Castro Government Stalls Father-Child Reunion

July 7, 2008 - 8:09 PM

(Editor's note: 1st includes comments from the National Council of Churches.)
(CNSNews.com) - In what some are calling shades of the Elian Gonzalez case, the guardians of a 4-year-old Cuban girl whose father defected to the United States last year are trying to reunite the child with her father, an effort being stalled by the Castro government.

Dr. Leonel Cordova defected to the U.S. last year after escaping from a Cuban medical mission in Zimbabwe. Since then, however, the girl's mother, Giselle Cordova, was killed in a motorcycle accident last weekend just blocks from her home in Cuba.

Cordova told CNSNews.com in an interview from Miami that Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) have requested that the U.S. State Department talk with the Castro government in hopes of reuniting him with his daughter and 11-year-old Yusniel, Cordova's son from a previous marriage.

"The Cuban government hasn't produced even a word about my problem and I'm really concerned about it," Cordova said.

"We are working with the U.S. Interests Section (in Havana) to get them out. But it all depends on whether the Cuban government decides to let them leave or not," said Yanik Fenton-Espinosa, spokesperson for Diaz-Balart.

"They need to get the white card, which is the exit visa. They need an exit visa to get out of Cuba because they are Cuban nationals," Fenton-Espinosa said.

She said the congressman's office is making a humanitarian case for the children to leave Cuba. "As far as I am aware, Dr. Cordova's wife and kids did have the visa to come here, but then when the mother passed away, that's when the problem began."

Larry Corwin, a spokesman for the U.S. Interest Section in Havana, confirmed receiving correspondence from Diaz-Balart's office, but said little else. "We really can't comment on pending immigrant cases like that," Corwin said.

Cordova also said the efforts of the U.S. government were being augmented by Church World Services, the organization that was instrumental in transporting him to the United States following his defection.

The National Council of Churches, a group that was actively involved last year in sending 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez to Cuba, said Thursday "no request to help in the Cordova family's case has come before us."

But, Carol Fouke, NCC media liaison, said, "The National Council of Churches' work to facilitate the reunification of Elian Gonzalez with his father and grandparents was not the first time we'd sought to be helpful in a Cuban family reunification matter, nor was it the last.

"We seek to help where we can, most often quietly, judging whether we can make a difference and always proceeding in consultation with our partner, the Cuban Council of Churches," Fouke said.