- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 22, 2002

Perhaps Fidel Castro needs to see a picture of Elizabeth Manero Sixto. In light of the plight of Elizabeth and other Cuban children, the hypocrisy of Fidel's Elian-era family-values media blitz is difficult to fathom. Elizabeth's story is regrettably familiar. Her mother, Maritza Sixto, defected to the United States after coming to Washington to complete a computer software project at the Pan American Health Organization. Elizabeth's father, Fernando David Manero, then applied for and was given U.S. visas for himself and Elizabeth to join Mrs. Sixto in America. But Fidel, whose appreciation of family reunification is glaringly one-sided, won't allow Elizabeth and her father to join Mrs. Sixto.

So where, it seems quite appropriate to ask, is the outrage from the National Council of Churches and the lawmakers and pundits who were so eager to make pronouncements on Elian Gonzalez while he was in the media spotlight? For these parties, Elizabeth's separation from her mother, which now totals over one year, doesn't merit the same concern as that of Elian, who was found floating on an inner tube on Thanksgiving Day 1999 off the coast of Florida. Somehow, a child's reunion with her mother in a free, democratic country is apparently less desirable and newsworthy than a boy's return to a dictatorial, communist country to be with his father.

Elizabeth's mother had been forced to participate in rallies in Cuba calling for Elian's return to the island. But she clearly miscalculated Fidel's potential for hypocrisy. "After that six-month campaign, I thought I'd have no trouble getting my family out of Cuba," said Mrs. Sixto. Defectors' families, however, must wait three years to leave Cuba. For Mrs. Sixto, this means that the toddler she last saw at age 2 will be a 5-year-old by the time of their reunion. She will have completely missed her girl's formative, early childhood.

While this three-year, defectors' penalty is clearly arbitrary and punitive, Fidel has, astonishingly, tried to cloak it in an air of legality. "Cuba has its immigration laws, like any country. You have to respect these laws," Luis Fernandez, press officer at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, told The Washington Post. But Cuba's "immigration laws" are clearly unlike those of other countries.

According to Article 13 of the International Declaration of Human Rights, "Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country." But this common-sensical declaration causes quite an inconvenience for Fidel. Although he maintains that he has created a communist paradise in Cuba, his need to imprison Cubans on the island speaks for itself. In his scheme of things, little Elizabeth is just another inconvenience.

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