”Cuba is a totalitarian state controlled by President Fidel Castro, who is chief of state, head of government, first secretary of the Communist Party and commander in chief of the armed forces.
“President Castro exercises control over all aspects of Cuban life through the Communist Party and its affiliated mass organizations, the government bureaucracy and the state security apparatus… .
“The judiciary is completely subordinate to the government and to the party… .
“The government does not allow criticism of the revolution or its leaders. If President Castro or members of the National Assembly or Council of State are the objects of criticism the sentence can be extended to three years. Charges of disseminating enemy propaganda (which includes merely expressing opinions at odds with those of the government) can bring sentences of up to 14 years. In the [Cuban] government’s view, such material as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international reports of human rights violations, and mainstream foreign newspapers and magazines constitute enemy propaganda.”
Those are verbatim statements from the State Department human rights bureau’s 1999 report on Cuba. They are based entirely on Cuban law and regulation.
The report is available to every member of the Clinton government and of Congress, which made annual human rights reviews mandatory and generally ignores them.
In fact, it is available to every American and foreigner through the State Department website. Well, not Cubans, of course their computers have been declared the property of the government, which naturally controls their access to computers and the Internet.
Critically important: The report on Cuba is evidence the Clinton government has been lying. It has been lying throughout the entire moral and legal crisis about whether Elian Gonzalez should be returned to Cuba or allowed to stay in the United States awaiting a hearing under American law.
There are many forms of lying. Every adult and government knows them, from a facial expression that knowingly depicts the opposite of truth, to at least two forms punishable by American law. These include outright false statements under oath and deliberately withholding evidence or testimony and thereby damaging the case of the prosecution or defense.
Every U.S. official and lawyer of the administration involved in the Elian Gonzalez case, from the president on down, is guilty of withholding vital evidence. Not one of them said in any statement, document or appearance before the public that if Elian’s father did not demand that his son be returned to Cuba he would face 14 years in bestial prisons if he ever set foot in Cuba again. That would be a separation from Elian hideously longer than if the boy remained in America and father and son given unlimited visiting rights by U.S. authorities and Mr. Castro.
Unlike Attorney General Janet Reno, I cannot tell what road the father would have taken had he had been free, not just on free soil or what forms of hell Juan Gonzalez’s mother and other relatives would have been put through in Cuba. Miss Reno said she could tell, by looking into his eyes, that he spoke the truth. She could save us big money in trial costs if she flew about looking into eyes, instead of going through that boring due-process nonsense.
The administration did not have to worry that more than a few press people would actually read the government human rights report after Elian was brought ashore and the U.S. government and Mr. Castro organized campaigns to send him back. Of course, fewer journalists were curious and tough enough to ask why the U.S. government had never mentioned in out-of-court papers and immigration documents what would face Juan Miguel Gonzalez if he defied the first secretary of Cuba’s Communist Party.
Maybe now that the determined stance of Elian’s American relatives has forced Miss Reno to put off a physical attempt to grab the boy, independent judges who hear any part of the case may ask her why she and her underlings were silent about what faced Juan Gonzalez or any Cuban who defied the first secretary.
I am willing to believe that all who said they wanted Elian returned, including his father, were as sincere as Cuban-Americans, who insist on due process for Elian’s sake and for American decency’s.
As for those Americans and others who use the boy to display their unlimited compassion for Fidel, who never use his own word “communist” to describe his regime but select one more delicate such as “socialist” and who ask how do we know our society is really better for children than Fidel’s dictatorship, let me tell these people in all courtesy: You make me sick to my stomach.
A.M. Rosenthal is the former executive editor of the New York Times.