy in the pre-dawn hours from the family where he had been staying for five months is an injustice that must surely make every American sick. The law is meant to be a shield, not a sword. Elian's mother wanted her child to have a better life than the one she had in Cuba, and those wishes should be honoured. Janet Reno should have waited until the appeals court handed down its decision before ordering this raid. I don't think this was a successful operation at all. Not to mention the enormous trauma now faced by the Miami relatives. The boy himself has to be very scared at being 'reunited' with someone he didn't even live with before. If the father cared so much for him, why didn't he come to America earlier? Something about this whole mess seems very wrong. The law seems to have turned against itself, and I am very afraid for what America is becoming. Janet Reno did a wonderful job of conducting the raid, and at the same time trampling all over the ideals upon which this country was founded.
An eleventh-hour deal to immediately transfer custody of the boy from his Miami relatives to his father was under way when the raid took place. Isn't it pretty obvious that America always goes overboard on the use of force and violent means? I think the raid was obnoxious.
Cuban Americans have been so embittered toward Castro that they have ignored US law and natural parental rights. Elian was confused and frightened. He did not know where nor why the agents were taking him. Since the destination was a reunification with his father, I doubt that he will be as traumatized as some people are saying. Elian's relatives pushed the matter to the point of kidnapping. That sort of disregard for the law cannot be tolerated. I have no doubt that the US marines would have landed in Cuba had this been an American boy being held there against his father's will.
First, I think the case should be solved in a court of law and custody hearing. My complaint isn't as much the ruling as the tactics used. However, Ms Reno and Mr Clinton once again disgrace the "land of the free" with tactics that would be more likely seen in Communist China. The feds went in, busted down the doors, had their rifles drawn, and were using tactics in what is similar to a cocaine raid, not a domestic dispute. The pictures on this site tell the whole story.
Patti Ward, USA
While I agree that a son should be with his father I find it a source of continual amusement that the USA, such champions of the free and saviours of the downtrodden, would resort to using this level of force against their own citizens to support diplomatic relations with a country they have in the past condemmed. I wonder now if many 'average' americans realise why the rest of the world views America with the attitude they do.
While reluctantly accept what INS has done is legal, I deeply believe the brandishment of automatic weapons in this operation is totally uncalled for.
A single Federal marshal should have been sufficient to demand the child. That is what the rule of law means. The use of over 100 was excessive. The brandishing of weapons was excessive. Furthermore, the arguments Ms. Reno used - fear of weapons in the house - rings hollow. Everything about the reaction indicates fear of the public by Attorney-General Janet Reno. In trying to prevent another Waco foul-up, she committed another one. The Clinton Administration has always had a hard time distinguishing legitimate opposition from criminal activity. I am ashamed to be an American today.
At last the US Government has taken action against a family with no respect for the law. Juan Miguel Gonzalez has acted with dignity throughout this saga, in complete comparison with the Miami relatives. One wonders how much filthy lucre they will make from selling "their" story. The Government should ensure that they don't make a penny from their lawlessness. I am only sad that because of those relatives little Elian had to endure a morning raid. But I firmly believe there was no other way.
The picture of a screaming child confronted by an armed officer is a disgrace to America. How very typical for the US to resolve such situations with the use of excessive force and the gun, rather than through other means. Such action is normally reserved for terrorists and drug dealers, rather than an unarmed group of civilians. I very much hope that Elian is not left with life-long emotional trauma as a result of this.
A father should show - or be allowed to show - courage and ring the doorbell himself to collect his child.
Normally I cann't stand a thing that Reno does,but this time she got it PERFECT!!!! Unfortunately she took so long to make this happen.This should have accured at least 5 months ago!
The so call relatives in Miami were totally wrong, as well as unreasonable. They got off very lightly. The individuals who effected the raid handled it with great restrain when one considers how many people weren't SHOT!! Today I was EXTREMELY PROUD off how my country men handled this problem!!! Way to Go AMERICA!!!!
Finally!! the Janet Reno did what
she was supposed to have done
the minute Elian's father came to
the US. At last ,we see jusice being done
We are a nation of laws, not men. Our nation's laws state that the nearest blood relative (in this case, Elian's father) is the person who should have custody. It doesn't matter where the boy's father lives - he belongs with him. He was his primary caregiver in Cuba and the mother kidnapped him and attempted to bring him to the United States without the father's permission. The Miami relatives have only continued the mother's wrongful act of kidnapping. Five months of negotiating is enough - let the boy be with his father, and let them decide together where to live.
