April 28, 2000

Elian the eye-opener for us about Cuba?

By Al Neuharth. USA Today, April 28, 2000

A 6-year-old boy may succeed where nine presidents have failed. Little Elian Gonzalez apparently has opened eyes across the USA to the fact that people who live in communist Cuba are not necessarily bad.

For more than 40 years, every president since John F. Kennedy has punished the Cuban people because Fidel Castro is their dictator. Congress and the public have approved that punishment.

But this week, after Elian's Easter reunion with his father, the public mood is different.

Polls show sympathy and understanding for Elian and his dad, Juan Miguel Gonzalez. Most importantly, a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll reported 54% now favor the USA's re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Those relations were broken off back when Cuba was an ally of the Soviet Union and a military threat to us. Now, it is, at most, a nuisance. Make no mistake about Fidel Castro. He is still bad, albeit brilliant. He's cruel and cunning.

Most of the 11 million who live in Cuba, such as the Gonzalez family, are decent people who deserve much better. The rest of the world realizes that, and most countries have tried to help by normalizing relations. We are the lone major exception. The time is now for a complete revision of our failed Cuban policy. Specifically:

* Restore full diplomatic relations

* Lift the trade embargo and all economic sanctions

* Remove all travel restrictions

If that happens as a result of Elian's eye-opener, his survival during 48 scary hours alone at sea and his spirit displayed now and during the tug of war over him in Miami will leave a lasting legacy. He'll be remembered and revered in both countries long after Castro is gone.



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