[House Hearing, 106 Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]
CHILDREN'S RIGHTS IN CUBA
INTERNATIONAL OPERATIONS AND HUMAN RIGHTS
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SIXTH CONGRESS
APRIL 13, 2000
Serial No. 106-163
Printed for the use of the Committee on International Relations
Available via the World Wide Web: http://www.house.gov/
U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
68-020 WASHINGTON : 2000
COMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
BENJAMIN A. GILMAN, New York, Chairman
WILLIAM F. GOODLING, Pennsylvania SAM GEJDENSON, Connecticut
JAMES A. LEACH, Iowa TOM LANTOS, California
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
DOUG BEREUTER, Nebraska GARY L. ACKERMAN, New York
CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, New Jersey ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American
DAN BURTON, Indiana Samoa
ELTON GALLEGLY, California MATTHEW G. MARTINEZ, California
ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, Florida DONALD M. PAYNE, New Jersey
CASS BALLENGER, North Carolina ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey
DANA ROHRABACHER, California SHERROD BROWN, Ohio
DONALD A. MANZULLO, Illinois CYNTHIA A. McKINNEY, Georgia
EDWARD R. ROYCE, California ALCEE L. HASTINGS, Florida
PETER T. KING, New York PAT DANNER, Missouri
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio EARL F. HILLIARD, Alabama
MARSHALL ``MARK'' SANFORD, South BRAD SHERMAN, California
Carolina ROBERT WEXLER, Florida
MATT SALMON, Arizona STEVEN R. ROTHMAN, New Jersey
AMO HOUGHTON, New York JIM DAVIS, Florida
TOM CAMPBELL, California EARL POMEROY, North Dakota
JOHN M. McHUGH, New York WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
KEVIN BRADY, Texas GREGORY W. MEEKS, New York
RICHARD BURR, North Carolina BARBARA LEE, California
PAUL E. GILLMOR, Ohio JOSEPH CROWLEY, New York
GEORGE P. RADANOVICH, California JOSEPH M. HOEFFEL, Pennsylvania
JOHN COOKSEY, Louisiana
THOMAS G. TANCREDO, Colorado
Richard J. Garon, Chief of Staff
Kathleen Bertelsen Moazed, Democratic Chief of Staff
Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights
CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, New Jersey, Chairman
WILLIAM F. GOODLING, Pennsylvania CYNTHIA A. MCKINNEY, Georgia
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American
DAN BURTON, Indiana Samoa
CASS BALLENGER, North Carolina EARL F. HILLIARD, Alabama
PETER T. KING, New York BRAD SHERMAN, California
MATT SALMON, Arizona WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
THOMAS G. TANCREDO, Colorado GREGORY W. MEEKS, New York
Grover Joseph Rees, Subcommittee Staff Director
Douglas C. Anderson, Counsel
Peter Hickey, Democratic Staff Director
Nicolle A. Sestric, Staff Associate
C O N T E N T S
Maria Dominguez, Executive Director, St. Thomas University Human
Rights Center.................................................. 21
The Reverend Lucius Walker, Jr., Executive Director,
Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization........... 24
Jorge Garcia, relative of victims killed in the sinking of the
``13 de Marzo,'' and former schoolteacher in Cuba.............. 28
Ileana Fuentes, feminist author and participant in ``Operacion
Pedro Pan''.................................................... 29
Jose Cohen, father of three children still being held in Cuba.... 34
Neri Torres, Director of Choreography for Gloria Estefan,
Survivor of Cuban child labor camp............................. 36
Daniel Shanfield, Staff Attorney, Lawyers Committee for Human
The Honorable Christopher H. Smith, a Representative in Congress
from New Jersey, and Chairman, Subcommittee on International
Operations and Human Rights.................................... 64
The Honorable Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Representative in Congress
from Florida................................................... 67
The Honorable Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a Representative in Congress
from Florida................................................... 70
The Honorable Robert Menendez, a Representative in Congress from
New Jersey..................................................... 72
Maria Dominguez.................................................. 74
Jorge Garcia..................................................... 78
Ileana Fuentes................................................... 97
Jose Cohen....................................................... 104
Daniel Shanfield................................................. 113
Additional material submitted for the record:
Translated selections from the Cuban Code of the Child, submitted
by Ileana Fuentes.............................................. 120
``Elian Needs His Dad,'' by Representative Steve Largent,
submitted by Representative William D. Delahunt................ 122
Selections from ``t A Leer!,'' Cuban primary school textbook,
submitted by Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen................ 124
``Through a Child's Eyes: Protecting the Most Vulnerable Asylum
Seekers,'' by Jacqueline Bhabha and Wendy A. Young, submitted
by Daniel Shanfield............................................ 135
CHILDREN'S RIGHTS IN CUBA
THURSDAY, APRIL 13, 2000
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on International
Operations and Human Rights,
Committee on International Relations,
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 2:08 p.m., in
room 2172, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Christopher H.
Smith (Chairman of the Subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. Smith. The Subcommittee will come to order. Good
The tragic plight of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez has focused
the attention of the American public on two dramatically
different views of what life might be like for children in
Cuba, and in particular, of what would happen to a child who
was returned to Cuba after managing to escape to the United
The picture presented by the Clinton administration and by
many in the news media, especially here in the United States,
might have been drawn by Norman Rockwell. The child is welcomed
by a loving family, by his classmates and teachers, and life
soon returns to normal. The only cloud on the horizon is that
the family is poor, which in this version of events is caused
by the U.S. trade embargo rather than by the policies of the
Castro regime. But on the whole everyone is happy except a few
people in Miami, who in this view are the ones who caused the
whole problem in the first place.
In the other picture it is the child himself who is
unhappy, and he is likely to be very unhappy for the rest of
his life. Upon his return to Cuba, the child is greeted by mass
demonstrations ordered by the government. There are banners
announcing that ``the Cuban people have reclaimed their son''
who was ``kidnapped'' by the enemies of the revolution.
A government official announces that the child is a
``possession'' of the Cuban state. Arrangements are made for a
public appearance with Castro himself, provided that measures
can be taken to guarantee that the child will not spoil the
occasion by showing fear or some other inappropriate emotion in
the presence of the dictator.
But in this version of events the homecoming is only the
beginning. For the rest of his life, the child will be in the
effective custody not of his father but of the Cuban
Government. His education will consist mostly of political
indoctrination, and when he is 11 he will be taken to a work
camp for weeks or months of forced labor and even more intense
The child and his family are watched every day and hour of
their lives by government agents. If these agents see anything
suspicious, any signs of independent thought or action as the
child grows older, there will be a stern warning from the
security forces and from the local government enforcers. If he
should ever dare to speak his mind, he can be arrested and
imprisoned for a crime called ``dangerousness.'' And he will
never, never be allowed to leave.
Today's hearing is an attempt to learn which of these views
is more consistent with the facts. We will hear from experts on
Cuban law, who will describe the respective roles assigned to
the family and to the government in raising children. We will
also hear the testimony of witnesses who have firsthand
experience with the Cuban education system, the law enforcement
system, the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, and
other agencies of the government and of the Communist party
with which the child will come in contact. I hope these
witnesses will address not only the way the Cuban Government
treats ordinary children, but also any special treatment it
might be expected to give a child who had come to its special
Finally, we will hear testimony on the extent to which the
United States legal system should take account of the facts
about Cuba, or for that matter about any other country, in
deciding whether to return a child, whether in the context of
an asylum application or any other immigration proceeding.
I want to make clear at the outset that I find the Elian
Gonzalez deeply troubling. On the one hand, in determining what
is in the best interest of the child, I firmly believe there
should be a strong presumption that the child's best interest
is to be with his natural parents or parent.
But there are exceptions to this rule, however rare, and
what troubles me the most about this case is that there has
never been a judicial or administrative hearing to take
evidence and find facts in an attempt to consider carefully and
objectively whether this case falls within one of those rare
exceptions. Instead, the Attorney General seems to have
substituted her own intuitive judgment, based solely on an
interview by an INS official in Cuba with the father.
This informal factfinding process seems to have
dramatically underestimated the extent to which the boy's
father's actions may have been dictated by fear of the Cuban
Government, as well as the extent to which the child's own life
will be controlled by the government, rather than by his
father, if he returns. Sending a child, or anyone else for that
matter, back to Cuba is not the same as sending him to Mexico
For example, here is what the United States State
Department's 1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
have to say about arbitrary interference with privacy, the
family, home, and correspondence. This the U.S. State
``Although the Constitution provides for the inviolability
of a citizen's home and correspondence, official surveillance
of private and family affairs by government-controlled mass
organizations, such as the Committees for the Defense of the
Revolution, remains one of the most pervasive and repressive
features of Cuban life. The State has assumed the right to
interfere in the lives of citizens, even those who do not
actively oppose the Government and its practices. The mass
organizations' ostensible purpose is to `improve the
citizenry,' but in fact their goal is to discover and to
discourage nonconformity. Education is grounded in Marxist
ideology. State organizations and schools are charged with the
`integral formation of children and youth.' ''
The report goes on to say, and again this is the U.S.
Department of State speaking, ``The authorities utilize a wide
range of social controls. The Interior Ministry employs an
intricate system of informants and block committees, the CDRs,
to monitor and control public opinion. While less capable than
in the past, CDRs continue to report on suspicious activity,
including conspicuous consumption; unauthorized meetings,
including those with foreigners; and defiant attitudes toward
the Government and the revolution.''
State control over the lives of children in Cuba is perhaps
even more pervasive than over the lives of other citizens. For
example, Article 5 of the Children and Youth Code of the
Republic of Cuba requires all persons who come in contact with
children and youth ``to be an example to the formation of the
communist personality.'' Article 11 requires that teachers
show, ``a high mission''--the highest mission--``to the
development of a communist personality in children.'' Article
23 limits eligibility for higher education to children who
demonstrate ``proper political attitude and social conduct.''
And there are many more.
Maybe I am wrong about what all this means for the future
of Elian Gonzalez. Maybe an impartial hearing would determine
that Elian's father is acting out of his own free will, and
that the Cuban Government will leave him in peace to raise his
son. But we will never know until we have such a hearing.
The proceedings that are currently going on in Federal
court do not address the merits of these questions. Instead,
they are limited to a narrow procedural question, and that is
whether it was in the Attorney General's discretion to deny a
hearing by letting Elian's father withdraw his asylum claim.
The government is arguing that the Attorney General's
discretion is so broad that she can either grant or deny a
hearing, either keep Elian here or send him back, whichever she
chooses. This may be correct. The lower court agreed that her
discretion under the immigration laws is so broad that she can
send Elian back to Cuba without due process. But even if it is
correct, it is absolutely not right.
I look forward to hearing our very distinguished witnesses,
and at this point I would like to yield to my colleague,
Cynthia McKinney, the Ranking Democrat.
Ms. McKinney. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
We are here today because, as Members of the House
International Relations Committee, International Operations and
Human Rights Subcommittee, we realize the profound importance
the Elian Gonzalez case has had on all of us. You could say the
whole world is watching us right now. Issues regarding the rule
of law, immigration, and foreign policy have risen to the
forefront, fueling heated debate from all sides of the
Today our discussion focuses on the rights of the child in
Cuba. There is no doubt that in the course of this hearing you
will hear horror stories about the problems within Cuban
society. But, as in any society, a list of problems doesn't
paint the entire picture. Right now, any unarmed black man in
America ought to be afraid to go to New York City. I know I am
afraid to let my son go there because he might come back to me
in a body bag. But does that paint the entire picture of black
life in America?
We can't deny that there are human rights violations within
Cuba, and we cannot deny that people lack certain freedoms in
Cuba that we enjoy in our own country. The question is, what is
life really like in Cuba, and how do we measure the quality of
life in a nation?
First, let me just state for the record, I believe in
America. I believe in the America that puts the health and
welfare of children first, the America that believes in the
sanctity of family, the America that believes in the bond
between a father and his child. But, like many other Americans,
I am forced to confront the stark contrasts between our
rhetoric and our policies.
Here in Washington, DC, and in other cities across America,
Latino children struggle to survive. They struggle against
prejudice and discrimination. They struggle to stay out of
prison. They struggle to enjoy what white American children
take for granted: neighborhood schools full of equipment, happy
teachers and high expectations; thriving neighborhoods with
sidewalks and street lights; open spaces in parks; neighborhood
sports programs paid for by their volunteer parents; college.
Instead, most Latino children in this country have a much
different experience, where their ability to speak the Spanish
language outside of their home is assaulted by policymakers,
and their ability to learn English is defunded by those same
politicians. And if they happen to live in the vicinity of
Viejecas, then they could even get bombed dead by live fire
from the U.S. military.
American children have easy access to video games whose
objectives are to score as many kills as possible, and
unfortunately our children bring those video games to life, and
too often die at the hands of other children who take deadly
aim at their schoolmates and neighbors with handguns and other
weapons. In our own country, children simply have too much
access to guns. They bring them into the schools, and
unfortunately we know the rest.
Yesterday President Clinton highlighted again the need for
America to tighten its gun laws and to close the gun show
loophole. We can't get that through Congress. In the meantime,
however, every day our children walk into school concerned
about their personal security. This simply doesn't happen in
Cuba. Children don't have access to guns.
Cuba is no paradise, but neither is Cuba a place where the
health and welfare of children is ignored. Just as we use
health, education, and family life statistics to assess life in
America, we too can use them to help us tell about life in
Cuba is one of the privileged nations of the world that has
virtually 100 percent literacy. By every standard and in every
reference work, literacy in Cuba is as high as it is in the
United States. In Cuba, university is fully funded by the
government, and students don't face obstacles based on race or
socioeconomic status, unlike in the United States, where
affirmative action programs that embrace opportunity for
America's minorities are being wiped out by political
decisionmakers. Unfortunately, in the United States today
Latino children are still far less likely to go to college than
their white counterparts.
A recent report by UNESCO concluded that the public
education system in Cuba is the best in Latin America. In the
case of Elian, straight from Cuba's educational system, he was
so advanced for a 6-year-old that his Miami school promoted him
to the first grade. Despite the debilitating effects of the
U.S. embargo, Cuba has tightened its belt in other areas to
ensure that Cuban children receive a quality education.
In our own country we have over 40 million Americans
uninsured and millions more who are underinsured. We have a
health care system in this country that provides excellent care
for the rich, but too many Americans have health care options
that are limited.
In Cuba, however, there is free and universal health care
for all citizens. There is no need for an insurance card or
lengthy phone calls over whether your HMO will pay for a
certain procedure. Instead, Cuba has to deal with the thorny
issue of health care tourists who go to Cuba to get medical
attention that they can't get in their own country.
The Cuban Government takes full responsibility for the
health of its people. The population receives free preventive
and rehabilitative services which range from primary care,
routine medical attention and dentistry, to hospital care
requiring the use of highly sophisticated medical technology.
In addition, all necessary diagnostic testing and drugs are
provided free of charge to pregnant women. Perhaps this is why
Cuba has a lower infant mortality than we have right here in
Because of the family doctor program, every Cuban
neighborhood has a physician and a clinic. There are almost 3
doctors for every 500 Cuban citizens. In the United States, our
rate is just over 1 doctor for every 500 U.S. citizens, and we
know the areas that are likely to go underserved. The
preponderance of those doctors are in the swanky suburbs, not
in our central cities or in our rural areas.
Now, because the Cuban Government prioritizes education and
health care for its citizens, it has produced for them solid,
recognizable results. However, the Cuban health care system
does experience a lack of medicine, medicine that is
desperately needed to ensure the health of Cuban children,
medicine that United States policy restricts from reaching the
Pay attention to the policy. We are currently sending
medicine to Vietnam, China, North Korea, and Iraq. Vietnam is a
Communist country with a government that we went to war
against. China is a Communist country with a deplorable human
rights record, and now with stolen military secrets that
threaten our national security. North Korea is a Communist
country that will get two nuclear reactors from us. And Iraq,
our former ally, is now an enemy that we are in a state of war
against. They all receive medicine from the United States.
