The Great Divide

Correspondence from our readers

During the protests against Elian Gonzalez's removal from his Miami relatives' home, there also were very disturbing acts of violence. Much of this violence was directed toward the police department. These people must remember that in this country they have the right to protest peacefully and in a manner that does not infringe on the rights of others. When they cross the line and violate others' rights, the police department and its officers must take action to control situations that have the potential for becoming very dangerous for the protesters, nonprotesters, and the officers themselves.

In the past few days I have heard many disturbing things being said to police officers, even when they are off-duty. They have been called assassins, abusers, monsters, and much worse. People must remember that these officers have a job to do: protect the lives and rights of the people of this city. But police officers are human too, and no human is perfect, so sometimes errors are made. People must also remember that when their own rights are violated by criminals, they immediately call the police, who are there in an instant to assist them and apprehend the criminals.

I am proud to live in Miami and to be a Cuban American. I love this city and all its flavor. In the past few days, though, I must admit I have been quite disappointed with the behavior of my fellow citizens. We live in a beautiful city that is home to many wonderful people with a lot to offer to its culture. As much as we may be hurting over everything that has taken place in the past five months, we must keep the peace in our community. This issue has divided family, friends, and community leaders. It is time to end the violence and separation and come together as a community. It is time to end the "them versus us" point of view. We must unite once again and work toward bettering our community and our government so it works for everyone, as our founding fathers intended.

Monica Bover

As painful as it may seem, we understand the U.S. government was forced to act with determination by those who have hidden behind the Miami family in using them to defy the law. Members of the Gonzalez family in South Florida have been manipulated by some elements who, from the beginning, were interested in using Elian for their own political marketing rather than the defense of his rights or his well-being.

Once again this case was politicized by elements who constantly toy with the idea of starting a confrontation between Cuba and the United States. These elements are mainly headed by the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), whose altruism in this case is at least questionable. The CANF is part of a group of frustrated individuals who have no ties to the Cuban people on the island and whose disconnection from Cuban reality has left them with an almost psychopathic desire for a confrontational incident between our two countries.

If during the span of more than two decades they had achieved -- through their lobbying skills, financial muscle, and threatening tactics -- a virtual kidnapping of U.S. foreign policy, they were now attempting to kidnap the law and the very ability of the government to act on legal matters and domestic situations. The showdown in Little Havana had to come to an end.

We respect Attorney General Janet Reno in her decision to take the extreme measure of entering the house, and we know, as thousands of Cubans in Miami know, that the INS was forced to act in that manner by the foolishness of those who briefly saw themselves above the law. They misread the patience of the government, became emboldened, and acted in defiance. We congratulate Ms. Reno and the government on the harmless result of this inevitable operation. Additionally we recognize the courage shown by President Clinton in acting regardless of the many pressures from these elitist groups.

It is important that the media and the U.S. government finally understand that thousands of Miami Cubans have full comprehension of the tragedy of Elian Gonzalez. These Cubans also understand the opportunistic and callous behavior of a diverse group of pseudo-leaders who are intent on changing the Cuban situation only by destructive means.

A peaceful solution to the Cuban drama is possible and necessary. Those of us who seek such a solution have had to face the wrath of the same groups that now cannot let go of Elian Gonzalez, seeing in him the perfect flag they need for their demagoguery. We call on all Cuban exiles to reflect honestly and in a fashion deeper than the oversentimentalizing that has distinguished this case.

I have met with President Fidel Castro and discussed the possibility of a democratic transition. As a former leader of the revolution who later opposed it and spent 22 years in prison, I am regarded as a political adversary, not as an enemy. I insist that a democratic opening in Cuba is entirely possible.

It is my wish that the Cuban government opt for a subtle treatment of the conclusion of this Elian saga and desist from any further exploitation of an innocent child. It would be improper, tasteless, and useless for the Cuban government to try to use him as a flag behind which it might attempt to hide the enormous failings of the Cuban system or the urgent needs for change that exists in Cuba today.

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