Donna, United States
The law of the land had to be upheld. It is just a shame that the boy will be traumatized for life. The Miami relatives are at fault and the government is at fault. Shameful that they could not come up with a better plan than that.
Yes, absolutely, the relatives were using the boy as a political toy. Well done US Government, it was about time the boy was given back to his father.
It was wrong. If America is the only
country that still has an embargo on
Cuba, why are the Cubans so poor.
The State sends the children to
work in the factory's and cane fields
while Castro banks the money. Is it
so important to have one more
slave living and dying for the State.
The boy belongs with his father.However, the family dispute has been kept within our system of law, and should remain so until resolution. The introduction of storm troopers with pointed machine guns to this dispute is utterly inappropriate and outrageous.
Right? Wrong? What's wrong is the policy that allowed this tragedy to occur. Force was the only tactic left to enforce. But the world must understand the Cuban plight. They float in unsafe boats, risking all for a chance to escape Castro's rule. If they make it alive they might get to stay in the USA. What kind of policy is that?
Of course Elian belongs with his father. But using US marshalls was not the way to go, especially considering the family was negotiating on the phone at the time it happened. Having armed men terrifying a six-year-old child with huge guns can not be considered the right thing to do!
I too agree that Elian should be reunited with his Dad.
However, Reno and Clinton invaded a citizens home without benefit
of a court order.
Michael Tuck, u.S.A.
The boy belongs with his father.
The Miami relatives are totally responsible for bringing this anguish on Elian.
The Miami relatives were breaking the law.
Why should they be treated any different by Immigration than any other potential illegal immigrant.
Excessive force was used in snatching Elian away from his relatives. Elian will be forever emotionally scarred.
This is a very said day. I am ashamed to be an American. Ronald Reagan would never have done what this criminal administration has done. This is shameful. In the 1850's there were the fugitive slave laws. Northerners were required by law to return escaped slaves. Many morally upright, normally law abiding people broke the law because they could not in good conscience participate in that evil system of slavery. Today we celebrate them.
This administration over they past seven years has proven to the most corrupt in this nations history and they have the gal to give lectures about the rule of law.
This is a nation that since its founding has been uniquely blessed by God to be the light of freedom to the world.
I find myself very ashamed for my country right now.
I am ashamed to be an American today. My government has resorted to the same tactics used by Cuba and all tyrannical governments.
Janet Reno circumvented the rule of law, she is a disgrace as Chief Law Enforcement Officer of this country.
Of all the things that have been said on both sides of this struggle,the most important point is this. By denying Elian his opportunity for freedom for the sake of political expediency, we have spoken decisively against the freedoms for which this nation was founded upon.
Yes, force was absolutely necessary. There is no doubt in my mind that this so-called "crisis" should have been resolved with the immediate return of Elian to his father. It makes me question the ridiculous amount of legal wrangling by the relatives in Miami. What were they trying to prove and why?
The fact that it has taken this long to execute the rule of law in this case serves to demonstrate how dangerous the power of lobbying and special interests is in preventing it.The interesting dilemma in all this is where it leaves Al Gore and the Democratic Presidential Campaign after his inference that Elian should stay in America. Will Clinton's firm hand mean that Al Gore will lose the Cuban-American vote by association, when the courts eventually let the father and son return to Cuba, as they must?
To the "intellectuals" the world over who applaud this "government action": who gave the government the right to intervene in a custody dispute by using machine-gun carrying cowards. Think, think.
To Mr Peter Ward, You should remember that it is often Europeans, especially British and German, who ask the US to be world Policemen through their own inaction, even in Eastern Europe! If it were up to American citizens alone, our isolationist tendency would prevent us from meddling in other affairs like it did in WWII until Pearl Harbor. Is that really what you want?
As a child advocate I am horrified at this latest twist in Elian's short but now very disturbed life. There is no such thing as "we were forced into taking this action" as stated by Janet Reno.
This child has become a political pawn in an adults world.
I can not envisage a more frightening experience for Elian and the other children present in that house than masked officers running around armed with weapons.
For God's sake the child watched as his mother and others drowned in a boat escaping from Cuba, not even understanding what was happening at that time.