If we are truly concerned about the status of children in
Cuba, the first thing we should do is allow medicine into the
country. We should today devote ourselves to making the lives
of all Cuban children better. Representatives Jose Serrano and
Charlie Rangel have introduced bills that will allow food,
medicine and supplies from the United States to enter Cuba. We
should support them.
The second thing we should do is lift the embargo. The
economic embargo of Cuba has not produced the desired result.
Now, it might serve as a salve on the consciences of those who
have problems with the current government, but it certainly
hasn't produced the results that they or we want. In addition,
the embargo has been condemned by Pope John Paul II as
oppressive economic measures that are unjust and ethically
unacceptable. Congressman Ron Paul, a Republican, has
introduced a bill to lift the embargo, and we should support
Mr. Chairman, to merely denounce the human rights record of
Cuba in order to justify the hard line approach of United
States policy is insufficient. If we are serious about making a
positive impact on human rights in Cuba, we need to reexamine
our policies. And, by the way, if the law is changed to allow
Elian to stay in the United States, then all of the children
from Chiapas, Mexico, Kosovo, Yugoslavia, Beijing, China, and
Iraq, need to be included in that law. And certainly you
wouldn't leave out the Rwandan orphans who lost their parents
in the genocide that Madeleine Albright and President Clinton
And let's make sure that we go and find that 16-year-old
Chinese girl who was shackled and crying as she was sent back
to China. Let's go get the 408 Haitians and Dominicans who
entered the United States on New Year's Day and were promptly
sent back. Let's to out and get the children of the indigenous
people who are negatively impacted by our insatiable thirst for
oil, uranium and diamonds. But let's go further back and find
all the children who tried to enter our country during the days
of Latin America's U.S.-supported despots.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, I am concerned about the rule of
law. Do some people in this country think they are above the
law? Doris Meissner, Commissioner of the Immigration and
Naturalization Service, stated in a press statement on January
5th that this decision has been based on the facts and the law.
Attorney General Janet Reno has shown tremendous restraint,
grace and courage in the face of mob intransigence. Today is
April 13th, and still the child is not with his father.
Let me conclude this way. As a mother, I grieve for Elian's
mother, who gave her own life to try and bring Elian to
America. And had she lived, this would be a different story,
but she did not. And now we are left with a child, a little
boy, separated from his father by a series of tragic events.
We must not lose sight of the facts, however. Elian's
father also had custody of Elian in Cuba. Elian's mother took
Elian away from his father and illegally left Cuba's shores for
America. Elian belongs with his loving father, who wants him.
Think what will happen if we don't return the boy to his
father. How many American children have been snatched by one
parent and are now in foreign countries? Don't we fight to get
our own children back? Don't all parents have rights recognized
by international law? And the last time I checked, fathers are
False principle destroys all credibility and wisdom, and at
the end of the day, the arguments that favor keeping Elian here
in America, away from his father, are all built on an
incredibly transparent false principle that destroys all
credibility and wisdom in their position.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Smith. Thank you very much, Ms. McKinney.
Just let me clarify the order in which we will proceed.
Committee rules stipulate that Members who are here at the
gavel, in order of seniority, will make their opening
statements, followed by other Members who were here at the
gavel, and then Committee Members who came in later at the time
of their arrival. So I would like to recognize at this point
the gentleman from American Samoa, Eni Faleomavaega.
Mr. Faleomavaega. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I want to
certainly commend you for your leadership in being a champion
of human rights, as a Member of this Committee and over the
years, the privilege I have had in working with you, and your
fortitude and courage in trying to bring out to light some of
these issues that are very important not only to our American
community but throughout the world.
I would like to first also express my association with some
of the comments that were made earlier by the gentlelady from
Georgia, very keen observation of some of the contradictions
and the problems that we put the finger on other countries of
the world and their problems. Sometimes we tend to forget that
we have our own problems, and tend to kind of push it aside,
not making it as a matter of reality to confront these problems
courageously and to find solutions to them.
Mr. Chairman, the issue that is before us, I don't need to
say how much the media has played this, not only in the sense
of our national norm, where every American parent, every
American all over the country has seen through and between and
below and above, and everything that we have seen about this
child named Elian Gonzalez. Elian Gonzalez to me is not a
Cuban, he is a child, and I am sure that every parent here in
America would have a sense of compassion and understanding of
what this child is going through.
And sincerely, Mr. Chairman, I hope we don't politicize
this hearing to the extent of making it an emotional issue, but
to the extent that hopefully, if the witnesses that are before
us are going to shed more light and understanding and
appreciation of what is happening, not only with Fidel Castro's
administration and his own ruling there in Cuba, but also for
us to understand more forcefully what we have to do. And I can
say at this point in time that I don't envy what our Attorney
General has had to go through in trying to make those
decisions, not necessarily popular, not necessarily right, if
there is a rightness in this issue.
We can all claim laurels and beliefs, and everything that
we believe, what this Nation is all about. But the bottom line
here is that we talk about human rights of everybody else, but
we never have a sense of appreciation if there are human rights
also for children.
And I sincerely hope, Mr. Chairman, that when we hear from
our witnesses, and the dialogue and the questions, I do have
several questions of my own that I want to proceed with this
hearing, but I hope that our hearing will be one of
construction and not of divisiveness, and hopefully that it
will provide a better bearing, not only for Elian's sake, but
certainly as a Nation we need to reflect deeply about the
serious social and political implication of what this case has
brought to the Nation by the media.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Smith. Thank you very much, Mr. Faleomavaega. Just let
me say, before yielding to Mr. Diaz-Balart, that it is worth
noting at this juncture that if we were to conduct such an
exercise as this in Cuba, unless we agreed with the government,
we would be thrown in jail, or at least arrested or
interrogated. The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
make it very clear that the estimation is that there are
between 350 to 400 political prisoners in human jails.
I yield to Lincoln Diaz-Balart.
Mr. Diaz-Balart. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I thank the
Committee for its courtesy in permitting me, as a Member of the
Rules Committee, to be here today and express my thoughts.
I think that in the just 4\1/2\ months since the Elian
Gonzalez matter has brought to international attention the
issue of Cuba, it is important to point out the abuses against
children in Cuba that highlight the lack of parental and
children's rights under the totalitarian state there.
I have some examples that I would like to mention, just a
few that have come to my attention due to the courageous, very
courageous work of independent journalists on the island who
have managed to send out to the international community despite
a law that Castro's public parliament passed just a few months
ago threatening up to 30 years imprisonment for ``crimes'' such
as reporting on human rights abuses.
On January 14th of this year, the independent journalist
Victor Rolando Arroyo was sentenced to 6 months in prison for
purchasing toys to give to needy children in Cuba to
commemorate Three Kings Day, which is in the Hispanic world the
day in which Christmas is commemorated for children. During his
trial, Mr. Arroyo stated, ``I think public opinion,''
international public opinion, ``needs to meditate on what has
occurred and evaluate that in Cuba you are not allowed to give
toys to needy children. The government mobilizes thousands to
claim a child, while thousands are denied a simple toy which
might bring them a smile.''
January 22nd of this year, in the town of Betancourt in
Matanzas, the family of Miguel Sigler Amaya, an activist of the
Movimiento Opcion Alterantiva, was brutally beaten by the
branch of Castro's state security forces known as Brigades of
Fast Response. The four children of Mr. Sigler Amaya, who range
in ages between 2 and 14, after the brutal beatings, were
arrested along with their mother, who was also arrested in a
semi-conscious state due to the attack by Castro's agents.
January 24th of this year in Lat Tunas, a 9-year-old girl,
Alva Riveron Fuentes, was expelled from school for not
participating in the activities of the Young of Young Communist
The 14-year-old daughter of the dissident Leida Miranda, on
January 25th in Cienfuegos, was reported missing to police. The
police informed Ms. Miranda, the dissident, that they ``did not
have gasoline in their vehicles to search for her daughter.''
Ms. Miranda further denounced he Cuba Press that the police had
expressly refused to post missing posters of her daughter.
March 13th in Caibarien, Villa Clara, Duniesky Rodriguez,
age 17, was beaten by the police of Santi Espiritu because of
his friendship with members of the dissident movement. A Cuban
state security agent named Jorge Luis, last name unknown, told
the 17-year-old that he has 30 days to leave Caibarien.
March 14th of this year, it was reported from Havana by
Hector Maseda that 10th and 11th graders from the vocational
school Lenin were being obligated to participate in daily
demonstrations. The students are taken daily to political
activities after completing their class days. One student
stated, ``We are exhausted due to these countless
demonstrations and the lack of proper nutrition in our school.
We are awakened at 6. Many times we don't get to our room until
1 in the morning due to these forced demonstrations.''
April 3rd in Las Tunas, dissident Aida Perez, the
grandmother of 12-year-old Isidro Quinones Perez, who has been
missing for 4 months, denounced that the National Police refuse
to search for her grandson. Matter of fact, they told her,
``Look for him, and when you find him, turn him over so we can
place him in a correctional school.''
April 4th this year, this month, in Camaguey, Jorge Ribes
was sentenced to 7 months in prison for not permitting his 4th
grade son to participate in the Union of Young Communist
Pioneers or participate in political activities during school
hours. The school principal, her name is Maritza Varon,
denounced Mr. Ribes to the police. He was charged with ``an act
against the normal development of a child.''
April 5th, this month, 76 elementary school children in the
school Arquimedes Colina were denied a weekend pass to see
their parents because they had refused to see the television
programs, which are daily now, called ``tribuna abierta,''
where Castro discusses the Elian affair.
April 10th, reported from Havana--that is just 3 days ago--
that all the middle schools in the city have required the
children to answer a question at the end of their math exams:
What is your opinion on the Elian Gonzalez case? The children
are graded on their responses. A parent interviewed by Cuba-
Verdad press stated, ``At first I did not understand. I thought
I was not listening correctly, then I thought my child had
confused the subject area, and later I was totally shocked to
find out that this is true.'' Another parent stated, ``My child
asked me, what did mathematics have to do with Elian?'' I did
not know the answer. I was completely dumbfounded.
Day before yesterday, El Nuevo Herald of Miami reported
that Hans Dominguez, who is 15, not only was harassed but
threatened with expulsion because his father is a member of the
``30 de Noviembre Frank Pais'' opposition party.
It is going on now. It is not theory, Mr. Chairman.
I am always curious as to how it is that it seems that for
some people it is not all right for black dictators in Nigeria,
for example, like Abacha, to oppress people, or Sereras in
Haiti. I know that I certainly was in the front row of all our
efforts to oppose those dictatorships. And yet it is all right
for white dictator, son of a Spanish soldier who went to Cuba
to fight the insurrection, the Cuban insurrection, a white
dictator, it is all right for him to oppress a people, a
majority of which are black and mulatto.
The leaders of the Cuban opposition today, people like
Vladimiro Roca and Felix Bonne and Jorge Luis Garcia Perez
Antunez, are black men and women, and they are going to be
elected in the future as leaders of Cuba when there is a
democratic Cuba. And the reality of the matter is, postponing
the inevitable is not only abhorrent but it is, as I have said,
making excuses for a Spaniard white dictator to oppress a
people that is majority mixed race.
Mr. Smith. Thank you very much, Mr. Diaz-Balart.
The Chair recognizes Mr. Payne.
Mr. Payne. Thank you very much. I was going to just pass,
because of the deference to the witnesses, but I do want to
clarify the issue of black dictators, Abacha, I think he was
trying to say. But we have, it was myself and the Members of
the Congressional Black Caucus that said we should have
sanctions on Nigeria, that we should press all kinds of ways to
have human rights in Nigeria.
And so I don't know where race has anything to do with the
rights of children. I am a new grandfather of triplets. They
are 19, 20 months old. I raised my own children, now I have
triplets real close to me. And so I thought this was dealing
with the rights of children, and children in Cuba.
And I think that we are already seeing people talking
about, as Ms. Cynthia McKinney mentioned, the fact that there
are certainly inequities in the U.S. Government system. Of
course, the law was passed and people have taken advantage of
the law, but in this country we have found that African
Americans who have been here since 1492 are still trying to get
laws, trying to get Confederate flags taken down, trying to get
And so I think that this whole question is becoming broader
and it is starting to take a face that I think is not healthy
for the residents of Florida, in particular in Miami. I have
heard statements recently that I have never heard before. We
are a country of laws, and when you don't like the law, you
don't defy the law. You don't take the law into your own hands.
You don't say that you are not going to comply. You don't have
elected officials say we are going to restrain our police
officers from doing their job.
I have been pretty silent on this case, but I see that it
is taking some different--it is moving in other directions, and
I think that it is unhealthy, and I think that it is
stimulating some of us who have sat back to become very
involved and very forceful and very vocal in this whole matter.
So I will yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. Smith. Thank you very much, Mr. Payne.
The Chair recognizes Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you so much. I would like to thank
the Chairman of this Subcommittee, my friend and dear
colleague, Congressman Chris Smith, for his commitment to human
rights throughout the world and for his ongoing leadership and
for the cooperation in holding this very important hearing
When Patrick Henry said, ``Give me liberty or give me
death,'' little did he know that he would inspire future
generations of Cuban freedom seekers who risk life and limb to
fight and to escape Castro's gulag. Little did he know that his
words would resonate loudly in the heart and mind of Elizabeth
Brotons, Elian Gonzalez's mother. Her voice is never listened
to very much, but she drowned praying for her little boy to
survive and reach our great country, the land of liberty, the
United States, that has given refuge to Mr. Diaz-Balart and to
Stop a moment and think how horrific must living conditions
be under oppressive totalitarian dictatorship, how fearful must
Elizabeth Brotons have been for her little boy's future, that
she would take such desperate measures. Only those who have
personally experienced communism, who have had liberty taken
away from them, could fully understand how heinous the Castro
regime is to its people and especially to its children.
The case of Elian Gonzalez has received much media
attention, but despite our best efforts to counter the Castro
propaganda machine, the truth about conditions for children in
Cuba, the facts about a communist dictatorship's sense of
family and its treatment of children, the reality which awaits
Elian if he is deported to Cuba, these facts have yet to
receive the attention they merit.
First, let us address the fallacy that Elian would be
returned to his father. Castro officials themselves last week
stated clearly and publicly that Elian is indeed the property
of the Cuban state. This country went to war to eradicate such
abhorred treatment of persons, as if they were subhuman or
treated as property, yet we should tolerate such conditions and
such treatment for Elian Gonzalez? No, not for Elian, and not
for any child.
This disregard for the value of children as human beings,
and for the essence of the family, is pervasive throughout the
so-called laws which guide the Cuban communist regime. Custody,
according to the Cuban Code of the Family, Codigo de la Ninez y
de la Juventud, can be denied to parents if they engage in
behavior which runs contrary to communist teachings. It is not
me saying it, it is not Lincoln saying it. They publish it.
They are proud of it.
This is further illustrated in Articles 5 and 8 of the Code
of the Child, which underscores that the society and the state
work for the efficient protection of youth against all
influence contrary to their communist formation. And it further
states that the society and the state watch to ascertain that
all persons who come in contact with the child constitute an
example for the development of his communist personality. Those
To ascertain whether these dictums are acted upon, all that
one needs to do is ask hundreds of children, children who have
been left orphaned by the regime as their parents, Cuban rights
activists and dissidents and political prisoners, languish in
squalid jail cells, isolated from their sons and daughters.
This is the case of Noemi, the 9-year-old daughter of
Milagros Cruz-Cano, who was deprived of her mother because
Cuban State Security continued to arrest Milagros for her
``antisocial'' and ``dangerous'' behavior. Those are Castro's
charges for those who call for human rights, for civil
liberties, for democracy. That is a crime in Castro's Cuba.
Milagros was forced into exile by the Castro regime, forced
to board a plane last October. Castro's thugs, however, refused
to let her take her daughter, who is now essentially a hostage
of the regime. All photographs and letters from her mother are
seized. Her every move is monitored. She is followed by State
Security. Noemi is chastised and subjected to psychological
torture because of her mother's political views.
This is not fiction. This is not a made-for-TV movie. This
is reality, right now. I have had the honor of spending a lot
of time with Milagros, who is on a hunger strike in Little
Havana. I have seen her sorrow and her anguish. I have heard
her frustration in her voice, and her astonishment at the
willingness of so many to believe and promote Castro's facade
about family and the need to reunite Elian with his father.
