April 22, 2005
The Rescue
by Nidia Diaz
A CubaNews translation by Joseph Simon Mutti

Photo: AP, appears in April 22, 2005 Granma

Read speeches by Elian Gonzalez, his father and others celebrating the fifth anniversary of his rescue in Miami here

We all sensed the outcome was not far off. Surprise attack, waiting for the smallest error, the inevitable order. In complicity with the silence of the night and as black as the same, the Immigration and Naturalization Service van drove toward that street in Miami and into history. Inside was Betty Mills, as young as the forever absent mother, lending her arms to protect the kidnapped boy and to whisper to him time and again, "Don't be afraid, don't be scared, you're going to see your dad..."

Time had stopped. Federal officers - heavily armed in keeping with actions of this type - carried out Operation Rescue after the failure of negotiations and the open challenge and disrespect the kidnappers had shown for the law.

It was April 22, 2000 - five years ago today.

Two minutes and 34 seconds were enough to put an end to the disgrace which was the fruit of a sordid union between the Cuban-American mafia and the U.S. extreme right.

A total of 149 days had lapsed since Elián González, after floating at sea and tied to an inner tube, arrived at the Florida coastline with an absent and dejected look upon his face. He asked to call his father, no doubt to confide in him his fears and ask after Elisa, his mother, whom he had not seen for he didn't know how long.

Those were 149 days that for we Cubans seemed centuries. Which of us had not heard of the Cuban Adjustment Act? How many times would we not argue with someone who considered the U.S. law a panacea that would fling open the doors to "paradise" if they managed to get there alive?

Never as when we saw the first images of Elián in the stretcher on the way to hospital, was the murderous law more cruel and entrapping.

Everything began on November 22, when, in an illegal operation trafficking people, the boy was separated from his father without consulting him and his four grandparents. Barely had the voyage begun than the craft was sighted by the Cuban Coastguard, which radioed the information to the U.S. Coastguard. Nothing was done until three days later when of the original 15 people on board the craft, only three remained alive - Elián, among them.

The story is known.

Desperate, the father and the maternal grandmother, Juan Miguel and Raquel, put the case into the hands of our Foreign Ministry which immediately began to take steps to reclaim the boy. The father's act of complete trust toward the Revolution began one of the greatest political and ideological battles in which the unity and dignity of the people of Cuba was strengthened and proven to be invincible.

"We will see if they can withstand the battle", Fidel had told us on December 4, 1999, when he went to the airport to welcome the delegation and accompanying journalists that had attended the Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization in Seattle, USA

There, in the night, he conversed with us all and after commenting on the events that had happened in Seattle, which had become a battlefield of repression against the anti-globalization movement, he asked if we had read about the boy who had been kidnapped at the hands of the Miami right-wing mafia in complicity with distant relatives and the very government of the United States.

Fidel told us how he heard about the case and how he wanted to meet the father. When he first saw him and looked into his eyes, he knew, said the Cuban leader, that the father was an honest man and that the Revolution would join the fight to recover his small son.

"Eleven million Cubans will fight for his freedom", he added. Thus, day after day, the Cuban Revolution showed to the world its unyielding commitment that justice would be done and was able to arouse a noble and gigantic mass movement as well as public opinion - especially inside the United States itself.

It was the attitude of the people of the United States that was a key element that those who governed the country could not ignore, and that unceasingly pressured it to come to the fairest and most humane solution - beyond the manipulation, dirty dealings, blackmail and threats of the Miami extremists.

The action of April 22 represented a chapter of decisive importance in the events surrounding the cruel kidnapping - an indispensable moment in the Battle of Ideas unleashed without respite - as much in Cuba as in the United States.

Today, as this Battle continues and reaches higher planes, we cannot forget the episode that brought about the final outcome that allowed the return of Elián to the arms of his loved ones a few weeks later - weeks that were futilely used by the annexionists in Miami to hinder the boy's reunion with his father.

We also remember that the criminal Cuban Adjustment Act continues to be in force and that the fight and the indictments against this savagery must not end, to which is now added the most recent and brutal measures of the current U.S. government against the people of Cuba.

We won the fight half a decade ago, as we have won all the strategic battles that the U.S. Empire has imposed upon us, and we will continue to win, thanks to the unity, the profound principles, and the depth of conviction that Fidel has inculcated in us.

Fidel Castro's remark that night was that the victory
would not be complete until Elian could return home:

Juventud Rebelde
April 23, 2000, page 8

A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.