The law is the law. The relatives held Elian hostage and something needed to be done. Janet made attempts to bring about a peaceful transfer. Americans have it so well but never quite appreciate how well they have things, ie; Bill Clinton as president for all the good he has done.
Elian needs to be with his father, however the military assault on the house is the sort of thing that should only be needed for terrorists. There is absolutely no justification to drag a child out of bed at 6am at gunpoint. America should be ashamed of it's leaders actions.
Max Johnson, Canada
What a bunch of hypocrites these Miami Cubans are. I would not care about the law any country, village or any tribe. If my son was being held, I simply walk over, push the so-called relatives aside and grab em. They are fortunate that Juan Miguel is patient and abides by the law. The Miami relatives surround themselves with lawyers, and irrelevant people. How dare they make accusations of abuse against the father. I guess such accusations are fashionable in the US nowadays. About time Juan got his kid back.
There was no way those relatives in Miami were going to relinquish their claims on that poor brainwashed child. It should never have come to this in the first place. He should have been returned immediately. Lazaro assured the father he would turn him over to him, then he refused. This was a disfunctional family who had a circus going on continually. When rescued, the little house was full of people.
It was necessary to remove him in any way necessary to get him from the clutches of those whose only cause was the money and notoriety that was brought to them via Elian.
Elian should never have had to
experience forceful removal. No
one who loved this child could put
him through it. How can he
possibly remain the sweet soul as
we know it. Mediation was offered
by US Court of Appeal and Reno is
completely incompetent not to have
used this remedy which is often
used to resolve custody issues.
And weapons and threats?
How can this not be a violation of
human rights for Elian in America?
Maybe it doesn't really matter if
he is Cuba or US. US culture has
become so numb to violence.
Watching Elian's removal is truly
one of the most unnecessary and
profoundly disturbing things I have
ever seen. This little child who
has suffered so much.
Justice at last!
If Cuban exiles feel so strong about Cuba and Castro why don't they do something about it. Why do they need to find a 6 years old boy and play him as a mascot?
Shame on them!
The government was right to remove Elian by force. The Cuban exile community has been so blinded by its hatred of Castro, and so determined to use Elian as a political pawn, that no negotiated settlement was possible.
The Clinton administration choices to uphold the rule of law when convenient and break it when it is in their interest to do so. None of us know what rationship the child and his father had prior to his leaving the country. The warm fuzzy phrase of uniting father and son may be fantasy in this case. Castro won, Clinton lost , the Miami relatives lost, and the trauma to Elian psychologically was forgotten by everyone. Let us pray that he survives this ordeal as well as his near-drowning.
It is great shame on the US Government
to take the kid on gun point which may cause psychological problem on him.
Shame on you!
In matrimonial matters custody and stability is everything. Every day that child was separated from his father and in legal limbo was doing far more damage to him than what happened this morning. This action was long overdue.
To those Cuban Americans and others who say what if this happened to you, the answer is obvious.
If any child of yours is ever taken from his home by a disgruntled relative - even a parent - without the knowledge and consent of his other parent, and smuggled overseas, whether it be Cuba, Iran or even England, I pray the authorities of that country will move quickly and decisively to apprehend that child and return him to his home.
If David Mercer is ashamed to be a US
citizen, then perhaps he should leave. Kudos to Janet Reno and the Justice Department for the proper handling of this matter.
Riz Rahim, USA
Absolutely right! The Miami relatives were defying the law in a deplorable and devious fashion. The child was being manipulated for political reasons. The US public at large was becoming impatient and the strong action that the Miami relatives were pretty much inviting had to be taken.
Finally! It's sad, only, that our federal government for so long cowered
in fear of the media frenzy (and its possible impact on the upcoming presidential
elections) stirred up by our exploit-anyone-for-ratings
media. The time was long, long since past when Elian should have been
rescued from his Miami captors.
This was yet another example of the Clinton administration breaking the laws that they were under oath to uphold. None of this was done through a court. Those were storm troopers, and this is tyranny. America is no more.
There was one other survivor who set out on the boat with Elian. She is a mother, who had the boat turn back so she could put her young daughter back on Cuba soil. Should that mother be forcibly returned to Cuba or should we have equal outrage until Castro allows the child to come to the united States? Think about it.
I feel the force used to
take the child was excessive.
First, a government official should have
presented himself at the front door of the home and
given a verbal demand for the boy. If confronted with a violent response then the
degree of force used would have been justified.
