UN Release Calls Gonzalez Case "Kidnapping

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

(CNSNews.com) - A United Nations news release Monday included accusations that 6 year old Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban boy who was found drifting off the coast of Florida in November, was kidnapped by the Cuban American Foundation.

The accusation was included in a January 24, 2000 UN statement on the rejection of "consultative status" for Universidad Latinoamericana de la Libertad Friedrich Hayek, which was accused of being "closely linked to other organizations of a terrorist nature."

"One of (CAF's) most recent acts had been the kidnapping of Elian Gonzalez," read the news release. The remarks were attributed to Cuba's delegate to the UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, but was not identified. A search of the UN's Internet web site did not reveal the name of the delegate, and telephone calls seeking the delegate's name were not returned.

Gonzalez and his mother were part of a group of people fleeing Cuba in late November. The boy's mother was lost at sea trying to reach the United States, but Gonzalez survived after being rescued by a passing fishing boat on Thanksgiving Day and brought to Florida by a US Coast Guard vessel.

The boy is currently living with relatives in Miami, but his father remains in Cuba and has demanded the boy be returned. The difference of opinion on the boy's fate prompted a barrage of legal and legislative efforts to resolve Gonzalez's situation.

Cuban American National Foundation President Francisco Hernandez denied the accusations in the UN press release and said it was not appropriate for the organization to include such claims in its statements.

"Certainly it's not (appropriate)," Hernandez said. "I wonder why the United Nations would have made such a lie like that or permitted it to be in a news release."

When asked about the kidnapping accusation, Hernandez chuckled and attributed the claim to Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. "We certainly have not kidnapped or participated in any kidnapping in our lives," said Hernandez, who said he thinks the charge was leveled against his group "simply because we have been effective against Castro's regime."

The consultative status in question would have allowed the university to "send observers to public meetings of the (UN Economic and Social) Council and its subsidiary bodies and... submit written statements," according to the UN's Internet web site.

The Universidad Latinoamericana de la Libertad Friedrich Hayek is not a traditional university in the sense that it offers degree programs, but is described as an institute that studies and promotes democracy rather than a traditional university that offers degreed programs.

The CAF used to be the lobbying arm of the Cuban American National Foundation, a Miami-based organization that works to expose and stop human rights abuses in Cuba. Last year, the two organizations were merged into a single entity, according to Hernandez. The same UN news release that accused the Cuban American Foundation of kidnapping Gonzalez also accused the group of "terrorist activities," a charge foundation officials said is false.