I have seen and heard this same anguish in Jose Cohen, one
of the witnesses who will be testifying today, who has been
struggling for over 4 years for the Castro regime to release
his three children.
However, the pain that Jose and Milagros feel cannot
compare to the unbearable loss experienced by mothers, by
fathers, by grandparents of the children who were murdered by
the Castro regime on July 13, 1994, just a few years ago. These
infants, toddlers and teenagers joined their families in the
tugboat that was named ``13th of March'' for a voyage that
would, they say they hoped, they prayed, bring them to the land
of liberty, the United States.
However, the Cuban Coast Guard quickly turned water cannons
on them, and when that did not succeed in drowning them all,
they proceeded to ram the Coast Guard vessels into their tiny
tugboat until it was destroyed. Yes, they heard the cries of
the children calling out for their parents as they gasped for
air. Yes, they saw their frail little hands reaching out from
beyond the waves. Yes, they felt the presence of death as their
tiny bodies floated into the abyss. But Castro's thugs did not
Another one of today's witnesses, Jorge Andres Garcia,
knows firsthand about this terrible crime, this gruesome
example of the Castro dictatorship's abuse against Cuban
children. He will describe the attack which resulted in the
death of 14 out of 17 of his relatives, including his little
grandson. He will elaborate upon the tactics used by the regime
to manipulate him into endorsing the official version of
Mr. Garcia will explain how the very same Remirez Estenoz
whom we now see at the side of Juan Miguel Gonzalez, Elian's
father is the one who was tasked to defend the attack on the
``13th of March'' tugboat. The Castro regime had violated the
most fundamental right endowed to man by the Creator, the right
to life. Yet it would denounce the children and their parents
in order to justify its actions.
When looking at children's rights in Cuba, and also Codigo
de la Familia, another one of their proud statements about the
rights of children, we must look at the indoctrination, the
psychological and physical torture, the destruction of the
child's psyche and the sense of right and wrong. We must pause
and look at the evidence, such as the one displayed in that
photograph of that poster, mandatory physical education in
Castro's Cuba, a photograph taken just a few months ago.
Children who are 5, 6, 7 years old, holding rifles above
their heads as part of their mandated physical education class.
However, these are not mere exercises. This photograph
illustrates the requirements that are clearly outlined in their
very proud articles of the Cuban Code of the Child, which
states, ``Children and youth must prepare themselves for the
defense of the country through military education, acquisition
of military knowledge and training.''
So this is everyday, and the state reinforces this
requirement through books such as this one. And this is an
actual photocopy of a book, a normal, regular text that is used
in Castro's Cuba, where they are given letters, and how will
they learn the letters? ``F'' for ``fusil,'' a rifle. And how
do they learn the ``G'' word? Well, they learn the ``G'' word,
the ``gu'' by guerrilla, and they have a picture here of a
guerrilla. And Che, right here, pictured front and center, the
heroes of the revolution. And how will they learn how groups
are formed? Well, here they have a proud militia, because that
is the ``M'' word, ``M'' for militia.
And that is how they learn education in Cuba. Could anyone
argue that this is an example of a healthy environment for
children, to be subjected to this type of indoctrination since
the age of 4? Is this the kind of rights that children enjoy in
And this is the issue also of child slave labor. Article 44
of the Cuban Code of the Child underscores how ``the
combination of study and work is one of the fundamentals on
which revolutionary education is based.'' ``This principle,''
it states, ``is applied from infancy through simple labor
activities; in primary education through farming, and pioneer
activities in the modes of production; in middle education,
through farm labor camps.''
Indoctrination, torture, forced labor, combat training,
murder, these are but just a few, a microcosm really of the
gross violations of children's rights committed by the Castro
regime, not in the past, right now, the very same communist
totalitarian dictatorship which calls for Elian's return to
Do not be fooled. Open your eyes, open your hearts. Let
them guide you to the truth about children's rights in Cuba, to
the grim reality of Castro's tyranny, right now. Right now,
under our watch.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Smith. Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, thank you very much.
The Chair recognizes Mr. Sherman.
Mr. Sherman. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Cuban Government is oppressive to adults and to
children. That will be well documented by these hearings, as
has already been documented before this Subcommittee in many
other hearings that you have had, that we have had on human
rights in Cuba and other countries.
But Cuba is not the only oppressive government. Sudan,
Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea, the list goes on. We need
a rule of law to determine how we will deal with distasteful
situations that arise when there are politically charges
incidents involving oppressive regimes; a rule of law,
established principles that are applied to all similar cases,
regardless of politics.
Now, in Cuba they don't need the rule of law, or at least
their government doesn't follow it. There, if a political
advantage, a need of the dictator arises, that is what decides
the case, rather than the application of principles. But we in
America, we need to follow the rule of law, and we need to
establish rules that we are willing to see followed in case
And this is not the only case where a child is here in
America and that child's parents are planning to take the child
back to an oppressive regime. In fact, that is an occurrence
that happens hundreds or thousands of times every year, and we
need to adopt a rule of law that applies in all similar
circumstances. Only in Cuba would they dispense, or only in an
oppressive government would they dispense with applicable
principles and do whatever seems called for in a case where a
child is at the center of a political controversy, or where a
little boy has become internationally famous.
Now, what should our rule of law be? Our rule of law has
been, I think in all circumstances, that a parent, or both
parents speaking together, speaking freely and, unless there is
proof that that parent or those parents are abusive, that that
parent decides where a child will live and decides many other
things about the child, as well.
What has been suggested, as a result of Elian Gonzalez's
difficult plight, is that we adopt a new rule, a rule that says
that where there is a competition for custody between a loving
and freedom-loving American family on the one hand, and a
parent or two parents on the other, parents that want to take
the child back to an oppressive regime, that we should favor
not the parent but the loving and freedom-loving American
family. But what would this mean?
This would mean that when the U.N. Ambassador from
Afghanistan or Sudan or North Korea plans to go home, that we
stop them at the airport and take their children away, and put
those children with any freedom-loving American couple that
wishes to adopt them. Yes, Elian's tragedy grips at our hearts,
and the death of Elian's mother touches us all, but does Elian
need freedom any less than the children of the North Korean
ambassador to the United Nations, or the Sudanese Ambassador to
the United Nations? Those children will be flying out of this
country in a year or two or three, leaving our jurisdiction and
going to oppressive regimes.
In each case we must look at two values, the values of the
parents' duty and obligation and rights to raise their
children, versus our natural desire to see all children raised
in freedom. And if we decide that freedom trumps parenthood,
that politics exceeds the connection between a father and a
child, then we had better be prepared to apply that when a
little baby girl or boy is born in the home of the Ambassador
or a traveler from any oppressive regime. And I don't think we
are ready to do that, Mr. Chairman.
So we must follow the rule of law, and it is a difficult
and a harsh rule, but for a variety of reasons, children and
adults leave our country every day, sometimes voluntarily,
sometimes deported. Sometimes the children wish to leave;
sometimes the children do not. Sometimes the children are
infants and have no opinion on the matter at all. And we must
be prepared to apply the same standards.
In this case for a while we wondered whether Elian's father
was speaking freely, and those who are opponents and the most
vocal opponents of the Cuban regime said, ``Let him bring his
new wife and his baby child here to the United States, so we
know that he is speaking freely.'' That condition has been met,
and we ought to prove to the world that even in the most
politically charged circumstance, we follow the rule of law and
not the rule of politics. At the same time, we ought to be
doing everything possible to end the circumstance where
millions of people live under an oppressive regime just 90
miles south of our own State of Florida.
And that concludes my remarks.
Mr. Smith. Thank you, Mr. Sherman.
Mr. Delahunt. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I have another engagement, so I am going to have to excuse
myself. In fact, I had doubts as to whether I would even be
able to attend this particular hearing, and I had some
reservations as to whether I wanted to make any statement
whatsoever. I think Ms. McKinney's remarks, and Mr. Sherman's,
reflect my own sentiments.
But I was particularly disturbed listening today to an
account that a videotape had been made of young Elian for
dissemination over the public airways, indicating that he made
a statement, before seeing his father, that he did not want to
return to Cuba. I think that motivated me to come here today. I
think it was a disservice to that young child.
I am not going to make a statement, but what I am going to
do is to read an opinion piece authored by a gentleman here in
the U.S. House of Representatives who commands great respect on
both sides of the aisle, and his name is Steve Largent, a
Republican from Oklahoma. This is dated April 5, 2000, and it
was published in the New York Times. I am going to take the
time to read it as opposed to submit it into the record, and I
am quoting. These are his words. These are not my words, let me
Politics is keeping Elian Gonzalez from his father, and it
is time that he is returned. It has already been too long. The
tortuous 4-month-old custody battle over the boy rescued at sea
last November continues to play out in the courts and in
Washington, and now the political brawl has taken an ugly turn.
Elian's relatives in Miami, who have temporary custody of
him and are seeking to block his return to Cuba, stooped to
criticizing the boy's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, attempting
to whip up public sentiment for their cause. The relatives have
suggested that the father is somehow unfit to care for his son.
How do they know? Why are they only now raising this question?
And what gives them or the court the right to decide such a
thing? Do we really want the government sitting in judgment of
every father when there is no apparent cause of action? How
would the United States react if its role and Cuba's were
After leveling these charges against Elian's father earlier
this week, a lawyer representing the boy's American relatives
acknowledged on television they had no proof. ``We are sure he
loves his own son,'' admitted the lawyer, Linda Osberg-Braun,
``and we know Elian loves his father.''
Making political hay over a 6-year-old's tragedy of losing
a mother may only compound his misery, experts say. Ken
Dachman, a child psychologist in Chicago, said he worried that
Elian's Miami relatives are shaping this child ``so that I
don't think that he will ever be able to recover fully.'' Mr.
Dachman, who is familiar with the case, warned that the little
boy would be shadowed for a long time by feelings of distress.
Elizabeth Loftus, a psychology professor at the University of
Washington and a leading expert on memory in children, said any
child as young as Elian would be particularly susceptible to
suggestions that could alter his memory of his father.
Sadly, Elian's well-being seems to have little effect on
the poisonous political rhetoric coming from Miami and
Washington. Some conservatives see this case as a long-sought
opportunity to stick a finger in the eye of Fidel Castro.
Let me say unequivocally that I am second to none in my
dislike for Mr. Castro's totalitarian regime, but let's be
reasonable. Elian is a little boy who has lost his mother and
desperately needs his father. This is a family issue, first and
foremost. To forget that and allow our hatred for the Cuban
regime to keep us from doing what is best for the child is
shameful. It is already a tragedy that the child lost his
mother. It would be a travesty for our government to come
between him and his father.
I came to Washington with the deep-seated belief that the
family is sovereign. You can't be for family values and at the
same time advocate that governments be allowed to come between
a father and a child. What a tragic mistake it would be for
society to allow the State or Federal Government to determine
what is best for our children. But that is exactly what is
happening in this tug of war over Elian Gonzalez.
As a father of four, including three sons, I know how
important daddies are to 6-year-old boys. The question then
becomes, is it better for Elian to live in our great country
without his father, or to live with his father in Cuba. No
contest. I say reunite Elian with his daddy today.
Elian's father and five other Cubans now have their visas
for travel to the United States. ``I'm willing to leave
tomorrow,'' his father said in a prepared statement, ``and I do
not want to talk to any kidnapper nor accept any condition or
take part in any show or publicity over the handover of
Elian.'' So what are we waiting for?
That concludes the opinion piece by Representative Steve
Largent from Oklahoma. I yield back.
Mr. Smith. Thank you, Mr. Delahunt.
Mr. Menendez. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. As a Member of the
full Committee, I appreciate the opportunity to be with you and
the Ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee today.
You call this hearing at a time in which I believe that
certain communities and the Nation's raw nerves are exposed.
They are exposed because of a variety of views and a variety of
issues. Elian is only the focus of the moment, but those issues
far surpass Elian.
I do regret the language that is being used by some of my
colleagues, and I think that in the days ahead they will regret
the language that is being used. I have tried throughout this
whole process to be balanced and restrained in terms of the
language I have used, because I know of some of the pain of
different communities in this country that I have shared with
and stood by on each and every occasion that I have been called
upon to do so.
But I think it is abhorrent to speak of a community in such
a way as we have heard the Cuban American community spoken of
in this country. When I hear the words ``mob intransigence,''
when I hear ``wackos,'' when I hear this type of terminology,
it begins a slippery slope in which we will paint other
communities who feel very passionately about their issues, to
be characterized in the same way.
I am an admirer of Mahatma Gandhi, and I am an admirer of
Dr. King. And their civil disobedience efforts, which I am sure
were characterized in words just as punishing at the time, are
now used today against a community who has shown nothing to
date but restraint, has shown nothing today except for abiding
by the rule of law, and has shown nothing but the possibility
of engaging in the very same acts that Americans of every
stripe and color in this country engage in when they believe
that fundamentally the law is wrong. The civil disobedience
that takes place in the streets of a city when people believe
that a law or the enforcement of the law is morally and
ethically wrong is not characterized in the ways that I have
heard this community characterized.
I have sought to believe that the rule of law must be
upheld at all costs, but the rule of law also means the right
of American citizens to seek redress in the courts, to seek
appeals when they believe that the court has ruled
inappropriately. The reason that we have appellate courts is
because they strike down the rulings of lower courts.
No citizen in this country is told that their rights must
be accelerated and/or abrogated, and we rebel as Americans when
we hear that any citizen's rights have to be abrogated or
should be abrogated. Yet, Cuban Americans, and particularly
this family that has sought access to the courts for peaceful
resolution of the dispute of the issues, are told, ``You must
accelerate your rights.'' No other citizen, when they have to
file an appeal, is told ``You must accelerate your rights.''
Notwithstanding that, this group of American citizens has
sought to go ahead and accelerate their rights, which in some
way abrogates their rights.
You know, I have sought to be consistent on this issue,
whether it is in my opposition to Most Favored Nation trading
status in China, in my support for sanctions in Nigeria, or in
my support in sanctions against the Castro regime. I have
joined with my friends and colleagues to create greater
uniformity and fairness in the law, the immigration laws of
this country. And I really, really am distressed to hear that
while Cuban Americans are not above the law, they are certainly
not beneath the law.
Let me just briefly talk about the real reason I came here
today, which is to talk about the rights of Cuban children or
the lack thereof. The Castro regime--and I think it is
propitious in one sense that the U.N. Commission on Human
Rights is hearing, in Geneva, testimony about these issues--
considers children to be wards of the state. The state is
actually charged with the integral formation of children and
youth. In fact, Article 39 of the Cuban socialist constitution
says that ``the education of children and youth in the
communist spirit is the duty of a society as a whole.''
To ensure that children are properly indoctrinated, the
Cuban educational system maintains a dossier for each child.
The record reflects whether the family is religious, the extent
of the ideological integration of a child's parents, what party
organizations the parents participate in, whether the child has
participated in political and ideological activities, and the
child's progress in the areas of ideological, political, and
moral education. As Americans, we would rebel against such a
dossier being kept on our children.
Children are also compelled by the state to participate in
the Union of Communist Pioneers, where they are further
indoctrinated in communist ideology and required to participate
in political and military readiness activities. At age 10
children must attend agricultural work camps for 3 months every
year, and this happens regardless of whether or not their
parents want to give them up. The children are taken from their
parents mandatorily. At the escuela al campo they engage in
military games in which they learn how to hold bridges from
enemy troops, find land mines, learn how to throw grenades
through windows, and participate in other war or combat
Indoctrination aside, the future for Cuban children is not
very bright. Past the age of 7, children no longer receive milk
rations in a country that, when the Soviet Union existed, used
to get $6 billion a year, and we did not put more food on the
plates of Cuban families when the Soviet Union was pumping in
$6 billion every year. No, we used it for military adventurism
in Latin America and in Africa.
According to the State Department's latest Human Rights
Report, the government employs forced labor, including that by
children. Now, sometimes my colleagues seek to refer to the
State Department's Human Rights Reports when they find it
propitious and ignore them when they do not find it to be
propitious. I do not think we can do that.
