Cuban Boy's US Family Seeks Help From First Lady

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

( - A Miami cousin fighting with her family for custody of a 6-year-old Cuban castaway wrote a letter to Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday, urging her to use her clout as First Lady to help the boy stay in Miami rather than return to his father in Cuba.

"We beg you now, as a mother, to be the First Lady that truly crosses all ethnic barriers and speaks out for the children. Please, please help,'' Marisleysis Gonzalez wrote in a letter addressed to "Mrs. Hillary Rotham Clinton'' at the White House.

Wire service reports say that Gonzalez is a first cousin of Elian Gonzalez, the boy plucked from the sea on November 25th after a boat carrying illegal Cuban immigrants sank off Florida's Atlantic coast. The child's mother and 10 other people drowned.

Elian's father, who was divorced from the boy's mother, wants him sent back to Cuba. Marisleysis Gonzalez and other relatives in Miami say he should stay in the United States rather than grow up under Fidel Castro's communism rule.

US Immigration and Naturalization Service officials met earlier this week with the boy's father in Cuba and will decide his fate.
"The next step will be determined by INS using all the information available on this case to date. It is impossible to predict a time frame or the final outcome of this case,'' INS spokesman Dan Kane said in Washington on Wednesday.

Castro's government has demanded that the boy be sent back to Cuba, mobilizing hundreds of thousands of Cubans in rallies in Havana and elsewhere last week.

"I ask you as a mother to remember Elian's mother's will, that she wanted him to grow up in the United States and enjoy the possibilities that America affords us all ... Don't let his mother's will be gone in the Atlantic waters. Let him stay in a free country,'' Gonzalez said in the letter. "Don't send Elian to be the puppet of his mother's murderer. How much will he suffer as the symbol of a horrible regime,'' she said.

Copies of the letter were distributed to the media on Wednesday as Elian's Miami relatives took the boy to visit Lincoln-Marti School, a private elementary school where they hoped to enroll him.

However, Max Castro, a Cuba expert at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, FL, urged the US government to resist pressure from Cuban exiles to keep the boy in Miami.

"Once again hardline exiles are using all their clout to drive the US government to adopt a course of action that would fly in the face of law and logic, not to mention larger US interests,'' Castro wrote in his weekly Miami Herald column.

"It is especially ironic that the very people who have clamored loudest for maintaining the embargo on the sale of food to Cuba, which has a negative impact on the welfare of most children there, now are at the forefront of ensuring the future of this one poster child,'' Castro said.