The Great Divide

Correspondence from our readers

June 14, 2001: The Miami Herald reported that Maria Eloisa Delgado, the 35-year-old Cuban-American woman who was killed last weekend in an auto accident in Havana, was laid to rest yesterday in the Cuban capital's Colon Cemetery. Delgado's parents and other relatives attended the funeral.

June 17, 2001: A front-page story in today's Miami Herald has focused attention on the case of Hector Sanchez, a Cuban-American boy who is hospitalized in Havana as a result of injuries he suffered in a car accident that took his mother's life a week ago. According to the Herald, Virgilio Sanchez-Estrada had no knowledge that his son had traveled to Cuba with his mother, Sanchez-Estrada's ex-wife. Sanchez-Estrada, who is a member of the Cuban American National Foundation, told the Herald that he is growing impatient and concerned because he has not been able to obtain any information about his son.

June 19, 2001: The Cuban daily Granma issued an official statement today in response to an article in last Sunday's Miami Herald about seven-year-old Hector Sanchez. According to Granma, the boy is recovering at a Havana hospital where he is receiving "the best medical care available in Cuba." The statement went on to question the concerns raised in Miami by the boy's father who, according to Granma, has not applied for a visa to travel to Cuba to see his son.

June 20, 2001: The Miami Herald today reported that, in an interview conducted with Virgilio Sanchez-Estrada, the father of seven-year-old Hector Sanchez said that he has asked the State Department to work out arrangements with the Cuban government for his hospitalized son to return to the United States as soon as possible. Sanchez-Estrada indicated that he does not intend to travel to Cuba, because the Cuban government cannot be relied upon to guarantee his safety.

June 22, 2001: In an official statement published in Granma today, the Cuban government lashed out at Virgilio Sanchez-Estrada and labeled him an uncaring father who is using his personal safety as an excuse to avoid traveling to Cuba to see his hospitalized son. The statement went on to say that the Cuban doctors attending to Hector Sanchez have ruled out any move of the boy for medical reasons until further notice. Granma also published today the first picture of Hector as a patient in a Havana hospital. The boy is reported to be making good progress in his recovery from the injuries he sustained in the car accident that took his mother's life.

June 27, 2001: The Miami Herald today reported that Virgilio Sanchez-Estrada met with State Department officials yesterday to try to expedite his son's release from a Cuban hospital and his return to the United States.

July 2, 2001: Granma reported today that seven-year-old Hector Sanchez was released yesterday from the Cuban hospital where he had been hospitalized since he was injured in a car accident in Havana on June 9. The Cuban-American boy's mother died in the accident. According to Granma, Hector was released to his maternal uncle, thus raising concerns about the boy's return to his father in Miami. Virgilio Sanchez-Estrada has been unwilling to travel to Cuba out of concern for his safety.

July 3, 2001: The Miami Herald today reported that Virgilio Sanchez-Estrada is upset with the State Department for not having brought enough pressure to bear on the Cuban government for the prompt return of his seven-year-old son. Sanchez-Estrada for the first time accused the Cuban government of seeking to keep his son in Cuba as retribution for Elian Gonzalez's stay in the United States last year. Hector Sanchez was released from a Havana hospital two days ago but, instead of being returned to his father in Miami, he has been staying with his maternal uncle, Carlos Delgado, who is a professor at the University of Havana and a member of the Cuban Communist Party.

July 6, 2001: The Cuban American National Foundation today held a press conference and blasted the Cuban government for seemingly trying to hold on to Hector Sanchez, the seven-year-old son of foundation member Virgilio Sanchez-Estrada. Foundation spokeswoman Ninoska Perez-Castellon denounced Cuban President Fidel Castro for cynically using the boy as a political pawn to try to create another crisis and rally the Cuban people behind him, now that the Elian Gonzalez crisis has cooled.

July 9, 2001: The president of the Cuban National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon, today responded in an interview with CNN to the charges leveled against Cuba that the government is using Hector Sanchez as a political pawn. Alarcon suggested that it is not Cuba that is trying to create a crisis but the Cuban American National Foundation because it wants to keep the pressure on Cuba. The Cuban official went on to say that Virgilio Sanchez-Estrada's refusal to travel to Cuba is owing to the fact that he has been involved in "counterrevolutionary activities." Alarcon then went on to reveal that Hector Sanchez's uncle, Carlos Delgado, has filed a petition in Cuba for legal custody of the boy. Alarcon said Cuba would never use a seven-year-old boy for political purposes, despite the fact that the United States illegally kept Elian Gonzalez from his father.

July 10, 2001: The Miami Herald today reported strong reactions in the Cuban-American community to Ricardo Alarcon's interview with CNN disclosing that Hector Sanchez's uncle has filed for legal custody of the boy. The boy's father, Virgilio Sanchez-Estrada, was quoted saying that his son was born in the United States and was visiting Cuba for the first time with his mother, who never intended to remain in Cuba. Sanchez-Estrada accused Alarcon of lying and said that he has only engaged in ideological activities of a nonviolent nature.

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