The regime claims to prohibit forced and bonded labor by
children, but the State Department reports that the government
requires children to work without compensation. All students
over age 11 are expected to devote 30 to 45 days of their
summer vacation to farm work, laboring up to 8 hours per day.
Now, I just simply want to say there are many other rights
that are violated. I ask unanimous consent to have the full
statement entered into the record so I won't take up any more
time. But I would hope--and I respect the different views that
my colleagues hold about our policy--that we would watch the
language that we apply to a community.
And I would hope that the same passion would be exercised
on behalf of Mr. Cohen, who is here before us today, whose
children are separated from him by the Castro regime, which
refuses to give them an exit visa as a punishment for his
political activities. And I would hope that we would hear
voices on behalf of Milagros Cruz-Cano, an Afro Cuban whose
children--or whose child, I should say--Noemi, is denied her
simply as a punishment for her activities inside of Cuba. Then
there would be a greater sense of fairness. Then there would be
a greater sense of equality. Then maybe we could move forward.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Menendez appears in the
Mr. Smith. Mr. Menendez, thank you very much.
Let me now recognize Ms. Jackson-Lee.
Ms. Jackson-Lee. First of all, let me thank the Chairman of
this Committee and the Ranking Member for their extreme
kindness in allowing me to both fit in and to listen. Allow me
to give an initial apology that I may be in and out with
hearings that I am now in the midst of.
I left a hearing that my Committee on Immigration and
Claims was holding, dealing with justice for victims and
terrorism, and I left that because this is an important day.
There are no two more stronger advocates for human rights than
both Chairman Smith and Ranking Member McKinney, so this is an
important day for us to begin unfolding and understanding the
human rights issues for children around the country and around
Interestingly enough, might I say to you that I look
forward to the Immigration and Claims Subcommittee holding
hearings on the inequitable ways children are treated under
immigration laws. I am willing to listen and to determine how
we can do better.
But I think it is important, since I glean from this
hearing that the focus of the hearing happens to be in
conjunction with the actions that are going on now, and I would
simply like to raise some of the issues that I think are held
by a large number of people with a great concern for human
rights, and that is that we do believe that there is merit to
the existence of a living and natural father who has not shown
any evidence, in the instance of Elian Gonzalez in particular,
to have been abusive or unfit as a father.
So we can begin to look at the entire question of human
rights for children, in this instance in the country of Cuba,
but we can look for countries around the world. And we can
begin to look as well for the treatment of children who are
unaccompanied or come in a particular manner to this country,
and how the INS may or may not treat them. I look forward to
In this instance, however, might I share just a few simple
points. We understand just recently that the State court has
indicated in Florida that they have no jurisdiction and that
this is not a custody case. This is, in fact, as we deal with
it by the Department of Justice and the INS, a case of seeking
And the only very narrow issue that we have here--and we
understand the difference of opinion. I have always said I
respect the views of Cuban Americans and their right to civil
disobedience. I am a product of that. I have engaged in that,
and I respect it. But this is a question of whether or not a
natural parent, not accused of unfitness or abuse, at least
with no documentation, can be allowed to make the determination
as to whether or not the minor child should have asylum. This
is all we ask, that Elian and his father be united. And, Ms.
Torres--excuse me, Mr. Cohen--I would ask no less for you.
And so I would hope that as we look to learn today and we
look to understand today, we will look at the larger and
broader picture of how we treat our children. Might I just add,
because I have worked a lot in children's issues, I have served
as a municipal court judge, I have engaged in advocacy for
children, as many of us have, and I would only say and ask in a
public plea, even in this hearing, that we have an opportunity
or that we focus on the opportunity for Elian, in this
instance, and his father to be reunited, and might I say that
the two families be reunited.
And, finally, that we might focus on the difficulty for a
6-year-old to be utilized in any manner that would cause him to
be on public display of words that we may not be aware or may
not have any basis upon whether he has actually said these
words, in a public video. I would ask that, whatever position
we may have, that we not utilize those tactics, and that human
rights be our priority for all people, and that we certainly
review the status of human rights for our children.
This is a very important hearing today, and I am very
gratified for the opportunity to have been allowed to make a
few remarks. I yield back. Thank you.
Mr. Smith. Ms. Jackson-Lee, thank you very much.
I would like to now present our very distinguished panel of
seven witnesses, in the order that they will present their
testimonies. Without objection, all of your full statements
will be made a part of the record, but you can proceed however
Dr. Maria Dominguez is an attorney and the executive
director of the St. Thomas University Human Rights Institute. A
published specialist in immigration and refugee law, Dr.
Dominguez has served on the U.S. delegation to the U.N. Human
Rights Commission in Geneva, and has appeared as a witness
before several congressional committees and subcommittees.
Among her other activities, she was a founding co-chair of the
Guantanamo Refugee Assimilation and Self-Sufficiency Project.
The Reverend Lucius Walker, Jr., is the executive director
of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization,
the founder of Pastors for Peace, and the founding pastor of
Salvation Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York. A long-time
protester of the United States policy toward Cuba, Reverend
Walker is the recipient of the Order of Friendship and the
Carlos Finley Award conferred on him by the Government of Cuba.
Ileana Fuentes is a feminist author and critic living in
Miami. She originally arrived here from Cuba as 1 of the 14,000
Operation Pedro Pan refugee children whose parents sent them
unaccompanied to this country in the hope that they would find
a better life in the United States.
Jorge Garcia lost 14 members of his family in the Cuban
Government's attack on the ``13th of March'' refugee tugboat,
including his son and grandson. A Doctor of Education in Cuba,
he served as the director of several schools and education
centers in Cuba. After directing an extensive investigation
into the ``13th of March'' killings, Mr. Garcia testified
before the U.N. Human Rights Commission about that very tragic
and despicable incident.
Neri Torres, a native Cuban, is the founder and artistic
director of IFE/ILE, an artistic organization specializing in
Afro-Cuban dance. A graduate of the National School of Arts in
Havana, Ms. Torres is an accomplished dancer and choreographer,
and has worked closely with artists such as Gloria Estefan.
During her life in Cuba, Ms. Torres was also a victim of forced
Jose Cohen served as an intelligence officer in Cuba for 6
years. In 1994 he escaped Cuba on a raft and fled to freedom in
the United States. In 1996 his parents, wife and three children
were granted U.S. exit visas. However, during the past 4 years
the Castro regime has refused to authorize their exit, holding
the family in Cuba against their will.
Daniel Shanfield is a staff attorney with the Lawyers
Committee for Human Rights, where he overseas the Asylum
Program. Prior to joining the Lawyers Committee, Mr. Shanfield
served as a trial attorney for the U.S. Immigration and
Naturalization Service, as well as a research assistant for the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva. He
will be addressing the rule of law issues, and Members might
want to stay on, who have expressed concerns about that, for
STATEMENT OF MARIA DOMINGUEZ, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ST. THOMAS
UNIVERSITY HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTE
Ms. Dominguez. Mr. Chairman, distinguished Members of
Congress, I thank you for the opportunity to address you on
this very sensitive and important topic. I would like to
particularly recognize the Representatives from Florida,
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Congressman Lincoln Diaz-
Balart. A special salute, too, to Congressman Bob Menendez from
I have prepared a written statement but would like the
opportunity to submit a more extensive written testimony for
inclusion in the record.
Mr. Smith. Doctor, without objection, your full statement
and that of all of our other distinguished witnesses will be
made a part of the record.
Ms. Dominguez. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I teach human rights and the law at St. Thomas University
in Florida, and my students have recently studied both the
Declaration and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. They
were surprised to learn that the United States had not ratified
the Convention, but they are also learning that the
implementation process is very difficult and complex.
I have just returned from Geneva, where I attended part of
the annual meeting of the Commission on Human Rights. Some of
your concerns are also the concerns of other countries. I am
hopeful that hearings such as this advance efforts in making
human rights a reality for each and every child in the world.
Today, however, I will specifically highlight certain Cuban
documents that delineate and set parameters on the civic,
political, economic, social, and cultural rights of Cuban
children in the island. I shall start with the 1992 Cuban
Constitution, then cover very briefly the Cuban Code of
Childhood and Youth, as well as relevant articles in the Cuban
The Cuban Constitution, as amended in 1992, sets forth the
goals for the Cuban State and its society. Article 1 of Chapter
I states that Cuba is a socialist state of workers. Article 5
further states that the Communist Party of Cuba, described as
Marxist-Leninist and as the organized vanguard of the Cuban
nation, is the superior leading force of the society and state,
organizing and guiding the common efforts aimed at the highest
goals of the construction of socialism and the advancement
toward the communist society.
Article 6 describes the Union of Young Communists as an
entity having the preeminent function of promoting the active
participation of the young masses in the task of socialist
construction. Under Chapter IV, called ``The Family,'' Article
38 declares that Cuban parents have the duty to contribute
actively in their children's integral development as, ``useful,
well-prepared citizens for life in a socialist society.''
Chapter V, entitled ``Education and Culture,'' starts with
Article 39, which states that ``the State guides, fosters, and
promoted education and sciences, in all their manifestations.''
It lists 10 principles for its educational and cultural
policies. I will only highlight two relevant principles within
The first one is that the state bases its educational and
cultural policies on Marxist ideology. Second, that the state
promotes the patriotic education and communist training for the
new generations, and the preparation of children, young people
and adults for socialist life.
To implement these principles, education is combined with
work and participation in political, social, and military
training activities. The state also promotes the participation
of its citizens through the country's mass and social
organizations in the implementation of its educational and
Finally, under Chapter VII, the Cuban Constitution
describes fundamental rights and duties. Article 62 leaves no
doubt as to the major principle laid out throughout the text.
It reads, ``None of the freedoms which are recognized for
citizens can be exercised contrary to what is established in
the Constitution and the law, or contrary to the existence and
objectives of the socialist state, or contrary to the decision
of the Cuban people to build socialism and communism. Violation
of this principle can be punished by law.''
The second document I would like to bring to your attention
is the Code of Childhood and Youth, Law No. 16, enacted on June
6, 1978, which is a legally binding document on all minors,
parents and teachers in Cuba. I have identified at least 15
articles which should be cause for concern, and I strongly
recommend that you read it and analyze it carefully to gain a
wider perspective on how the State controls children's
functions, education and upbringing in Cuba, above and beyond
I especially would like to highlight Articles 3, 5, 7
through 10, 18, 20, 23, 33, 40, 68, 83, 90, and 101. All these
articles call for the communist formation of the young
generations and the fostering of the ideological values of
communism in the youth. I highlight Article 18 in particular
because it states that educators have the elevated mission in
the formation of the communist personality. Article 20 again
postulates that the school is the basic educational institution
contributing decisively in the communist formation. The Code
highlights the State entities relationship with mass
organizations and the Union of Communist Youth for the purpose
of sustaining a coordinated effort in the development of
children and youth.
These Articles lead me to believe and conclude that
parental decisions are certainly subservient to the state, and
that parents, or anyone else for that matter, will be punished
if found to disagree with the state's principle to develop the
communist personality in children and youth. In other words,
parents are not free to choose any alternative lifestyle for
their children. Article 62 under the Constitution makes it very
Furthermore, the Cuban Family Code stipulates under Title
II, Chapter II, entitled ``Relationship between Parents and
Children,'' Section 1, ``Patria Potestas and its Exercise,''
(which means parental custody) Article No. 85, subsections 2
and 3, that the concept of Patria Potestas entails the duty of
the parent to inculcate the spirit of internationalism and
socialist morality. The socialist concept of the family does
not accept the idea of the family as a private contractual
union. The primary role of the family in socialist Cuba is to
contribute to the development and upbringing of children in
accordance with socialist values. Any dissent or attempt to
deviate from this role may be punishable under the law. The
Family Code therefore underscores the supremacy of the State's
principles over the parents' own beliefs and individual
In practice, all of these legal norms and laws are
implemented through a very rigid and controlled environment.
For example, the child is obligated to carry an identity card
that lists all addresses, schools attended, and political
attitude, such as the child's participation in the Communist
Pioneers Association. This ID card serves the State's purpose
in controlling the child throughout his formative years.
The Cuban State realizes that the early formative years in
a child's life are crucial for his personality development.
Therefore, parents and the extended family cannot participate
in the child's education or extracurricular activities which
are contrary to the State's principles. Another method in
implementing the State's principles is to transport children
throughout the cities and towns to participate in political
activities, and without obtaining parental consent.
The State also controls children once they are of school
age through another document called a ``Student Cumulative
Dossier.'' The child's academic, political, and religious
behavior is recorded by the teacher. It also records the
parents' behavior toward religion, their political opinion,
their economic standing, the family relations, and much more.
This document also notes the child's participation in the
so-called voluntary work. Children who are 10 years or older
are required by the State to perform agricultural work at camps
in the country for 3 months every year. Parents have no say in
this. Promiscuity is reported to be rampant at these
I have heard numerous accounts and testimony from parents
who come to live in the United States out of desperation and
concern for the lack of control they have over their children's
lives. I know this because I am an attorney who specializes in
U.S. immigration law. In rendering free legal services to the
poor, I have encountered many recently arrived Cubans who need
help in filling out their asylum applications. I have learned
from them that there is much desperation to leave the Island
because they feel very controlled and do not wish the same fate
on their children. What they hope for their children is to have
freedom in their decisionmaking processes that until their
arrival in the United States had eluded them while in Cuba.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Dominguez appears in the
Mr. Smith. Thank you very much, Doctor. I would just like
to note, we just got an Associated Press off the wire, and I
will read it very briefly. It says, ``A Federal appeals court
issued a temporary stay today that keeps Elian Gonzalez in the
United States while the Government and his relatives fight over
whether he will be returned to his father and sent home to
Cuba. The order came barely an hour after the passing of a
Government deadline for the boy's Miami relatives to hand him
I would like to recognize Reverend Walker.
STATEMENT OF THE REVEREND LUCIUS WALKER, JR., EXECUTIVE
DIRECTOR, INTERRELIGIOUS FOUNDATION FOR COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION
Rev. Walker. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate this opportunity to
testify before this distinguished Subcommittee.
I was born and raised in the great State of New Jersey,
where I now reside. And, as you are all aware, I am the
executive director of the Interreligious Foundation for
Community Organization, a 33-year-old ecumenical agency which,
among other things, has worked for reconciliation in the area
of United States-Cuba relations since 1991. I am also the
pastor of the Salvation Baptist Church in Brooklyn, and have
been serving recently as the co-chair of the National Committee
for the Return of Elian Gonzalez to His Father in Cuba.
The issue of rights of children generally, and of course in
Cuba, is an issue about which I am deeply concerned in all
aspects of my work as a pastor, as a certified social worker
and a former instructor in social work at the University of
Wisconsin, and as a community organizer, as well as a general
advocate in the United States and in poor nations around the
world for the rights of children. I am, as a minister of the
gospel of Jesus Christ, particularly concerned with family
values, for they are profoundly important to me and are the
cornerstone of any stable society.
I am also very much shaped and formed by some of the tenets
of scripture, and I shall mention two or three of those in the
course of my comments. One I should mention now, and that is
the teaching by the prophets, and I quote from Isaiah
particularly, that we should come now and reason together, the
purpose being to resolve any differences among us.
I recognize that this Subcommittee's interest today is
founded in part on the question of Cuba's capacity to serve in
the healing process for Elian Gonzalez after he returns home.
With that in mind, let me share with you our perspective both
at the Interreligious Foundation and through the National
Committee for the Return of Elian, our perspective on the
rights of the child in Cuban society.
This perspective has been formed by extensive time in Cuba,
more than 40 visits to Cuba, the first in 1981 and most of them
in the recent or in the last 10 years. We have worked and
worshiped with the Cuban church community. We have visited
families. We have talked extensively with the old and the
young, persons in all aspects of Cuba's life, rural and urban,
and in the course of our delivery of more than 2,000 tons of
humanitarian aid to Cuba.
We engage, or we attempt to engage in the work we do in
relationship to Cuba, at the urgent and repeated requests of
particularly Protestant church leaders whom we have come to
know over the years who, knowing of our work in relationship to
suffering communities in Africa and Central and South America
and the Caribbean, other parts of the Caribbean, requested that
we assist them in addressing the sufferings of their members
due to the effects of the United States blockade.