A victory shared with the American people
by Luis Hernández Serrano and René Tamayo León

A victory shared with the American people. The meeting held in Jagüey Grande was not to celebrate what happened yesterday morning –- Elián was returned to his father -– but to commemorate the 39th  anniversary of our victory at Girón. Nor was Fidel there for the former, though he couldn’t help talking about it. He had decided to attend the mass rally earlier that week, he said over the microphone when he climbed to the podium at the outdoor Open Forum (the first time he does it). They had lived through special days then, as the island had been under attack again on two new accounts: first, the disgrace of Geneva, and then on the 19th –the following day–  we knew of the decision taken by the 11th [U.S.] Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, which –- Fidel pointed out -– seemed to be an historical revenge, or at least they want it to be so, for our victory in 1961 on the sands of that mythical beach.

An aggression –- the locals may say -– is a very good reason to celebrate a triumph. Girón deserved yesterday’s Open Forum, and especially those who live in Jagüey and the [Zapata] Swamp along with every man, woman, child and senior citizen throughout Matanzas province. Encircled by a highway that crosses the swamp on its way to the sea, the sugar mill Australia was the best stage: it was there were, almost 40 years ago, the mercenaries pretended to gain a foothold and set up a “government” planned to be flown in from and recognized right away by the United States, as they awaited a likely large-scale invasion which the U.S. Navy would soon undertake on behalf of the OAS.

"They picked a good spot, maybe the best one,” Fidel declared. It was a swamp ending on solid ground, two beaches, highways, all kinds of projects and even an airport. They were all new works made by the Revolution as a result of its special attention to the Zapata peninsula, where poverty had been endemic. The main strike was supposed to take place near Jagüey, but thousands of ground militia approached from the west while Cuban pilots took to the skies. It was a fierce battle that went on for 68 hours in a row.

Fidel himself led the operations: he shot at the Houston and captured the first prisoner, and could have even been the most famous casualty thereof: crouching in the undergrowth, some mercenaries had him within range of their guns, but never fired a shot. They had no moral strength to kill him, as Fidel himself remarked. As to the enemy, the essence of their defeat lied in their own lack of morals and convictions. On the patriots’ side, victory came in the hands of truth and firmness.

Girón was the newly formed Revolution’s first great victory. Yesterday Fidel once again recalled those days of combat and people who were attacked, like the mother of that girl in the little white shoes. Valiant and heroic people turned out by the thousands, and a large number became martyrs. To them, Fidel and the Matanzas people wished eternal glory. 


Nor was Elián’s return to go unmentioned. Cuba awoke to the news on Saturday, and so did the world. But we on the island were not to talk about the second victory, and neither was Fidel. 

Never mind that yesterday was a glorious day, or the tears shed by children, senior citizens, women and even men, because that’s what happened when all good people here saw the moving images of their reunion. 

Juan Miguel is already holding his son Elián in his strong hands, a smile on the boy’s lips and a different expression on his face –- certainly different from the one we saw and observed many times for almost five months. And there were his little brother Hianny and his stepmother Nercy, whose baby’s smile won the hearts of America’s honest majority.

That’s what the weekend was like, full of happiness despite its rough beginning. In Atlanta, the Court of Appeals took a very unusual decision in the history of jurisprudence –- perhaps an all-time first. As Fidel said, such a highly placed three-judge panel chose to validate the signature of someone who can barely write, much less grasp the importance of a paper bearing his name. A six-year-old child was thus given legal authority to challenge his father. 

In sum, arguing the boy’s supposed right to have “his day in court”, the three judges turned into doctrine something inconsistent with the most elementary sense of family unity and child protection, a principle that mainstream America holds in great esteem, and a very dangerous one at that. Imagine if a U.N. official’s son decides to seek asylum? Or, would a child from Mexico, Haiti, Colombia or Africa get the same treatment? American sixteen-year-olds have no right to vote, but a six-year-old child is allowed to make a decision on his own fate and to abandon his father and mother. 

Lashing out at the manifesto put forward by those judges who heard the case and found for the child’s right to request asylum was the least our Commander-in-Chief could do. And he also condemned the panel for disregarding Juan Miguel’s word. Isn’t that what their ruling means, its provisions preventing Elián from leaving the country or be helped to that end?

Juan Miguel had voiced his willingness to stay there for as long as the process would take, Fidel said. And Juan Miguel is a man of his word, a Cuban of honor. So are our diplomatic representatives in that country, who would have never tried to prevent him from being there for the duration or make things difficult for him.

