Homeward bound — staff editorial

Tensions between the U.S. Justice Department and the South Florida Cuban-American community have reached feverish levels as Juan Miguel Gonzalez, the father of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez, traveled to the United States to retrieve his son, a transaction that is scheduled to be completed by week’s end.

Meanwhile, Miami relatives of Elian are desperately trying to retain custody of the boy through the courts, unfairly prolonging a painful saga in the lives of a loving father and his son. If he truly cared about the welfare of his great-nephew, Lazaro Gonzalez, the Miami relative with interim custody of Elian, would peacefully turn the boy over to his rightful guardian, Juan Gonzalez.

Staying at the Bethesda, Md., home of a Cuban diplomat, Juan Gonzalez has refused to meet with Lazaro Gonzalez. While many see Cuban dictator Fidel Castro as the main orchestrator behind Juan Gonzalez’s trip, Elian’s Miami relatives and many Cuban Americans who have demonstrated in favor of keeping Elian in Florida need to respect the democracy they proclaim to love.

Essentially, Elian’s mother kidnapped her son from his father, who had primary custody of the boy in Cuba. Rather than allowing yet another trial, Immigration and Naturalization Services should treat Elian’s situation like any other case by sending him directly home. Attorney General Janet Reno has already called a Florida state court ruling that granted custody to Lazaro Gonzalez irrelevant, because INS has jurisdiction over the boy, not the courts.

From presidential candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush to the local legislators of South Florida, far too many politicians are pandering to the influential Cuban-American community of Miami. Unscrupulous politicians, afraid of committing `political suicide,’ are just as guilty as the Miami relatives of Elian for the perpetuation of this already protracted struggle.

Tragically, Elian’s life will forever be marked by this event. To minimize the life-altering damage inflicted upon the boy, the Miami relatives of Elian must turn him over to his father immediately, thus ending this painful chapter in Elian’s young life.

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