US rejects Cuba plea for return of boy rejected
One of the country’s most respected commentators on Russia, the EU and the US, Mary Dejevsky has worked as a foreign correspondent all over the world, including Washington, Paris and Moscow. A former diplomatic editor and chief leader writer at The Independent, she now writes a weekly column and makes regular contributions to UK and international radio and television. She is a member of the international foreign affairs think-tank, Chatham House, the Valdai Group of international Russia specialists and the Franco-British Council. She also sits on the advisory board of the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at University College London.
Tuesday 07 December 1999
On Sunday, the Cuban President, Fidel Castro, gave Washington 72 hours to hand over Elian Gonzalez, accusing the US of kidnapping him. Gonzalez's mother and stepfather died when their refugee boat capsized in a storm. The child was found clinging to an inner tube in waters off Florida on Thanksgiving Day and rescued by the US Coast Guard.
He was entrusted to relatives in Miami, where he celebrated his birthday yesterday.
No sooner had word reached Cuba, however, than his natural father broadcast an emotional appeal for his return, accusing his former wife of taking him out of the country illegally. Both sets of grandparents live in Cuba and joined his plea, which has the support of the Cuban authorities. US officials say that the case will be settled by the immigration authorities, or by the courts.
But what began as essentially a custody dispute has now escalated into a major political stand-off, just a week before US officials are due to travel to Cuba for routine talks on ensuring the orderly flow of migrants from Cuba. Mr Castro has threatened to cancel the talks.
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