"An unnecessary prohibition", added Fidel, assuring that the real lawbreakers, the ones who were really discrediting the INS, the Justice Department, the Attorney General’s Office and even the will of the  President of the United States himself, were the child’s distant relatives.  Lázaro, Marisleisys and Co. blackmailed the government of the world’s most powerful country. There can be no doubt about that. And they did it, as Fidel rightly emphasized, inspired by the support offered by a mob which feels impunity. This mob –- he went on -– has been committing crimes against Cuba for 40 years. The counterrevolution relied on the lobbying for, tolerance of and positive attitude toward their rudeness as well as on the Cuban Adjustment Act and the [Cuban-American National] Foundation (CANF)… But there were divisions in their midst, our Commander-in-Chief emphasized. They even tricked Torricelli himself when he and Jorge Mas Santos, president-prince of the Mas Canosa monarchy at the CANF, were left in the lurch as they waited for Elián’s relatives at the New York Nunciatura, where it was agreed the boy and his father would meet. 

"It seems the most extremist groups convinced the notorious great-uncle. Truth is, some days ago Torricelli was saying that everything was set, but then the great-uncle got drunk and said no. A book will have to be written about all this,” Fidel commented in reference to the plans designed by the mob and Elián’s relatives to coax the boy into rebuffing his father, the cruel way they treated Juan Miguel and the suffering inflicted on the child’s grandparents. 

“We all saw –- he continued -– what they did to the grandmothers in Miami, where even Mas Santos acted as a driver for the kidnappers and then made that boy say on TV that he wanted to live in the United States and things like ‘tomorrow I will become an American citizen’. I can imagine –- the Commander-in-Chief also remarked -– how much Juan Miguel suffered with the eight-hour-long interview they had with his son and the revolting publicity stunt they used as a weapon, when they realized they had no case and they had lured Elián into saying he didn’t want to return to Cuba.” 

About Juan Miguel’s trip to the U.S. with his family, the Cuban leader pointed out that it had been at the right moment, in the nick of time. Their presence there notwithstanding, Elián’s relatives and the mob kept lying: Juan often mistreated his wife and beat and even molested his son. 


Juan Miguel is a man in every sense of the word. That’s what all Cubans say. Fidel describes him as “a firm, persevering man of character, personality and sound judgment”. 

The 19th was a very hard day for him, deceived as he was by the court ruling. Had his son not been delivered to him yesterday, he would have gone to Miami to fetch him on Sunday, he had decided. And he would have done just that. We Cubans found out yesterday through Fidel, and were never in doubt that he would.

If you’re going, I’m going with you, assured his lawyer Gregory Craig, "a very interesting man", according to Fidel. Even Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, a member of the church group of churches which provided funds for and moral support to Juan Miguel’s family, would have demanded a seat on that plane.

Between Thursday and yesterday (Saturday), when the battle for custody came to a close, this Cuban family had to live through many tough hours, brimming with maneuvers concocted by Elián’s relatives and the mob in Miami, as well as by the U.S. authorities, which we knew about as Fidel recounted and detailed them.

Friday was the harshest. Juan Miguel was adamant that he wouldn’t accept anymore deals, and had made up his mind to put an end to the situation when he went to bed at 2:30 a.m. on Saturday. "None of us could get any sleep, worried though we were thinking about what today [yesterday] would bring," Fidel admitted.


About Elián’s present status, he said that things are more relaxed now. “I have no qualms about saying that the Attorney General and the INS Director have done the right thing. And the President of the United States rose to the occasion and declared he favored a family trial, at a time when many people, including his own Party’s candidate, were opposed".

While after Bay of Pigs we could talk about our all-out victory, now we can say that our resounding success today is a shared one, which has to end in victory if we keep acting as we should. In this regard Fidel explained that we share our success with the Attorney General, the INS Director, many members of the Congress from both parties and the U.S. President himself, whose firm stance had a significant impact. “Moreover, we have to share it as well with the American public opinion, which played a key role, I must admit in all honesty".

He stressed that he was reluctant to meddle in the U.S. internal affairs, but “that child who has been kidnapped and tortured was on the verge of becoming a major issue in the next American presidential election. We will take sides with no one; just wait and see what happens".

President Clinton did a good thing for our child and for his own nation, he remarked. "Had anything happened to Elián or to Juan Miguel, his wife or his youngest son, it would have been an indelible stain on the U.S. How the United States’ prestige would look like then?" 