We are very much moved by Jesus's teaching in Matthew 25
that the ultimate test of Christian discipleship is whether or
not one gives a cup of cold water to the thirsty, food to the
hungry, clothes to the naked, and we are also instructed in our
own church teachings that the service according to this mandate
from our Lord is not to be determined by whether the persons
who are the recipient of that humanitarian and spiritual
response should themselves be of the same either political or
ideological or social or denominational persuasion as the
giver. Jesus suggested that we ought to be equal in our sharing
with all persons, no matter what their own outlook, no matter
what their own political formation, no matter which political
party they belong to, and therefore we are to respect others
whether they are Democrats or Republicans.
Our perspective is also informed by the declarations of the
Cuban Constitution, some of which has been referred to on
several occasions today, and by the legal codes as well as by
public policy and practices which we have been privileged to
observe in the course of our relations and visits and time in
Cuba. First, a word about the Cuban Constitution, adopted in
1976 and amended by the Cuban National Assembly in 1992. It is
very explicit on the subjects of family, children, youth,
education, culture, and other matters as well.
Article 35 of the Cuban Constitution states that the state
recognizes the family as the fundamental cell of society, and
attributes to it essential responsibilities and functions in
the education and formation of new generations. Article 37
affirms the equal rights of all children, regardless of the
circumstances of their birth.
Article 38 states parents have the duty to feed their
children, to assist in the defense of their legitimate
interests and in the realization of their just aspirations, as
well as to contribute actively to their education--as well as
to contribute actively to their education, the education of
their children--and their integral formation as youthful
Article 40 says children and youth enjoy particular
protection on the part of the state and the society. The
church, the school, state institutions, and mass and social
organizations have the duty to give special attention to the
integral formation of children and youth.
Another source which gives insight into Cuba's
understanding of the rights of the child is the Family Code of
1975. In Articles 82 through 85 of Law 1289, it is asserted
that children are under the Patria Potestas, the parental
rights of their parents; that parental rights correspond
jointly to both parents and accrue to the surviving parent when
one parent dies; that children are obligated to respect, to
show consideration for and help their parents, and to obey them
while under their Patria Potestas.
These parental rights also entail the following rights and
duties of parents: to keep their children under their
guardianship and care, making every possible effort to provide
them with a stable home and adequate nutrition, caring for
their health and personal hygiene; to see to the education of
their children; to train their children to be useful citizens;
to administer and care for their children's property; and to
represent their children at every judicial action.
At no point does the Cuban Constitution state that children
are the property of either the state or the parents. It is my
understanding, from the reading of these Cuban documents, from
talking with people at all levels and in a variety of
professional capacities in Cuba, that children are not
considered property, but rather the terms that are consistently
used in the Constitution, in the Codes, and in the practices
through the courts, are ``priority of,'' children are the
priority of the state and the family; they are the
responsibility of the state and the parents; and that children
enjoy particular protection, yes, from the state, but also that
protection is primarily the responsibility of the parents.
It has been my observation that Cuban children, growing up
in a society that is far from perfect, a society that has a
long way to go to even achieve its own objectives of what an
ideal society ought to be, that that society has performed and
exercised its responsibilities to its children in such an
effective way that children in Cuba are a wonderful combination
of self-awareness, self-esteem, respect for adults, love of
country, knowledge of culture, and understanding of
international geography and history which I wish were equally
true in every part of the world.
I am an observer of human behavior, and as I have observed
the relationships between parents and children, the dignity,
the sense of calm and self-respect and pride with which
children are able to relate to adults in the Cuban society, I
am deeply moved. I am deeply moved as I have witnessed, as this
whole Nation has, the strength in young Elian Gonzalez. Where
did he get that strength? He certainly did not get it within
the last 4 months. The strength, the dignity, the calm, the
power of this young child must at least in major part be
attributed to his first 6 years of life in Cuba under this
system of education to which we are now referring. I have
traveled extensively, and in no other country have I ever seen
more healthy children, as well as self-confident, more secure
and well-behaved children, as I have seen in Cuba.
The source of this unique regard for children predates the
Cuban Revolution. It traces back for more than 100 years to the
founding father of Cuba, that everyone in Cuba refers to, Jose
Marti, the founding father of modern Cuba, who said, ``The
children of Cuba are our future. Children are the hope of the
There is, of course, an obvious shortage of consumer goods
in Cuba, and we as citizens of the United States must take
responsibility in considerable measure for those shortages
because of our embargo. The values that underlie the response
to this shortage in Cuba is that things are not essential,
consumer items are not essential to life, health and education,
not so much as are love, nurturing, social responsibility and
Mr. Smith. Reverend Walker, excuse me for interrupting. We
are asking everyone to keep it around 10 minutes. It is about
13 now. If you could just sum up, we do want to hear what you
have to say, but if you could just----
Rev. Walker. I thank you.
Mr. Smith. Thank you.
Ms. McKinney. Mr. Chairman? Mr. Chairman, you selected six
of the witnesses, and I got to select Reverend Walker, and I
would love for him to be able to complete his statement and to
have his say. He came all the way from New York City to be
here, and I would hate for you to cut him off.
Mr. Smith. Let me just say to the gentlelady from Georgia,
nobody is seeking to cutoff Reverend Walker.
Reverend Walker, how much more time do you need?
Rev. Walker. Three minutes.
Mr. Smith. That would be fine.
Rev. Walker. It is my observation that in Cuba, education
and health care are considered basic human rights. In the
Helsinki Accords, human rights are outlined in political and
then in economic, social or cultural categories. I think Cuba
has a long way to go in refining its human rights and its work
in the area of the political aspect of human rights. In the
area of social, economic, cultural rights, it excels, and we
should recognize that. And it is in this area, as well as the
strivings that it openly and publicly seeks to make in the
political and the other aspects of its life, as it refines its
own electoral system, for example, that young Elian would be
nurtured and developed.
Remember that Cuba came into and inherited from a
dictatorship which our own country had supported, it inherited
a situation in which 60 births out of 1,000 were dead births.
The infant mortality rate was 60 per 1,000. It has reduced that
to an amount equal to the United States. It is higher in this
category than any other country in this region of the world.
It has created more hospitals, it produces more doctors, it
cares for the health of its children in such a profoundly
significant way, that we see that health reflected in Elian and
we see it reflected in the children of Cuba. I have never seen
an unhealthy child in Cuba. I have never seen a child in Cuba
that was the prototypical Third World child.
Cuba has something to teach us, and it offers the gift of
its care for its children to Elian as well as to all of its
children; not only to its own children, but someone referred to
internationalism. Cuba produces more doctors than it needs in
order that it might export medical care to the rest of the
world. When the revolution in Cuba triumphed, there were 3,000
doctors. Now there are 66,000, 1 for every 170 residents, and
it is the only country in the world which is shipping doctors
by the thousands to the Third World to assist in the
development of health indices in those countries.
And so it is into this context that we would send young
Elian. It is into this context, in which there is a vibrant
church, in which there are people of active faith, in which
there are people with concern for the continued development of
all aspects of democracy and well-being, that young Elian would
We have also heard rumors that Cuban children are being
taken from their families at the tender age of 8 or 11 and
shipped off to mandatory labor camps with harsh working
conditions. I would like to offer a more accurate picture of
current reality. Cuban children in junior high school and high
school do spend a month of their school year in the
countryside. During this time they attend school for half of
the day and help bring in the harvest for the other half.
Richard Nuchio, former Cuban Advisor to President Clinton
and to Senator Torricelli, describes this program as a sort of
national service corps, AmeriCorps, volunteer brigade,
something like in some communities the Boy Scout programs in
the United States. Interestingly, the need for this assistance
with farm labor has arisen in part because on the one hand of
the level of education and the high level of professionalism in
Cuba, and because of the negative impact of our own blockade of
Mr. Chairman, I would propose that we consider several
directions for resolving the problems and the concerns we have
about the climate and the context in which Elian would be
returned. First of all, I would urge that we recognize the
right of this child's father under Cuban law, under United
States law and social welfare practice, to be the guardian of
Second, I would urge that we not politicize this issue, but
we see the great human tragedy that has been perpetrated upon
this child. And that which we might do in our political
discourse to help this child in his tragedy would be to work
assiduously, seriously for the normalization of relations, in
order that all of the differences we have with Cuba, all of the
criticisms which have been and will be lodged here today can be
discussed in a mutually respectful bilateral relationship,
rather than throwing of darts across the waters, talking past
each other, and using rhetoric which will exacerbate the
problem for the time to come, rather than resolve the problem
and heal the breach between our two countries.
Mr. Smith. Reverend Walker, thank you very much.
STATEMENT OF JORGE GARCIA, FORMER DOCTOR OF EDUCATION IN CUBA,
LOST 14 MEMBERS OF HIS FAMILY IN THE ATTACK ON THE ``13 DE
MARZO'' REFUGEE TUGBOAT
Mr. Garcia [speaking through an interpreter]. Thank you,
Mr. Chairman. Thank you to the distinguished Congresspersons
who are sitting here in this Committee.
Today is a very sad day for me. Today it has been, it is
the anniversary, 69 months have elapsed today since the sinking
of the ``13th of March'' tugboat back in 1997, if I am not
mistaken. Each day of this month my family pays tribute to this
memory. We went to the sea, we went out to sea to throw flowers
in the ocean in memory of our dead. I believe that my presence
here today is a way of honoring their memory, as well, and I
thank God for having given me the opportunity to be here with
you today so that I may share with you my experience.
I lost 14 family members in the sinking of the ``13th of
March'' tugboat. I come from a family of teachers. My wife and
I both are teachers. We are not an antisocial element, as we
were classified by the Cuban Government. The first news
released by the Cuban Government about this incident said a
ship, a boat, capsized in Cuban waters, carrying antisocial
elements of our society. Can there be children who are an
I investigated at length the details of this event. The
theory of the government was and is that this had been an
accident. In reality, this was a crime. The government, through
Lieutenant Colonel Aspide, who headed the government's
investigating team, blamed an excess of weight on the tugboat
for its sinking, for its going down; the age of the tugboat,
how old it was.
I don't want to go into too many details or too much depth
with this, but I only want to appeal to your understanding of
this situation. Can the ``13th of March'' tugboat, could it
have been, could the ``13th of March'' tugboat been more
fragile than the little boat ``Granma'' used by Fidel Castro at
the beginning of the revolution to land in Cuba?
The ``Granma'' boat traveled thousands of kilometers
carrying 82 men on board before it got--to get to Cuban shores.
It carried weapons, munitions and supplies. It navigated for 6
days and it reached its target, it reached its destination. The
``13th of March'' tugboat barely traveled 7 miles. Its journey
lasted 50 minutes, and it was sunk.
What followed the sinking of the ``13th of March'' tugboat
for my family was truly a tragedy. Lieutenant Colonel Aspide
proposed to us that we accept a luxurious residence in the
plush neighborhood of Seewoney in Havana because the family
would be more tranquil, more at peace in such a neighborhood.
It also offered us a car and medical services. This was a
proposal that Lieutenant Colonel Aspide made personally to me,
and what I really wanted was the return of the 14 corpses. I
did not accept the house, and I never got the bodies either.
That is why I have affirmed that Castro is a kidnapper of
I want to go on reflecting on our experience, my experience
and my wife's experience as teachers. We have always worked in
the teaching profession. Nobody who has not lived in Cuba can
really speak about Cuban reality. Cuban reality has to be
experienced from within, not just on periodic visits.
And I would like to assure you that Cuban education is
spartan in nature, and I can affirm that from all the years of
experience as an educator. An official saying sums it all up:
``To study, to work, and to carry a rifle.'' We could call this
a subtle way of child abuse.
Instead of continuing to talk about these issues, I am
willing to answer any questions that you may have. I have
researched the ``13th of March'' tugboat sinking extensively,
and I am here to answer any questions that you may have later.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Garcia appears in the
Mr. Smith. Mr. Garcia, thank you very, very much.
STATEMENT OF ILEANA FUENTES, FEMINIST AUTHOR AND CRITIC, MIAMI,
FLORIDA, SURVIVOR OF ``OPERACION PEDRO PAN''
Ms. Fuentes. Mr. Chairman, distinguished Members of
Congress, I thank you also for the opportunity to address you
on the sensitive and urgent issue of children in Cuba. I would
like to recognize particularly the Representatives from
Florida, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Congressman
Lincoln Diaz-Balart, as well as my former Representative from
New Jersey, Congressman Robert Menendez.
I would like to echo, parenthetically, the distress
expressed by Congressman Menendez. As a constituent, as an
American citizen, and as one who has come to this hearing to
help educate this Committee on the issue of Cuban children, it
has belittled and insulted us, the five individuals sitting at
this table who are Cuban Americans, to have been encapsuled in
the term ``mob intransigence.'' I would like to request that
every Member of this Subcommittee return our generosity in
being here with an equal measure of respect, and I thank you in
advance for that.
I have prepared a statement from which I will read.
First and foremost, a child born in Cuba enters this world
in a society where his or her fundamental human rights, as
guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and by
three United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child,
are denied by all existing legal instruments, namely the
Constitution of the Republic of Cuba, the Children and Youth
Code, the Cuban Family Code, and the Cuban Penal Code.
Having said this, let me say that while a child is born in
Cuba, he joins a family living in state-sponsored poverty. The
greater majority of Cuban families are poor even by Third World
standards. The average salary of a Cuban worker is equivalent
to $100 to $120 dollars, in an economy that was ``dollarized''
back in 1993 when Fidel Castro himself decriminalized the
tenure of American currency. In comparison, the average salary
in Bangladesh is equivalent to $250.
Thus, a child's arrival throws a family into chaos, for
this new mouth further aggravates a severely rationed food
basket. He or she shall encounter shortages in every aspect and
stage of life from the onset. In fact, women across Cuba made
sure that lack of baby and infant needs be a priority on the
agenda in last March's Federal of Cuban Women's Congress.
Infant and postpartum mothers' unmet needs were on the agenda,
second only to the total absence of sanitary napkins from the
These hardships are perhaps one reason why so many women in
Cuba resort to abortions. That, and the practice of persuading
women to terminate potentially troublesome pregnancies early
on, could explain why 40 percent of all pregnancies end in an
abortion in the island.
No one should be fooled by Cuba's statistics on infant
mortality rate. Those statistics are improved, a priori, by the
elimination of difficult pregnancies and childbirth. In light
of this manipulation, Cuba's infant mortality rate, which is
between 9 and 11, depending whether it is boys or girls, in
100,000 births, doesn't fare so well if compared to countries
where no such manipulation occurs, such as Costa Rica, Chile
and Uruguay, where the rate is 12, 13 and 17 respectively.
A child born in Cuba has a life expectancy of 75 to 78,
depending on its sex, but it is about the same, it is even
better in some, in countries like Costa Rica, Chile, Uruguay
Cuban children have fewer opportunities to be given
religious upbringing or to be baptized. The Cuban Constitution
and the Penal Code both call for sanctions, including prison
terms, against individuals who put their religious beliefs
before duty to communism. There are no vibrant churches of any
denomination in Cuba, not Catholic, not Protestant, not Jewish,
not Abacoir, not Santeria.
Between the ages of 1 and 7, the average Cuban child will
have a poor diet, lack appropriate shoes and clothing, and will
be at want for basic medications against such common childhood
ailments, ear and throat infections, head lice, and skin
conditions such as scabies and impetigo. If a child is an
asthma sufferer or needs antibiotic treatment, the
prescriptions needed are not available in the people's
pharmacy. They can be purchased, however, at dollar-only stores
reserved for foreign personnel and tourists.
Do not be fooled by those who insist that food and medicine
are lacking in Cuba because of the United States embargo. Cuba
is a natural producer of just about everything in the food
chain except wheat, which it used to import from the United
States prior to 1959, and from the Soviet Bloc countries until
recently. Communist Cuba fails to feed its people because four
decades of Castro-designed economics have destroyed Cuban
agriculture and industry.
