Elian's Father, GOP House Leadership Fail to Meet

July 7, 2008 - 7:25 PM

(CNSNews.com) - Juan Miguel Gonzalez, the father of 6-year-old Cuban boat refugee Elian Gonzalez, did not travel to Capitol Hill late on Wednesday morning at the invitation of the GOP House leadership for a meeting on addressing alternatives to Elian returning to Cuba.

Jonathan Barrett, a spokesman for House Republican Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX), told CNSNews.com that the Cuban interests section in Washington did not give any reason for Juan Miguel's declining to attend.

"The meeting did not happen. Mister Gonzalez did not travel from Bethesda (Maryland, where he is staying with Cuban officials) to Capitol Hill today. The US security personnel responsible for Mister Gonzalez's safety communicated the decision to the Capitol police. They (the Capitol Hill police) communicated the decision to us. There was no direct contact on that matter," Barrett told CNSNews.com.

Meanwhile, the Cuban Interests section in Washington, according to spokesman Luis Fernandez, told CNSNews.com that Juan Miguel declined because "the first and most important priority for Juan Miguel is to recuperate his son." Fernandez believes that the Congressmen that wanted to meet with Juan Miguel were going to try to talk him into defecting to the United States.

"What they wanted Juan Miguel to do was to defect," Fernandez continued, "that's something that has been rejected from Juan Miguel from the beginning. When he came here to the United States he said very clearly that he wanted to recuperate his son and go back to Cuba."

Six House Republicans- House Speaker Dennis Hastert, House Republican Whip Tom DeLay, House Republican Leader Dick Armey, Congressman JC Watts, Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen invited Juan Miguel, his wife and infant son to attend a "private meeting" with them in the House Speaker's office, calling Capitol Hill "a neutral location" that is "the symbol of our nation's democracy."

The letter to Juan Miguel also said, "We extend to you the opportunity to express directly to us your wishes with respect to your son, Elian. We want you to have the freedom to express your true feelings during your visit without coercion and without intimidation."

"As parents," the letter went on to say, "we sympathize with your obvious desire to be with your son. We also recognize that you are now confronting the most difficult decision you will ever face as a father. It involves the future welfare of Elian and your family. We want to be sure that you are aware of all the options available to you as you make your decision."