Today, he went on, is a day of truce, probably the first with the United States in 41 years, and it’s only fair that we are not here to brag and bluster, but to honestly acknowledge what must be acknowledged. He insisted that we are fighting on two fronts: Elián’s and Geneva’s, but we could fight on three or more. And about Geneva, he made it clear that one of the things that led the Miami mob to become bolder was what they did against Cuba there. "There’s a close link between that and Elián", he said, referring to the Czech representatives’ obsequious attitude and their strong ties with the United States, calling them experts on betrayal.

Fidel read a number of opinions our people expressed of their own accord, such as: "Fidel and Raúl have put up with a lot... Fidel’s gonna have to take a tougher line and take the child away from them... he has to open a second [Mariel] boatlift and send many revolutionaries to the States who can turn everything there topsy-turvy... That boy has to be protected; this is outrageous. Are they gonna let them kill him?... Our government has to be stronger... That great-uncle should be taken care of... This is getting really nasty... Someone must give that Lázaro a few bullet holes… It’s time to tighten up on them and do something more than just organize Open Forums… We must snatch him out of their hands; they are the weak wealthy and we are the strong poor... I wish Lázaro would be deported to Cuba."

As the leader of the Revolution emphasized, neither the government nor the people in Cuba can kill anyone; he just picked those comments inasmuch as they convey popular despair, though not the majority’s feelings. “We will do nothing that the mob can use as an excuse. It has been made it clear and reiterated here, that we will celebrate nothing. We can’t do like those people and put up a show around Elián, he won’t be turned into a trophy. We are aware of our people’s increasing strength and sense of pride these days. Now we can feel much more relaxed about our boy, because we know no one’s going to kill him. His rehabilitation process starts today", he assured.

He also pointed out the value of the two photographs broadcast on TV: "They’re wonderful. It’s a reward in itself, and we want no other prize than those pictures. I’ve seen people crying over them. That boy’s smile... they’re worth printing and distributing. I hope he will recover soon and that his wounds will heal fast." Talking about a rather dark image of a federal agent pointing a gun at a tearful Elián, Fidel commented: "Yes, he cried, but he did it for something that released him from captivity. He cried for three or four minutes in order to cry no more for the rest of his life, to be hugged by his dad, his dad’s wife and his little brother".

Later on he said that Juan Miguel spearheaded the final battle for his son. [His hometown] Cárdenas and all of Cuba take pride of him. “One is proud of their people, and that’s how I feel now,” Fidel stated. Today it’s Easter Saturday. If the 19th was a great day of victory, this is a day of glory, of great glory to our people. And our glory is at the service of the world.


A Jaguey Grande is a town and municipality of Matanzas province in Cuba (T.N.).

Giron refers to Bay of Pigs (T.N.)

Cuban Children To Commemorate
the 5th Anniversary of the Rescue of Elian González

Havana, April 22 (RHC)-Cuban children on Friday night will commemorate the 5th anniversary of the rescue of Elian González from right wing Cuban Americans in Miami and his safe return to his father, Juan Miguel González. The ceremony will be held in the José Martí Anti-Imperialist Tribune on Havana's emblematic seaside drive.

Today's Granma Newspaper reports that the José Martí Anti-Imperialist Tribune was inaugurated with the first rally demanding the return to Cuba of little Elian to Cuba.

The cultural- political ceremony will be broadcast by Cubavision International television, Radio Rebelde and Radio Havana Cuba.


AP report on Havana rally celebrating Elian's rescue:
Reuters report on Havana rally:
Prensa Latina report on Havana rally:

Mesa Redonda Discussion of Elian, April 21, 2000

GRANMA editorial November 8, 2000


Fidel's remarks the night of Elian's rescue (Granma International)

March 4, 2000

March 8, 2000

March 29, 2000

May Day 2000

February 26, 2000  (Discusses Hillary Clinton)

January 2000

June 24, 2000

Elián González, after his rescue,
reunited with his father again.


El rescate
Por Nidia Diaz


Todos lo intuíamos, el desenlace no podía estar lejos. Emboscada, esperaba el menor descuido y la orden impostergable. En complicidad con el silencio y tan negra como la noche, avanzó por aquella calle de Miami y por la Historia la camioneta del Servicio de Inmigración y Naturalización de los Estados Unidos en la que Betty Mills, joven como la madre definitivamente ausente, prestó sus brazos para proteger al niño secuestrado y susurrarle una y otra vez, "No te asustes, no tengas miedo, vas a encontrarte con tu papá..."

El tiempo se detuvo entonces. Alguaciles federales, fuertemente armados en correspondencia con acciones de este tipo, llevaron a cabo la Operación Rescate, ante el fracaso de las negociaciones y el desafío abierto y desfachatado de los secuestradores a la ley.