As for medicines, Cuba's pharmaceutical industry is an
exporting and revenue-producing enterprise. Its clientele is
mostly Third World countries like Jamaica and Nicaragua. Cuba
can, and has, purchased medical supplies and drugs at much
cheaper prices in Central America, Canada and Europe, if it had
any purchasing power at all. The United States pharmaceutical
market is not even cost effective for us, who are its captive
When a child reaches 7, the age of reason, two very
unreasonable things happen to him or to her. One, the milk
quota is suspended. Two, the Organization of Cuban Pioneers
kicks in as the first mass organization to control the life of
the individual. What are the Young Pioneers? According to the
Children and Family Code, Article 102, it is ``a volunteer
organization that coordinates tasks and activities to
complement the formation of the communist personality.''
A Young Pioneer must wear a red scarf around his neck, or
her neck; declare that Fidel, and not God, is the father of all
Cuban children; and repeat at every paramilitary meeting,
``Pioneers of communism, we vow to be like Che.''
This is the first identity and personality crisis a Cuban
child-person must confront, for to be like Che, a white, non-
Cuban, genocidal male, must surely pose an identity crisis for
little black boys, whose role model should be the great 19th
century liberator, General Antonio Maceo, or Martin Morua
Delgado, another illustrious black Cuban man, elected first
president of the Cuban Senate in 1905.
And what of little girls, black or white, who are told to
be like a white man in fatigues? What kind of gender identity
violation is this, to have as national role models a roster of
white, Eurocentric, war-mongering males?
Black Cuban children also hope to have what the white
children of the white government elite have, and what some
white Cuban children with access to United States dollars also
In school, the child learns to read with an alphabet that
enshrines that roster. ``F'' is for Fidel, also for fusil,
rifle. ``C'' is for Che. ``Gu'' is for guerrilla. ``M'' is for
Marx, ``L'' is for Lenin, ``S'' is for socialism, ``P'' is for
patria, which spells fatherland.
This child's progress will be charted in a personal file
that will follow him or her throughout his or her life. In that
file will be recorded not only his young revolutionary zeal,
but that of the parents as well. Only good Communists will
advance in the educational ladder. Only they will pursue the
career of their choice. The file accompanies the child to
junior high school, la escuela al campo, the farm schools.
Between the ages of 12 and 14, children are removed from
the custody of parents and sent to study and work in farm
schools designed to give a child an education while extolling
hundreds of unpaid child-labor hours in return. Parents can
visit on the weekend, if they find transportation, of course.
Children go home every 4 to 6 weeks. This is the time Cuban
children officially pass into state custody, as these farm
schools are mandatory.
Parents and children who violate this mandate forfeit their
right to higher education, for the famous file will reflect,
``deviant ideological behavior unbecoming a good Cuban
revolutionary.'' The university, Fidel Castro said years ago,
is only for revolutionaries. The Federation of University
Students, a mass organization, upheld the dictum on April 10th,
just a few days ago, at their sixth Congress.
After the Pioneers are outgrown, two other organizations
become the obligatory course: the Federation of Intermediate
School Students, and the Federation of University Students I
just mentioned. Then there is the Committees for the Defense of
the Revolution, the Federation of Cuban Women, the National
Association of Small Farmers. For a Cuban to have any life at
all, he or she must belong to at least one of these. It is an
obligation for children and young adults to be militants of the
Cuban Government, and that includes compulsory volunteer work
while a student.
Do not be fooled by those who insist that health care and
education are free in Communist Cuba. Cubans pay for these
social services through hundreds of unpaid man and woman-hours
of forced volunteer labor in the fields, in the territorial
militia, in national guard duty, in community-based services.
For boys, the 15th birthday can be traumatic. That is the
age they are set aside for the draft. Although women can join
the armed forces, and in fact do, only boys are subject to the
draft. On their 16th birthday, boys must report to duty. From
age 16 to 19, young men cannot leave Cuba. The military stakes
its claim on his life and allegiance. Thousands of male Cuban
teenagers have gone to jail for violating this requirement.
They are marked for a life of ostracism in a system rigged for
loyal revolutionaries only.
A word about young women, and I am almost through. I regret
that I must end on an even more tragic note. For teenage girls,
life in Cuba is a double jeopardy. In spite of education,
without U.S. dollars, no family can make ends meet in the
island. The reported $800 million that the exile community
contributes to the livelihood of relatives in Cuba touches, at
best, 10 percent of the population. I should add, the white
population, for the exile community around the world is mostly
white-European. So must be their relatives in the island. But
the island's population of 12 million people is believed to be
about 60 percent Afro Cuban.
Conditions in Cuba therefore translate into three realities
that are gender-specific, in that they affect the life choices
of young Cuban women and girls. Three points.
Women marry earlier in Cuba than in any other country in
the hemisphere, age 19\1/2\, but they delay motherhood to avoid
the struggle of feeding another mouth. This means women must
resort to birth control, and in many cases to multiple
abortions, in order to remain childless. Women bear the burden
of birth control in Cuba, for Cuban men are traditionally
reluctant to condoms, much less to vasectomies. The health
implications, therefore, are a woman's issue in Cuba.
Suicide, No. 2, is the third cause of death for Cuban
female teenagers ages 15 to 19, usually related to early
pregnancy or motherhood. In the global context, let me add that
the rate of suicide among Cuban women in the island is the
highest in the world, one woman for every many who commits
In order to alleviate poverty, the third and final point,
Cuban women as young as 13 and 14 choose to engage in
prostitution with a foreign clientele in order to generate
United States dollars. This has resulted in a rise of sexually
transmitted diseases in female teenagers. The practice of
abortions on girls as young as 12 and 13 was reported last fall
by the Young Communist Union in Cuba, weekly paper, Juventud
This testimony, to close, could fill reams of paper, not
only with academic and legal analysis of the literature but
with interviews and personal accounts from children and young
adults who have lived through and escaped the fate that awaits
Elian Gonzalez, a fate that a brave young woman named Elizabeth
Brotons wanted her son to avoid. Unfortunately for all of us,
it looks like she may not succeed.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Fuentes appears in the
Mr. Smith. Ms. Fuentes, thank you very much for your
I regret to say there are two votes on the floor of the
House that will require us to have a very brief recess. We will
return and reconvene the hearing and then get to questioning. I
thank you for your patience. The fact that there were so many
Members here, especially at the outset, shows, I think, the
heightened sense of concern.
I know that in my own research for this hearing, while I
had heard tangentially in the Country Reports about the Cuban
Code of the Child and other kinds of documents, I had not known
its full implications until this hearing and until I began
doing some research earlier in the week. Hopefully, many
Americans will be educated that there is such a thing. When we
are talking about parental rights or lack thereof, this kind of
document would be an absolute non-starter in the United States.
It is antithetical to everything that we believe to be parental
rights, and we will get into that when we reconvene.
Mr. Smith. I want to apologize for the interruption with
the votes. The Subcommittee will resume its sitting, and at
this point I would like to welcome Mr. Cohen, if he would make
his presentation to the Subcommittee.
Ms. Fuentes. I am going to translate for him, if that is
STATEMENT OF JOSE COHEN, FORMER CUBAN INTELLIGENCE OFFICER,
WHOSE FAMILY ARE HOSTAGES IN CUBA
Mr. Cohen [speaking through an interpreter]. Thank you, Mr.
Chairman. I thank God that I can thank God, after 30 years of
living in a virtual prison. I have been living in this country
for 6 years, and I thank God every day for having given me the
opportunity to be a free man, something that was only a dream
to me for many, many years in Cuba.
The person who addresses you today is not a Cuban expert
quoted often by journalists, academicians and experts who do a
lot of research and come up with a lot of official statistics.
That is not who I am. Of course, when they deal with official
data and statistics, they are the statistics given by the Cuban
Government. Anyone who tries to explain Cuban reality based on
the information that the Cuban Government itself releases is
truly wrong. It is truly not accurate.
I was born in the year 1964, 5 years after the triumph of
the revolution. At 4 years of age, I too said, ``Pioneers for
communism, we shall be like Che.'' I was proud of that red
scarf, not knowing what communism really was about. I received
military training when I was 12 years old, and they taught us
the ways of the guerrilla warfare. That is Cuban reality.
A little while ago Mr. Garcia said something similar, that
in order to talk about Cuban reality, one really had to know
it. If you really want to know what happens to a person that
decides to speak about Cuban reality, if you really want to
understand what would happen to Elian's father if he were to
decide to stay in the United States, then you have to see my
The only thing I have done is, I made a decision to live
according to the dictates of my conscience, to denounce what I
was a victim of for 30 years. Sometimes people say, ``So-and-so
expresses himself this way, so-and-so expresses himself the
other way. They are probably bad people.'' And I said, ``No,
they are not bad people. They are Americans who live in
freedom, with false information. They are not bad people. If
they knew what I know, they would not say what they say or
think the way they think.'' That is why I respect everyone's
And I am impressed, really taken by how in this chamber or
in a university or in a symposium, people can do what nobody
can do in Cuba. I say that I thank God that we can thank God. I
also thank God that all of you were born and were able to live
in this freedom. If we lived in Cuba, many of us would be in
prison. It doesn't matter what you think. If you dare to speak
freely, one would be in prison. If I had not left Cuba on a
raft, I would be in prison or I would be dead. That is Cuban
I managed to escape as the only option to save my life,
because I saw and I was a witness more than once, how people
who had believed truly in the Cuban Revolution dared to speak
their truth one day and were disappeared on the next day. The
Cuban Government not only betrays its own ministers, its own
dignitaries or its generals, the Cuban Government not only
shoots its generals, the Cuban Government, make no mistake
about it, would betray any collaborator, any person who would
The price I have had to pay for this honesty, for this
talking my truth, has been a 6-year separation from my family.
I have never engaged in any military action against Cuba or
prepared any terrorist activity against Cuba. The only thing I
have ever done, I ever did, was to come to this country, decide
to come to this country so that my children would have a better
life, and so that my children would not suffer what I had to
I came to this country motivated by the things that I could
observe when I started to work in the Cuban Intelligence
Section. When I started to, when I learned what really
happened, what the reality was with foreign investors, with
tourists, with foreigners in Cuba, or when I saw how Pastors
for Peace, for instance, would go to Cuba, could go to Cuba,
defying United States law, I said my children have to be able
to enjoy such freedom.
And when investors came to Cuba with good intentions,
believing in Cuba, believing in the Revolution, and they used
to be invited out for a night of partying at, for example,
Tropicana Night Club, and they would take their information. I
was witness to that reality. I didn't know how to explain to my
children in the future, ``Daddy, didn't you realize this whole
thing, the reality of this?'' My conscience was burdened with
such a predicament.
But I have had to pay a very high price for all of this. My
wife, my parents, my three little children, we are talking
about three children, one woman, and two elderly Cubans, they
are in effect prisoners in Cuba. Yes, they are prisoners
because they are at home, without an ability to work, subjected
to government harassment, without the press ever knowing about
it, nobody knowing about it.
When the government threw my daughter out of school,
expelled my daughter from school; or when the mass
demonstrations started in Cuba and the littlest, the youngest
daughter was forced to go to the rallies in favor of Elian's
return; when my wife receives threatening letters or a
threatening note, and my 6-year-old picks them up and reads
them; honestly, can anybody believe that the Castro Government
is really interested in the fate of any child? Can anyone think
or believe that the government of Fidel Castro is interested in
the Cuban family?
Elian is a symbol, and I can assure you that Fidel Castro
is very, very interested in destroying that symbol. If Elian
returns to Cuba, if his rights to tell his story and his case
in court are denied him, believe me, from the bottom of my
heart, that Elian will suffer exactly what I suffered. He will
return to Cuba without a mother, without a father, to the hands
of a tyrant.
I am here so that you can get a glimpse at what can happen
in Cuba, what could happen to your own children, to your
family, to your wife, when you decide to speak your truth. I
lived 30 years in Cuba. At 18, God was Castro. That is why I
thank God for being in this country. And I hope, and I thank
you in advance, I thank all of you, any one of you in advance
for anything that you can do on behalf of Elian, and on behalf
of my family, that they may also reach freedom.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Cohen appears in the
Mr. Smith. Thank you very much for that very heartbreaking
story. I can assure you we will do everything we can, with what
limited resources we have available. And I would hope, and I
mean this very sincerely, that those people who do have access
to Castro, would avail themselves not just of helping your
family but also other families who have been hurt so severely
by Fidel Castro. I am very much moved by your statement, and
Mr. Garcia, by your earlier testimony as well.
I would like to ask Ms. Torres to begin, if she would.
STATEMENT OF NERI TORRES, DANCER AND CHOREOGRAPHER, FORMER
VICTIM OF FORCED CHILD LABOR IN CUBA
Ms. Torres. Thank you, Congressman Smith, for having me
here. It is an honor. My specialty is not talking, it is
dancing, but I will do my best to express what the conditions
were like when I lived in Cuba.
Like I say, my name is Neri Torres. I am a choreographer. I
left Cuba in 1990 via Italy, due to the fact that Cuban
Security found out that I was leaving and kidnapped me. They
put me in a psychiatric institution for 4 days, and I received
all kinds of tortures from the Italian manager, who said that I
had to be grateful to the Revolution for the things that I had.
And there is an old Congo saying. I mention Congo because
we in Cuba have many ethnic African groups that are part of our
ancestors. They say, ``Seeing is believing,'' and if you don't
live in Cuba, like they say, there is no way that you will
experience it and it is hard to convince people about it.
I grew up in a very active environment with intellectuals
and politicals. In my home, it was the headquarters of the
equivalent here of the Black Panthers. My sister was part of
the group, and many other people were too. Some of them live in
Miami. Some others now live in Cuba, and they had to be removed
of that, and they were really active.
They were trying to create a new system for the black
people, a new government for the black people. I experienced
all that while I grew up. They were shot, and taken through
Social Services. The people in Social Services tried to give
them a lot of work for them to forget that they were doing
something against the government, and not to call the attention
that they were black people trying to do a new government.
And in any case it just came to my attention because I am
seeing a lot of African-Americans that are maybe dazzled by the
Cuban system and politics, about black Cubans, and I have seen
the black Cubans earn their place in Cuban society by fighting
many years of war in the 19th century to expel the Spanish
colonization. I am proud of how somebody in my family was part
of that army, and it is still in my veins, that spirit. And the
stories through all of the elderlies, elderlies in my family
have told me of stories about betrayal and racism that Cuba
couldn't escape because we are also part of the universe and
race is part of the universe, the universe or culture we have
Anyway, let me go back to the point. I came to talk about
my personal experience about child labor in Cuba, during the
days when we were not aware of the many dangers and pressures
in our young lives. Our teacher and system made us feel that we
were being part of a party. However, our parents were desperate
to obtain medical papers, since only a chronic disease could
stop you from going to the fields.
There are no written laws. We in Cuba all followed or
feared something that was everywhere and yet nowhere, like that
famous, when he was the director, movie called ``The
Exterminator Angel.'' Paranoia is very deep inside Cubans for
half a century. The hospitality and warmth of Cuban
idiosyncrasy has been manipulated against Cubans themselves.
Our parents tried to protect us the best they can, but the
system has used the customary network of neighbors to make each
other's life miserable and unbearable. People spy on you. They
report if you didn't go to the fields or to a meeting, to the
Plaza de la Revolucion, etc. Later on this will have
repercussions in your life as a grownup, when you aspire for a
career or a job, or which is the biggest privilege, travel
My neighbor, Julia Joya, now deceased, happened to be part
of this incidence I lived. Julia ironically deceased due to the
complication of somebody stepping on her foot at a meeting with
Castro at the Plaza de la Revolucion. She would follow me
everywhere for a long period of time. This was after my sister
and brother abandoned Cuba through Mariel.
I lived in continuous fear, up to a point that I had to
confront her. I told her that she knew I wasn't a criminal. She
saw me growing up and my family was very decent, only that my
parents never belonged to the CDR, ``Comite de defensa de la
revolucion,'' Defense Committee of the Revolution, and that was
a bad spot in your life. Her reply was, ``If the State wants to
follow you, I follow you.'' I said, ``But you are not the
State.'' And then things stopped, to be more calm.