This is the first case of child custody I know of where this degree of brute force was used as a first option.
But Waco and Ruby Ridge do make it sadly unexpected.
I think that anyone who kidnaps a child and then uses this child to advance a political agenda should be arrested and trial for cruelty against humans.
It is a sad fact of this whole situation that the life and welfare of a six-year-old boy has been totally turned upside-down. Each participant in this sorry affair must share some measure of blame for the long term psychological harm done. But I feel that the Department of Justice has done the right thing by reuniting Elian with his father, and I could only wish that it could have been done differently. However, I think that it was becoming clear that nothing short of the use of force would have been able to pry Elian from his Miami relatives, no matter how the courts judge. The court ruling will keep Elian in the United States until is standing as a refugee is determined, and his presence with his father in a more controlled environment will I hope help to shield him from the incredible publicity and political firestorm that continues, and will continue. It was painful, but I feel that the right thing has been done. To delay any further would have been negligent.
Miami family kept that child without the consent of his father for five long agonising months. Two deadlines passed yet the relatives thought the Federal Government is joking. But it's the reality in America. Obey the law or face the consequences. By the way, US agents don't raid the house with flowers on their hands.
Obviously my government has turned it's back on the founding fathers, dragging their legacies through the mudd like it was garbage. For all those brave Americans who gave their lives for freedom and Liberty have once again been insulted by this administration. To send this boy back is a violation against everything this country was founded on. The father of Elian has not only regained his son, he will be returning him to the prison for which his mother gave her life to free him from. This is one of the saddest days in America.
I really don't understand what everyone's problem is. First of all Elian is with someone who has all the rights in world to have him, his father. He is the one who should be responsible for him. Who are his relatives to claim responsibility for the child? It was more like to me that Elian was kept hostage by the relatives. I praise the Justice Department and President Clinton for the actions they took.
There still is no argument. The child should have been with his father within a week after the original catastrophe happened, end of story.
Denise, Florida, USA
I am sorry that force had to be taken but it was necessary. The whole of the family that has detained the child should be deported back to their beloved Cuba. The little boy and his father should be allowed to stay.
Its no surprise that our President sent in the troops. Seizing a child at gunpoint! A little more patience would have allowed the courts to settle this and we would have had Elian going with his father a couple of weeks from now minus the battering ram and the mask-wearing goons.
To compare Elian's rescue to the Dread Scott decision (Michael K Ferris) is absurd! Elian was returned to his father who obviously loves him; however returning runaway slaves to their former masters is sentencing them to death! Surely, you are not suggesting that Elian's return to his father is the same as returning a slave to his master.
To the Miami relatives of Elian. Stop trying to make out that you have been victimised by the government.
You were given ample opportunity to give the boy to his father - where he rightfully belongs. It was you and the Cubans in Miami that forced the government into this corner.
As to the claims that the number of officers was excessive and the timing bad. If two police officers had come at midday and politely asked for the boy - would you
have given him over. I doubt it.I think the two officers would have been lucky to escape with their lives.You hypocrites. You would not meet with the father when you had the boy, but now the tables have turned
you all of a sudden want to meet. Go home and leave Elian alone. You have messed him around enough.
Well done Janet Reno.
Patrick B, UK
Whether it is right or wrong to use force to grab the child is related to emotion than (perhaps) this biggest organized kidnapping ever took place before. Where the relatives are responsible for not letting the child meet his father, the INS is equally responsible not to come to any negotiation with the concerned families. It will be the responsible of the INS to safeguard the safety of the child. When he (Elian) will leave US, INS will have no control to regulate the situation, and whatever worse will happen to Elian, INS will morally remain responsible for its action as a whole.
As a father, if I knew my six-year-old son was in the closet with a strange fisherman, I would expect (perhaps demand) that he be removed by force. I am appalled that the news media continues to refer to the distant relatives who kidnaped Elian as his "Miami family." His father is his family. The strangers in Miami should be prosecuted for obstruction of justice and custodial interference.
Thank God that Elian is safely with his father. Miami relatives were entirely over the line in keeping him. Janet Reno should be very proud of the fine way the mission was carried out. God bless America.
The US Government had little choice. The Miami relatives had abducted the child and were using him as a political pawn in a most disgraceful manner. I also believe that the law enforcement officers who rescued him had every right to have the means to protect themselves. They deserve great credit for achieving their aim in only three minutes without serious injury to anyone.
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