Fue el 22 de abril del año 2000. Hoy se cumplen cinco años.

Dos minutos y 34 segundos bastaron para poner fin a la infamia, fruto del sórdido maridaje entre la mafia cubano-americana y la ultraderecha norteamericana.

Habían transcurrido 149 días desde que, flotando sobre el mar, asido a un neumático con la mirada ausente y triste, Elián González había llegado a las costas de la Florida y había pedido que le llamaran a su papá, seguramente para confiarle bajito sus miedos y preguntarle por Elisa, a la que dejó de ver no sabría decir cuándo.

Fueron 149 días que para nosotros, los cubanos, parecieron siglos. ¿Quién de nosotros no había oído hablar de la Ley de Ajuste Cubano, cuántas veces no discutiríamos con algún ingenuo que la consideraba una panacea que le flanquearía las puertas al "paraíso" si lograba llegar con vida?

Nunca como cuando vimos las primeras imágenes de Elián en aquella camilla camino del hospital, la asesina Ley se nos hizo más cruel y tramposa.

Todo comenzó el 22 de noviembre, cuando, en una operación de tráfico ilegal de personas, el niño fue separado inconsultamente del lado de su padre y sus cuatro abuelos. Apenas iniciada la travesía, nuestros guardafronteras avistaron la embarcación y lo comunicaron a sus pares del Norte. Del otro lado, nada hicieron hasta que, tres días después, de 15 personas a bordo de la frágil embarcación, solo tres llegaron con vida, Elián, entre ellos.

La historia es conocida.

Desesperados, el padre y la abuela materna, Juan Miguel y Raquel, pusieron el caso en manos de nuestra Cancillería para que iniciaran de inmediato los trámites de reclamación, abriendo paso con su actitud de confianza sin límites hacia la Revolución la más colosal batalla política e ideológica, en la que la unidad y la dignidad de los cubanos salieron fortalecidas, mostrándose invencibles.

"Vamos a ver si resisten la batalla", nos había dicho Fidel el 4 de diciembre de 1999 cuando fue a recibir en el aeropuerto a la delegación y a los periodistas que participamos en la Conferencia Ministerial de la Organización Mundial de Comercio, celebrada en Seattle, EE.UU.

Allí, tarde en la noche, conversó con todos y tras comentar los acontecimientos ocurridos en aquella ciudad norteamericana, devenida campo de lucha y de represión contra el movimiento antiglobalización, nos preguntó si habíamos leído acerca del niño secuestrado a manos de la mafia de Miami en complicidad con familiares lejanos y el propio Gobierno de los Estados Unidos.

Fidel nos contó cómo conoció el caso y cómo quiso conocer al padre. Cuando lo vio y le miró a los ojos supo —confesó—, que aquel era un hombre honesto y que la Revolución daría la pelea por recuperar a su pequeño hijo.

"Once millones de cubanos lucharemos por su libertad", adelantó. Así, un día tras otro, la Revolución cubana mostró al mundo su decisión inquebrantable de que se hiciera justicia y logró concitar tras el logro de tan noble y justo objetivo un gigantesco movimiento de masas y de opinión pública, especialmente dentro de los propios Estados Unidos.

Fue la actitud del pueblo norteamericano un elemento clave que el Gobierno de ese país no pudo ignorar y que presionó sin cesar para lograr la solución más justa y humana, por encima de las maniobras, suciedades, chantajes y amenazas de los mafiosos.

La acción del 22 de abril representó un capítulo de importancia decisiva en el conjunto de acontecimientos que rodearon al cruel secuestro, un momento indispensable en medio de la Batalla de Ideas desatada y que se libraba sin tregua, tanto en Cuba como en Estados Unidos.

Hoy, cuando esta Batalla continúa y alcanza planos más elevados, no podemos olvidar el episodio que acercó el desenlace final, que permitió el retorno de Elián al seno de sus seres queridos unas semanas más tarde, semanas que utilizaron fallidamente los anexionistas de Miami para entorpecer el encuentro del niño con su padre.

También para hacernos recordar que la criminal Ley de Ajuste Cubano sigue en vigor y que no pueden cesar la lucha y la denuncia contra ese engendro, al que ahora se suman las más recientes y brutales medidas del actual Gobierno yanki contra la familia cubana.

Vencimos hace un lustro, como hemos ganado todas las batallas estratégicas que el imperio nos ha impuesto y como seguiremos triunfando siempre gracias a la unidad, la firmeza de principios y la profundidad de convicciones que nos ha inculcado Fidel.