She had to put many people in jail before. Faustino, a
rebel teenager, was one of them, only because he was black and
he wouldn't go to school. His mother had a heart attack and
died because of the incident.
Education and health in Cuba is a Machiavellian
manipulation that holds captive Cuban citizens under the name
of gratefulness. What is Escuela al Campo? It starts at age 11
to 12, and it doesn't stop until college. You have to go and
serve for 45 days, work in the fields.
And the inexperience of teenagers and the lack of proper
supervision would be the source of several accidents, such as
death due to falls in unsecured wells, the most common. The
boys would escape to visit the girls' camp and run in the dark
for several kilometers, and in Cuba the wells are not properly
covered so there were many deaths of teenagers running and
escaping through the fields.
There is danger on the crops were where we travel in
trucks. We had to achieve a certain goal of filling boxes of
potatoes, tomatoes, or in the many harvests they would figure
out what they wanted us to do. Later on it would be working in
the cane fields with machetes, when we were to the age of
Our parents would visit us only on Sundays to bring us
clean clothes, food, supplies, and their love to soften our
homesickness, but before arriving they had to struggle to get
several buses in time, waking up in the wee hours of the
I passed out, like many other children, in certain works.
The sun was very hot, the food was not good, and the health
conditions were not ideal. It took me a long time to decide to
do my basis, the first time that I went there. I for sure was
comparing my sanitary toilet at home with that smelly hole in
the floor, surrounded by all kinds of bugs. Cold showers were
the prize of the day.
Moreover, I developed allergies, and children were sick
often but many times the teachers wouldn't take us too
seriously. Moreover, there were cases of pregnancy that was
kept quiet to the system convenience, quiet. The case I
witnessed was that of my next door neighbor that was like me,
14 years old at that time, who had to marry her physics teacher
from who she was pregnant.
Many parents tried to get a doctor's dismissal, which is
the only valid reason to stop their sons from going to the
fields. Unluckily, this wasn't possible for all.
The sugar cane cutting, the macheteros voluntarios, we
would call it obligontario, which is the term for obligatory,
involuntary. So we created obligonatario.
When you go to the college, then you go to an even harder
work, ``trabajo productivo.'' This work happened at any time,
and the people who plan to leave Cuba are fired from their jobs
and sent to the sugar cane or coffee fields. I remember my
mother going crazy with us five minors at home when my father's
work, they took him to be a machetero, a cane cutter, for
several months. The money was not coming in time.
Escuela al Campo became ``Escuela en el Campo,'' so it was
school in the country fields, a permanent state where work-
study was combined. The idea was to strengthen the spirit of
the teenager, and also repay the free education that the
government provides. As you may know, teenagers are not too
good for work, and I remember that we were ``majaseando,'' like
being lazy and trying to figure out how to avoid to work in the
fields. Still, we had to work. At some point we had to work
because there were supervision in the fields.
The government created a dismemberment of the family
nucleus in Cuba soon after Fidel Castro took over. Divide and
conquer seemed to be the source of power of the Cuban
Revolution. An example of Operation Peter Pan, where parents
send their children on long-term flight to another country was
Also there were parents that were forced to leave without
their children. These children were won over by the Revolution.
They made them ``pioneros por el comunismo,'' pioneers. Thus,
the children decided not to join their parents in America and
the government would take them from their parents. They became
Hijos de la Patria, sons of the fatherland.
Then from outrageous despoilment of the Patria Potestas,
parental jurisdiction, I know the case of Anna Maria Barerres,
my sister's friend, who was always a dysfunctional adult due to
the trauma she suffered when she realized she was not to see
her father again.
Also, during Mariel there were many mothers and fathers
that were sent against their will to this country, leaving
behind a mountain of children. I can mention the dichotomy of
many mothers when the fathers denied signing the child's
permission to leave the country. They had to choose between
leaving the children behind or staying.
Children have been manipulated like anything else in Castro
government. The image that Cuban Government wants to create is
totally different from reality. I can only pray that all the
Cuban children can enjoy a brighter future, like all children
in the world. And like me, when I look through my little piece
of sky in the window of my bedroom, they are able to see beyond
the blue and make their dreams come true. Most important, I
wish they were able to establish and determine their dreams, at
least find their lives in their own manner, find them the right
Thank you very much.
Mr. Smith. Thank you very much, Ms. Torres. We appreciate
I will ask our next witness if he would proceed.
STATEMENT OF DANIEL SHANFIELD, STAFF ATTORNEY, LAWYERS
COMMITTEE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, IN CHARGE OF THE ASYLUM PROGRAM
Mr. Shanfield. Chairman Smith and Members of the
Subcommittee, thank you for convening this hearing and for
inviting us to share our views about this important and complex
issue. We are deeply appreciative to you for your steadfast
attention to human rights issues, in particular your concern
for the plight of refugees, and for your continued efforts to
highlight these concerns in Congress.
The Lawyers Committee for Human Rights is a nonprofit,
nongovernmental organization. A substantial focus of our work
over the years has been the protection of refugees. The Lawyers
Committee has represented many hundreds of refugees, including
Since the pilgrims first landed almost 400 years ago, the
United States has served as a refuge for those fleeing
persecution and oppression. After World War II, when the United
States and so many other nations failed to protect many
refugees from Nazi persecution, the United States led the
effort to establish a structure of universally recognized human
rights norms, beginning with the Universal Declaration of Human
Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
provides that everyone has the right to seek and enjoy asylum
in other countries from persecution. Building on the
recognition of this right as universal, the United States then
worked to establish international standards for the protection
of refugees. More than 30 years ago, the United States formally
bound itself to these standards by acceding to the protocol of
the 1951 Refugee Convention.
The central obligation undertaken by the United States and
other state parties to the treaty was to refrain from returning
any refugee to a place where his life or freedom would be
threatened. This obligation was codified into U.S. law by the
1980 Refugee Act, which also set out a framework for the
independent adjudication, free from political considerations,
of claims for refugee status.
Although not everyone who seeks protection is entitled to
asylum, international legal obligations require states at
minimum to provide fair and effective procedures to determine
who is a refugee. The United States has repeatedly reaffirmed
its commitment to this principle, although recent changes to
U.S. asylum law, such as expedited removal, place the United
States out of step with its tradition of fairness and
compassion toward refugees.
Fair legal procedures and access to legal remedies serve as
the foundation for many international legal instruments to
which the United States is a party, such as the Universal
Declaration on Human Rights and the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights, as well as our own domestic
jurisprudence. Moreover, for these rights to be effective,
adequate procedures must be available to permit their
The Refugee Act of 1980 reflected Congress' concern for
providing access to a fair procedure by explicitly providing
that any alien physically present in the United States may
apply for asylum. This right to seek asylum has subsequently
been subjected to very limited and statutorily defined
exceptions, but importantly, Congress has never deprived
children of the right to seek asylum.
Like their adult counterparts, child asylum seekers flee
their homelands to escape war, persecution, and political
instability. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
estimates that children make up more than half the world's
refugee and internally displaced population, accounting for a
population of 20 million children. The situation is acute. Out
of this population, an estimated 250,000 of these refugee
children are separated from their parents. Although only a
small fraction of this group seeks refuge in the United States,
the need to ensure adequate protection in our laws for this
vulnerable group is paramount.
Unfortunately, the factors that turn children into refugees
are more prevalent and diverse now than at any time since World
War II. Where child refugees were once bystanders in adult
conflicts, this is increasingly not the case. As witnessed in
China, Kosovo and Sierra Leone, and so many other countries
around the world, children are the deliberate targets of human
rights abuses, including infanticide, conscription, ritual
genital mutilation, slave labor, and sexual servitude.
As so eloquently described in the excellent article by
Jacqueline Bhabha and Wendy Young entitled, ``Through A Child's
Eyes: Protecting the Most Vulnerable Asylum Seekers,''
unaccompanied children who must make their way to safety
without the assistance of their parents are most at risk. I
would ask that a copy of this article be entered into the
record of this hearing.
Mr. Smith. Without objection, Mr. Shanfield, that will be
made a part of the record.
Mr. Shanfield. Particularly problematic are cases where
parents are incapable of protecting their children from
persecution, or worse, where parents are complicit in that
persecution. For instance, female genital mutilation is
generally conducted at the behest of a young girl's parents. In
a number of traditional societies, girls are targeted as the
victims of honor killings for opposing their subjugation to
demeaning social roles. To illustrate, one of our clients was
held captive in her father's home and regularly beaten just for
resisting his authority to marry her off against her will.
Children asylum seekers who have friends or relatives in
the United States to guide them through our byzantine asylum
system are surely the fortunate ones. However, many are not so
lucky, and in the case of an unaccompanied child asylum seeker,
their protection from persecution demands a vigilant and pro-
Many children are simply unable to articulate their need
for protection, given their youth, lack of sophistication, and
unfamiliarity with our culture. Identification of child asylum
seekers is therefore a key responsibility. Once identified,
these children must be provided with assistance to effectuate
their rights to refugee protection.
Parents' rights are fundamental, but they are not absolute.
We have seen many instances where parents of child refugees are
either incapable, because of intense pressure or fear of
retaliation by their own government, of protecting their young,
or active participants in their children's persecution. In such
cases, a parent's opposition to a child's need for protection
cannot be the last word.
In contemplating this matter, we must uphold the important
principle that children are part of the human family and have
an independent right to protection from harm and the enjoyment
of fundamental rights. Where the wishes of a parent are at odds
with the child's need for protection, those wishes may have to
yield. The Attorney General, and ultimately the courts, must
ensure that where there is conflict of interest, a child who
needs protection will receive it.
I would like to thank this Committee again for the
opportunity to present the views of the Lawyers Committee. We
are grateful for your attention to this matter, and look
forward to continuing to work with you. I would like to thank
the Committee for your excellent and dedicated work to ensure
that the United States will continue to serve as a beacon for
the oppressed, whatever their homeland, and regardless of their
[The prepared statement of Mr. Shanfield appears in the
Mr. Smith. Thank you very much, Mr. Shanfield.
I yield to the gentlewoman.
Ms. McKinney. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Shanfield, do you have that document with you?
Mr. Shanfield. I'm sorry. Which document are you referring
Ms. McKinney. The one that you asked to be submitted to the
Mr. Shanfield. Yes, I do.
Ms. McKinney. Could you make it available?
Mr. Shanfield. Shall I bring it up?
Ms. McKinney. Yes, please. Thank you.
Mr. Smith. I want to thank our very distinguished panel for
their excellent testimony, and ask you a couple of questions
and then yield to my colleagues.
I understand, Mr. Garcia, you are under very tight time
constraints. Ms. Fuentes spoke earlier about the farm schools
or the involuntary, forced labor that young people are required
to undergo, as the time when children passed into state
custody. Can you speak to that issue?
I mean, many of us are very concerned in the United States,
and it is a global concern, about parental rights and state
intrusion into those parental rights. It would seem the face
that Fidel Castro, through the Elian Gonzalez case, has put on
it is that somehow parents are supreme, rather than subordinate
to the state.
And frankly I was, as I stated earlier before we broke for
those votes, surprised by the Cuban Code of the Child, which we
have the Spanish version of and a number of the articles
translated into English. I would, without objection, ask that
this be made a part of the record. If you could speak to the
issue of this indoctrination. For example, if Elian were to go
back, would he be forced to become a Marxist?
Ms. Fuentes. Are you asking me, Mr. Chairman, or do you
want me to----
Mr. Smith. Mr. Garcia has to leave, I understand. But then,
Ms. Fuentes, I would like to ask you that question as well.
Mr. Garcia [speaking through an interpreter]. If Elian
returns to Cuba, he will be destined to live a life almost in
captivity. In other words, he will be obligated to comply. It
is possible that the slogan of the Pioneers might be changed.
In the present it is ``Pioneers for Communism, we vow to be
like Che.'' Maybe now the slogan will become ``Pioneers for
Communism, we vow to be like Elian.''
Elian will not see his old neighborhood again. Elian will
be protected from the rest of the community in an exclusive
neighborhood in Miramar, in the Miramar neighborhood, a
neighborhood in Havana that because of its strategic location
is under constant surveillance by Cuban Intelligence. That is
where Elian will live with his father.
Ms. Fuentes. In other words, the press--the foreign press
is what he means, foreign press--will not have access to Elian
ever again, in his opinion.
Mr. Garcia. Elian will be made a national--Elian's father
will be made a national hero and maybe will be moved into a
seat in the National Assembly. Because, in my opinion, Elian's
father's lack of courage or perceived lack of courage has
provided Castro with a victory, a political victory against the
United States. Which in the ultimate analysis is what Castro is
concerned about, is interested in, a political victory, and not
necessarily the welfare of Elian or of any other Cuban child.
If Castro were concerned about the welfare and justice for
children, he would have made sure that the 10 bodies, the
children's bodies that are in the ocean from the ``13th of
March'' tugboat capsizing, sinking, would have been properly
rescued. If Castro were interested in the welfare of children,
he would have made sure that a judicial process was started to
bring to justice those responsible for the massacre. However,
the officers responsible for this mass assassination walk the
streets of Havana freely, with absolutely no punishment.
Mr. Smith. Ms. Fuentes, you wanted to respond to that?
Ms. Fuentes. Both the Cuban family, the Children and Youth
Code of Cuba, the Constitution of Cuba, call for the obligatory
formation and the responsibility of everyone involved with the
upbringing of a child to work toward the formation, the shaping
of the Communist--and it says so, I don't have it in front of
me but it is almost as if I were quoting it--the Communist
formation of the personality and of the individual. Anyone who
comes in contact with a child is obligated, whether it be
parents, teachers, counselors, recreation coordinators, anyone
who comes in contact with that child's educational process,
socialization process, is obligated under Cuban law to make of
that child, be it a girl or a boy, a good Communist.
So the answer to the question, ``Will Elian be forced to be
a good Communist, or a Communist, if he is returned to Cuba,''
the answer is, in violation of every single assured right of
the individual, according to the Declaration of Human Rights,
yes, that child will be forced to become a Communist.
It is just not me saying it. These are the legal
instruments of the society to which Elian will be returned.
There are no options. Being a Communist is not an option, being
a Pioneer is not an option, in a society where if a child or
the parents of a child withhold his participation in the
Pioneers organization, that child automatically is stigmatized
as someone coming from a family ideologically deviant, and this
is exactly the terminology that is used, ideological deviance.
Mr. Smith. Dr. Dominguez, you mentioned that this would be
punishable under law. Can you tell us what would be meted out
to an individual, a young person or parents, who stood up to
being forced to become a Communist?
Ms. Dominguez. Well, initially it depends on the age of
when this will occur. Obviously, there are many things that
could happen to a child, one of them being the prevention of
having the ability to enroll in higher education, in choosing
the career that he so desires, he or she so desires. So that
would be the most obvious one, if the child should elect to go
into a higher education field.
It could be many other subtle ways. It could be harassing
in every which way that they could. They do it all the time to
people with dissenting opinions. And in fact under the Penal
Code it is also endorsed and envisioned. The Constitution
itself calls for it. Article 62 very clearly states that is
punishable under the law. It doesn't go into the detail of what
the punishment is under the Constitution, but they have a Penal
Code and they have many other ways of harassing and actually
sanctioning the people who do not agree with their system.
Mr. Smith. Let me ask, Ms. Fuentes, you mentioned that the
state, when it puts out these rousing numbers, which are very
often repeated by UNICEF and others, that indicate that infant
mortality and child survival are relatively high for Cuba, and
yet in very few studies do I see a point that you made, namely
that they terminate potentially troublesome children, I think
is the way you put it.
We had a 1998 joint staff report by the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee and the House International Relations
Committee, which noted that the Cuban regime coerces abortions
for so-called ``social risk pregnancies.'' According to the
report, the ``social risk category'' is extremely broad and
encompasses women over 35, girls under 20, women who have had
three children, women from poor or rural families, and women
with genetically determined illnesses, including things such as
diabetes and hypertension.
