The Great Elián Hoax

Did Demetrio Perez, Jr.'s Libre really produce this book?

Some of the clues that a specious hand is behind the publication of Eliánare more subtle than others. For instance it would be surprising if the founder of a bilingual school who has lived in Miami since the Sixties made the error that appears in the English text accompanying the photo on page 114: "Fidel Castro pins a medal on Juan Miguel Gonzalez to reward the later's [sic] betrayal of his son." The picture shows the Cuban dictator delivering a speech with Elian's father at his side. A recent arrival from Havana's Directorate of Intelligence, whose English skills are still a bit rough, would be more likely to make this gaffe, experts say.

Similarly the narrative states that Donato Dalrymple was a fisherman when he and his cousin Sam Ciancio spotted Elian clinging to an inner tube on Thanksgiving Day, November 22, 1999. By now everyone on this side of the Florida Straits who has studied the facts of the Elian affair knows that Dalrymple was a housecleaner at the time.

In addition there are questions concerning the photographs themselves. Most are captioned as Libre photos. But many are credited as being from Reuters, Agence France Presse, Newsmakers, or other agencies. "He definitely didn't get them from us," says an account executive for New York-based Getty Images, which manages the Reuters photo archive and sells rights to book publishers to reprint the images. The AFP photo department in Washington, D.C., also had no record of allowing its photos to be published in Elián. A Miami-based news photographer says the poor quality of many of the photos indicates they were pirated from the Internet. A distinguished educator and astute publisher, analysts say, would definitely not make that mistake.

One of Demetrio Perez, Jr.'s assistants at Libre insisted the educator-publisher would only respond to written questions. At press time he had not answered them. But a Libreemployee confirmed that several people inside Perez's organization had indeed produced the book.

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