Demonstrators call for Elian’s return to Cuba

Raiza Beltran

Activists carrying large signs on the streets of Minneapolis’ Uptown area cried for the return of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez to his father in Cuba and the end of U.S. embargo on the country.
Gonzalez, rescued three months ago from a shipwreck in the Atlantic Ocean that killed his mother and 10 others as they fled Cuba, has been the center of a tumultuous debate between the Cuban and United States’ governments and people.
With at least 40 people streaming in the streets of Hennepin and Lagoon avenues Saturday morning, some observers watched the action from a distance while others shared their views on Gonzalez’s situation and United States-Cuban relations.
“It’s very sad when nations act out foreign policy in the body of a child,” said Amy Porter, a University anthropology graduate student and a member of Students for Cuba. “There is no reason for the U.S. to keep him here.”
Having visited Cuba previously, Porter said the country is not the “evil, scary place the media makes it out to be.”
The rally is a collaboration among three local groups. Headed by Marv Davidov, director of the Midwest Institute for Social Transformation, Saturday’s action also included members from the Minnesota Cuba Committee and Pastors for Peace.
“Every Cuban I talked to wanted the child back,” said Davidov, who visited Cuba in December and participated in one of the demonstrations there. “It’s parental kidnapping under anyone’s law.”
Davidov, a University of St. Thomas professor, also visited Gonzalez’s school in Cuba and met his father and classmates.
Pointing at the “right-wing Cubans in Miami” as Gonzalez’s captors, Davidov said Elian’s family in Miami are only distant relatives.
Davidov quoted a recent CNN poll, which stated 70 percent of the American population want Gonzalez to be sent back to Cuba.
“If the situation was reversed … the U.S. government would demand that the child be sent back here,” Davidov added.
Other supporters simply want the child to be sent home.
“His family is sad and that’s where he belongs, where people who really care about him are,” said Milibia Rodriguez, a Minnesota Cuba Committee member and a University graduate in foreign languages.
While a growing cluster of media members followed demonstrators, a passerby asked why Gonzalez was special, and demanded “everyone from Cuba to be sent home.”
August Nimtz, a Minnesota Cuba Committee member and a University political science professor, was a speaker in the rally.
“Those who claim to deplore the politicization of the plight of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez while distorting the reality of Cuba actually encourage the actions of rightists in Miami, Congress and elsewhere who oppose his return to his father and grandparents,” wrote Nimtz in an opinions article for a local newspaper.
Nimtz added that a spring forum in Willey Hall will be held to discuss the reality of Cuba.
The gathering lasted for an hour and is the largest demonstration the coalition has had, Nimtz said.
“Any time people get together in a nonviolent position, it’s good,” Porter said. “It helps raise awareness and hopefully citizens can make a change.”

Raiza Beltran covers student life and student government. She can be reached at [email protected] or 627-4070 x3225.