Thursday, August 24, 2017

Elian Gonzalez

The year 2000 was a freaky year. You had Bush vs Gore, you had the whole Y2K thing, and you had the Elian Gonzalez saga.

It's hard to imagine this, but there was a time when both political parties feared the Cuban-American community in South Florida so much, they were willing to ignore the rule of law and fight over a little boy:

Elián González greets me with a smile and firm handshake.

He is unassuming and low-key despite once being at the center of a bitter international custody battle involving two Cold War enemies.

González sits quietly in his family home in Cardenas as his father, Juan Miguel, talks a mile minute. There are family pictures on the wall near images of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro.

    I have been invited to interview Elián, now 23, and his father ahead of the release Thursday of the CNN documentary "Elián" that examines the fight over the Cuban rafter boy, then 6, that brought the simmering feud between Cubans on the island and in South Florida to a boil.

    Elián's fiancée serves us coffee, and I marvel at how after years of covering Cuba I am suddenly in his living room. Unlike so many reports from González's youth, there are no bodyguards in sight. And while the house is nice compared with some I have seen in Cuba, it's hardly the mansion many people in Miami said González and his father would be rewarded with when they traveled back to the island.

    I put it down to the insanity of the Republican Party. They had impeached Bill Clinton, they were riding high on a candidate who would go on to start a couple of land wars in Asia, drown an American city, and serve with no distinction as the second-worst president of the modern era. The Bush years were pretty fucking bad, but I think we can all look back and say that we would trade what we have now to get them back.

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