Havana’s View of the ‘Elian Gonzalez II’ Custody Case

Background: The “Elian Gonzalez II” case in Miami is a battle over a 4-year-old Cuban immigrant girl which pits her Cuban father, Rafael Izquierdo, against wealthy Cuban-American foster parents Joe Cubas, a well-known sports agent, and his wife Maria. Just as Elian’s father Juan Gonzalez faced numerous unfair hurdles to get his son back, Izquierdo has been manhandled by the child welfare system, in part because of the system’s anti-father bias.

In 2005, the girl’s mother brought the girl to Miami from Cuba. The Florida Department of Children & Families removed the girl from her mother’s custody in 2006, after an investigation found that the woman’s mental illness rendered her an unfit parent. She was placed with a foster family, and Izquierdo came to the US to bring his daughter home.

Izquierdo has spent months in the US and has been denied custody of his daughter–an outrageous violation of fathers” rights. Izquierdo should not have to fight to raise his own child. He is a fit father–how and where to raise his daughter is his decision.

Last week, Judge Jeri B. Cohen faced down the angry Cuban-American community and did the right thing, ruling that Rafael Izquierdo is a fit parent who did not abandon his daughter, and should be permitted to take the girl back home to Cuba. Outrageously, the Florida Department of Children & Families has done everything it could do to malign Izquierdo and wrest custody away from him, spending over a quarter million dollars to do so. To learn more, click here.

Havana journalist/professor Manuel E. Yepe Menendez’s article Twisted Justice in Miami (The Cuban Nation, 9/27/07) gives the Cuban government’s view of the “Elian Gonzalez II.” I’m not familiar with the Atlanta case Menendez discusses near the end of the article, but I believe his view of the Elian II is more or less accurate, though somewhat exaggerated.

Twisted Justice in Miami
The Cuban Nation, 9/27/07
By Manuel E. Yepe Menendez
Havana’s Higher Institute of International Relations.

Similar to the kidnapping of the Cuban boy, Elian Gonzalez, seven years ago, a five year-old Cuban girl is today the center of an international dispute over her custody in the only place in the world where something like this could happen: the U.S. city of Miami, in south Florida.

Like the Elian case that won world notoriety, the plaintiff is the father of the child and the arguments of the kidnappers are mostly based on the irrational policy of the United States against Cuba.

In this case, the alleged kidnapper is a wealthy entrepreneur involved in human trafficking called Joe Cubas who, under the façade of a sports agent, has made a fortune in the illegal dealing of Cuban athletes using intelligence logistics and US subversion against the island and the support of Cuban-American extremist groups which have transmuted hatred of the Cuban socialist project into a money-making business which includes political wheeling and dealing directly involving top-ranking government officials of the state of Florida in the United States.

Bob Butterworth, secretary of the Department of Children and Families in the State of Florida (DCF in its English acronym) whose lawyers are battling to prevent the Cuban father from obtaining custody of his daughter, told the Miami press that this “unusual” case is the costliest he has ever seen.

The little girl is daughter of the Cuban campesino from Cabaiguan in the central region of the island and Elena Perez a 35-year-old woman who left Cuba legally and arrived in the United States in December 2005 with the daughter in question and her son. Shortly after her arrival in the Miami, her new husband, Jesus Melendres, abandoned them.

According to reports in the Miami press, Elena, evidently disturbed because of the economic situation she faced for several months, tried to commit suicide. This was the reason her children were taken from her. The DCF took her children from her in March of 2006 and placed them in the care of Joe Cubas.

When Rafael Izquierdo found out, he decided to assume his duty and his right as a father, and was able to travel to the United States to bring his daughter back.

The mother has been categorical in declaring that if she cannot have her daughter she wants her to return to Cuba with her father “who loves her and wants to be with her”. Anything would be better – the mother said – than leaving her in the United States in the care of Joe Cubas who has kept the little girl for over a year and formally adopted her brother.

According to the local press, the 13-year-old adolescent told his mother that he wants to stay with Joe Cubas amidst the luxury in which he is kept.

Elena has declared that she regrets having left her small town of Cabaiguan where her children were happy. “I know this country seems marvelous to many people but I am disappointed in it”, Elena Perez expressed and described her attempted suicide in a moment of weakness amidst a situation of desperation and destitution.

“One horrible night I decided that my children would be better off without me and so I did something stupid,” she declared. I am not crazy. I have been depressed and stressed-out and spent many sleepless nights but I am ok”.

The U.S. judge, Jeri B. Cohen, risks her career attempting to act impartially in the Miami environment, in a legal process which is becoming ever more political. She acknowledged that the case would have another outcome in which “the United States government refuses to repatriate the child to a communist country where her father lives.” She also revealed that “employees of the state of Florida” – the name given to the legal representation of a state government in trial – want the child to remain in the United States in the custody of a Cuban American family. “They would have acted differently if the child’s father lived anywhere but Cuba.”

“In over 10 years of presiding over cases of child welfare I had never seen lawyers of the Department of Children and Family of the State of Florida act against a father to raise his child unless he had repeatedly failed to comply with a court-ordered stipulations, the judge declared.

Considering the tense relations between the United States and Cuba, I believe that “the father may never see his daughter again if he returns to the island without her”.

It is easy to understand, however, that the judge is working under great pressure and that the trial is not taking place in a fair climate of objectivity and impartiality.

Read the full article here.

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