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The Elián Gonzales story in the United States is getting more
media attention, as well as the attention of the general public and the
US government, than almost any other story since Monica Lewinski and
OJ Simpson. So, while all Americans have an opinion about this issue,
it's surprising how almost indifferent most Cubans seem to be about the
matter. Of those I spoke with, and there were many, there seems to be several
prevailing thoughts: First, most believe that, while Elián should be
returned to Cuba, it's mostly because he lives here. Few actually believe
he would remain with his father. Rather, he would go live with his grandparents
because his father has been remarried and has a new wife. The circumstances
in this case are more likely that the grandparents would take the boy.
Second, no Cuban I spoke with understood why he hasn't been returned.
A typical conversation goes like this: "Your President Clinton
says the boy must be returned, right?" "Yes, that's right."
"So, why hasn't he been returned yet?" "Well, it's more
complicated than that. You see, the law says..." "What law? I thought
you said President Clinton said he should return." "Well, you see,
there are different branches of government which..." (confused look)
"Oh, never mind. Let me buy you a beer."
All the demonstrations that you see on CNN of Cuban mothers and other
people waving Cuban flags in the crowd are set up.
Members of the communist party are required to go, and everyone is
given flags, as well as paid time off work. Failure to go
is not met with harsh penalties, as far as I was able to see. No tourist
can attend, and the press is allowed only under strict controls. People
regard it as a big social event; few of them really know what's going on,
as no information is ever given to the crowd, other than very simplistic
propaganda through the local newspapers.
The Cuban paradigm of government is so simplistic: there are no laws,
other than "Don't do that", and you have no recourse whatsoever.
If Castro says it must be, then it is, no questions asked.
While this presents a serious lack of justice for many, there is a certain
level of efficiency and simplification for how things get done, that you
can't help but wonder how nice that would be in some cases here in the States.
Like, no more ATM fees, no more bad infomercials on TV, and no more Barney.
And you know how cashiers gives you your change in bills first, then coins,
instead of the other way around? Well, that'd be over. And maybe we can
do something about those left-lane drivers who hold up traffic by driving
at or below the speed limit. Oh, yeah. I'll bet Castro would do away with
those people really quick. And don't talk to me about another independent
counsel; Castro would have the entire Congress in jail. Hmmm... maybe that
wouldn't be so good after all. Well, except for a few of them.... ok, well
maybe for just a few days... Anyway, at least Elián could go home!
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