You know, I have heard this argument for so long about how
great the medical care is in Cuba, but it ignores the rest of
the picture. I mean, China can also show a very low infant
mortality rate. Several years ago they initiated a draconian
eugenic policy where handicapped children are singled out,
girls, too, but handicapped children are singled out and
killed, so you don't have handicapped kids because they are
being killed by abortion.
And now we see, and we have seen for some time now, the
doctors in Cuba who bring this practice to light, and this is
noted in our Country Report on Human Rights Practices, are
thrown into jail, are beaten. So the whistleblowers find
themselves persecuted when they speak out for women who are
being coerced and for children, and handicapped kids. Our
country made a gargantuan step in the right direction when we
passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, which finally
through law enfranchised handicapped individuals. Now, we see
in Cuba, and we certainly see it in China as well, the
handicapped people are selectively left out of humanity.
If you could speak to that, because you did mention it in
Ms. Fuentes. Mr. Chairman, that, precisely that
enforcement, that forced coercion into abortion of anything
that could spell trouble at the time of childbirth, is the
reason why Dr. Ilda Molina--who is Cuba's and probably Latin
America's most prominent neurosurgeon, founder of the Institute
for Neurological Studies in Cuba, a member, by the way, a
former member of the Cuban National Assembly, one of Fidel
Castro's pride and joy, a woman who is now in her early
forties, so we could say a product of the educational system of
the Revolution--that is precisely the reason why she resigned
as a Congresswoman, as an assemblywoman, because the connection
between the coercion into abortion and the biomedical
production of placenta products, in other words, placentas from
those abortions as raw material, so to speak, I mean for lack
of a better term, for all kinds of pharmaceutical products and
beauty products, especially the cosmetic products, forced her
to, I mean in conscience, to resign her position.
And in resigning her position as an assemblywoman, as a
member of the Cuban National Assembly, she was ousted from her
position as director of the Institute of Neurological Studies,
and not only that, but she is in effect one of those adults who
is virtually kidnapped by the Cuban Government. The Cuban
Government will not allow her to leave the country, not even
for a visit with her son and grandchildren who live in
Argentina, precisely because, according to the government, her
medical information, her scientific knowledge, is an issue of
national security for Cuba.
So there is ample evidence. There are many doctors. The day
that the Committee decides or sees it fit, necessary to conduct
some hearings on the medical, on the real state of medicine in
Cuba, and the violations of human rights that are really
rampant in the medical field, anyone could parade through here
dozens and dozens and dozens of doctors, of Cuban researchers
and physicians who have even served jail terms for, as you call
it, whistle-blowing on these abuses.
So there is ample evidence, with again reams of paper, with
that. If I may, Mr. Chairman, I would like to suggest that
perhaps this panel can introduce into the record at least the
sections of the Cuban Penal Code, of the Constitution, the
Family and Children's Code, that are germane to what we have
discussed here today, so that the Committee and other Members
of Congress can avail themselves from the record.
Mr. Smith. Ms. Fuentes, without objection, we will do that,
and I think it is extremely important. This is the beginning of
a learning curve. Many of us who thought that we knew something
about Cuba, have held hearings before. I actually tried to get
into Cuba, and was not allowed. But let me say that we will
make every effort to get the information that is coming out in
this hearing and in subsequent hearings out.
I mean, I find it outrageous that, in a poll-parroting way,
people will repeat these tremendous statistics and state--with
all due respect, Reverend Walker--that they never saw anybody
that was sick in Cuba. Well, at least the newly borns and the
young people are being aborted.
Reverend Walker, I do have a question for you. You
mentioned, and you cited my favorite scripture, Matthew 25:
``When I was hungry, you gave me to eat; thirsty, you gave me
to drink,'' and you might recall our Lord said, ``When I was in
prison, you visited me.'' You also talked about the need for
reconciliation, which I couldn't agree more with, but part of
my problem is, reconciliation without justice is accommodation,
it is not reconciliation.
And the concern that I have is, in Cuba you have a
dictatorship that continues--like those of Lenin, Nicolae
Ceaucescu, Mao Tse-tung, or even right now in China, Jiang
Zemin--to commit violations each and every day. The Country
Reports on Human Rights Practices cites 350 to 400 political
prisoners, men and women. Everybody at this table potentially
could be thrown into prison if this hearing were being held in
Havana, every one. I would be, Cynthia would be, all of us
would run the risk, and certainly based on what Ms. Fuentes and
others have said, you would be going. You would be getting a
very long jail sentence for speaking so courageously on behalf
of the oppressed.
So reconciliation is important, but without justice, it is
one-sided. I mean, whether it be on El Salvador or South
Africa, truth commissions talk about reconciliation, looking
back; but they also demand that, going forward, that there be
human rights observance. Otherwise, it is a sham.
And, you know, I am not sure if you have read the Country
Reports on Human Rights Practices, but you should. I mean, do
you agree with its contents, where it says that the human
rights record is poor, that the regime systematically violates
civil and political rights of its citizens, the authorities
harass, threaten, arbitrarily arrest, detain, imprison, and
defame human rights advocates and members of independent
professional associations, including journalists, economists,
doctors and lawyers, often with the goal of coercing them into
leaving the country? This is the State Department speaking.
They also point out that the government infringes on citizens'
privacy rights, denying freedom of speech, press, assembly and
And my point is, do you agree with that assessment from the
State Department? And, second, again pursuant to Matthew 25,
have you yourself gone in and visited with these political
prisoners who have been subjected to torture and all kinds of
Rev. Walker. Mr. Chairman, since you have asked me about
five or six questions, it will take a little time to answer
On the matter of reconciliation and, in your view, the
necessity to hold out as a precondition of some discussions
toward understanding, mutual understanding and reconciliation,
justice, is certainly not biblical in the sense that if we have
a standard that is our standard, and we indicate that I would
not discuss with you how we can reach understanding, how we can
resolve our differences, unless you agree with my standard of
justice, there is no basis for communication.
Mr. Smith. Could you yield on that one point, very briefly?
Rev. Walker. Yes.
Mr. Smith. The Cuban Government, Fidel Castro in
particular, has agreed to the myriad of human rights documents,
starting with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a
host of other documents. The problem has been no followup, no
adherence to those documents. And this isn't just a U.S.
Congressman or a U.S. Government official speaking. I mean, the
U.N. sent delegates there some years ago. Those who came
forward and spoke out were retaliated against, so severe is the
repression. So when you talk reconciliation, he has got all the
Rev. Walker. Let me complete my statement, if you don't
mind. What I am suggesting is that there must be mutual
respect, and there must be willingness to sit down and discuss
together mutually--respecting the sovereignty, each side
respecting the sovereignty of another--differences, charges,
problems that exist. And to my understanding, that has not
I think, second, that your matter of visiting those in
prison, yes, I have, and I have talked with ex-prisoners, and I
think it is important for you to know that I have been able to
do some reconciling, to be an intermediary in some cases. I
think it is also important for you to know that while we may
not like it, or while the kind of, I think to a large extent
wishful thinking and this sort of psychological obsession with
Fidel Castro which is reflected here, bars our clarity, I think
the fact is----
Mr. Smith. With all due respect, you are suggesting that I
am psychologically unbalanced. But I have been reading from the
State Department's very, very well considered and well
documented Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. The fact
that there is one man at the helm of that repression doesn't
make me or anyone else who singles him out obsessed--it is the
same way that we would single out Lenin or Stalin or anybody
else who was at the head of a repressive regime.
Rev. Walker. My view, and it is consistent, although from a
different perspective, with that which has been said by at
least two Members of the House, of the Committee is that we
ought to be careful about our language. Some of our language
has suggested that we are not focusing on this basic right of a
parent to be with his child. We are not basically talking about
what is in the interest of a child. We have politicized the
issue, and there are those who are attempting to make it an
issue of what we think about Fidel Castro, what we think about
the Cuban Government.
My point is that to a certain extent those views are
irrelevant. Let me give you an example out of my own personal
experience. I am old enough that I grew up during the
Depression. There were those for whom my parents worked, who
wanted to take me and raise me. These were very well-heeled
economically people, you know, an officer in Exxon Corporation.
My parents made the very clear decision that they had the right
and the responsibility to raise their children. They were
incensed that their rich friends for whom they worked would
even think that they would give up the custody of their
We grew up in poverty. We grew up learning the values that
I talked about today, the values that have shaped me. I assure
you that there were many, many efforts in my own education to
shape my personality, to teach me to be a capitalist, to teach
me to favor free market enterprise, etcetera. That is the
function of any government.
I think it would be irresponsible of the Cuban Government
to claim to be, as it does in its Constitution, a socialist
state, and not teach what that means to its people. We should
not deny that to Cuba. We should allow the parents, who may not
have as much as the distant relatives here in the United States
would have, to raise in this case his, his own child. That is
the issue. The issue for me is the welfare of this child in the
custody of his father, not what Fidel Castro thinks, not all of
these issues which need to be addressed in due course and in
This was not what I was invited to discuss, and I think
that we have reached far beyond, in my view, the bounds of the
specific description of the subject of this hearing. We are now
engaging in a certain degree of prophesy. For example, how can
we sit here and predict that young Elian will be forced to be a
Marxist? I think this is sort of outlandish and irresponsible.
I think there are those who think that, and they may speak
their view. But to declare categorically, this is what is going
to happen, I suggest is not responsible discourse, and I feel
that very seriously.
I know many people in Cuba who are not Marxists, who are
critical of Marxism, at least some aspects of it, and who are
patriotic in their country, who are faithful in their family
responsibilities, who are good, upstanding, outstanding
citizens. And I think that we ought to recognize that people
can be of a different ideological or religious, political
persuasion, and be quality human beings, can be people of
respect and people of integrity, and that we should be able
Mr. Smith. You have sparked some comments from the other
Rev. Walker [continuing]. And that we should be able to
communicate with them and resolve any differences.
Mr. Smith. Doctor.
Ms. Dominguez. I wanted to respond to that because it is in
the Cuban Constitution under Article 39, and I read it before
and I need to go back to it, because it is not me who is saying
it. It is their own Cuban Constitution.
Article 5 starts saying that the Communist Party of Cuba,
described as Marxist-Leninist, is the organized vanguard of the
Cuban nation and is the superior leading force of the society
and the State organizes everything that goes on. And then in
Article 39 it goes into how the State bases its educational and
cultural policies on Marxist ideology, and it promotes the
patriotic education and Communist training for the new
It is right there in the Cuban Constitution. It addresses
that very topic and that very issue.
Mr. Smith. Ms. Fuentes, or Mr. Cohen?
Ms. Fuentes. I will translate for him, and then I would
like to make a comment, if I may.
Mr. Cohen [speaking through an interpreter]. It is very
important to know that anyone who intends to study, who wants
to study in Cuba, for example to finish a university career,
first has to have a political file approved by the school or
the educational institution. In the case of my daughter, for
instance, who was expelled from school not because she was
saying what she thought, speaking her mind, but because of what
her father thinks, and because in order to free her, I tried to
get a visa, automatically that disqualifies her to continue her
I studied at the university. I graduated with a degree in
mathematics. What does mathematics have to do with communism?
During the 5 years I had to pass a subject matter titled
``Scientific Communism.'' If you don't pass that subject
matter, you cannot become a mathematician or a physicist or an
Ms. Torres. Or an artist.
Mr. Cohen [continuing]. Or Ms. Torres is adding on, an
artist or anything else.
Reverend Walker was saying before that he knows people in
Cuba who are not Communists. Probably that is what they tell
him, because that is how the political system works. I was a
witness to how the system worked. The person that is addressing
you and telling you this is someone who was there and was a
witness of how this system works. That is why I am here. That
is why I broke with the government. One of the things that I
hated most was how honest people were utilized, people who
lived in freedom like the Reverend.
There were three categories in the Intelligence Service.
One is to be an agent. The agent is the one that is placed
outside in a foreign country and provides information to Cuba
about the activities in that country.
The second person, the second level is a confidence person,
but for that there is a category that is referred to as a
worthwhile contact. Those are people who come to Cuba. They are
studied, they are actually studied, and they get them to
collaborate in some way with the government, but they have no
secret information. They simply become like spokespersons of
the government. The worthwhile contact people know that they
are, in effect, providing a service to the Cuban Government.
There is a third category, which is the friendly relation,
the friendly contact. This person never knows that he is, in
effect, working for the government. They are used without their
knowledge, really. They are used. They show them the apparent
successes of the Revolution. They are taken to hospitals, they
are taken to biotechnology centers. Anybody would be impressed,
because you never really get to know the other truth.
That person gets a file opened. A file is opened for that
person in Cuba. If tomorrow any one of you goes to Cuba, you
will have a file opened. It doesn't matter who you are. Every
single person that goes to Cuba has a file. You can't possibly
know that reality, but I am a witness of that reality.
This is a time-consuming activity, but it is done with
plenty of time. The person is studied, their motivations, their
weaknesses, their resentments, if they are black, if they are
white, and the system grinds that information into usable
information. I am a witness to that, which is why I broke with
the regime, because there are a lot of honest people,
illustrious people who are very good people, who live in a
world of disinformation, and that Castro actually mocks them.
Believe me, that is the truth, and I am a witness of that.
Mr. Smith. I would like to yield to Cynthia McKinney, and
if time permits, we would like to have a second round of
questions, but if anybody does have to leave, I certainly
understand it. It is getting very late.
Ms. McKinney. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to, I guess,
thank you for calling this hearing, because I have to say that
it has been educational for me as well, and I believe that in
due course we will have more hearings and we will explore the
issue of Cuba even more.
I do want to hear from Mr. Cohen a little more, but I want
to yield to my colleague so that she can go ahead of me.
Ms. Lee. Thank you, and I would like to thank my colleague
for yielding, and also would like to thank the Chair for
allowing me to sit in on this Subcommittee hearing. I serve on
the International Relations Committee Subcommittee on Africa,
but this is an issue that is very important to me. Human rights
of children anywhere in the world are critical in terms of just
the future of the world.
Oftentimes when I travel, and now I am not talking about to
Cuba but I am talking about throughout the world, I am asked as
an African American with regard to what is going on with our
children here in America in terms of the millions of children
living in poverty, in terms of the millions of children who are
homeless, and the disproportionate number of young African
American men in jail for nonviolent offenses. So other
countries and other leaders in countries ask me very similar
questions that we are asking today, and so human rights, of
course, for children anywhere in the world are very important.
Let me say that I have visited Cuba on several occasions. I
wanted to form my own opinions about the realities of Cuba.
Unfortunately, this 40-year embargo has prevented American
citizens from freely traveling, to be able to see and to form
their own opinions. We have a right to travel, and we have not
been able as American citizens to have that right to travel to
Cuba for a variety of reasons, unless we jump through a lot of
So I go so I can come back and try to engage in objective
discussion with regard to United States-Cuba policy. And I
think this dialogue must take place, so I am pleased that this
hearing is taking place today, because this gets us at least to
the dialogue stage.
Now, it is no secret--and one of the reasons I came over
here, Mr. Chairman, is I was sitting in my office watching the
videotape of Elian, and I said I am going to have to come over
to this hearing because I don't know what to do. Quite frankly,
I have to make this statement.
It is no secret that I have supported the return of Elian
to his father. I think that that is the only right thing to do,
that parental custody, the bond between a parent and child,
supersedes any kind of issue with regard to any government in
the world. And so I had the opportunity to visit Mr. Gonzalez
in Cuba and here in Maryland, and I have no reason to believe
that he is not a fit parent. He loves his child, and he should
Today when I saw this videotape, and I wanted to ask
members of the panel what they thought about this, because to
me this videotape has crossed the line, Mr. Chairman. This
videotape, when I saw young Elian on this tape, it reminded me
of oftentimes when we see members of our armed services and
U.S. citizens captured abroad and then put on television and
asked to say questions, and then the tapes are put out to the
media. We as Americans feel incensed that that kind of
propaganda can go out, and here we have a 6-year-old child who
was on television earlier. It just brought back memories of
times when we have to deal with this as American people.
I wanted to see if the panel, any of you felt that that
crossed the line at all in terms of Elian Gonzalez and his
human rights, or if that is something that we think is the
right thing to do to convince the American people that he
should stay in America? I am curious about that.
Mr. Smith. First of all, let me respond, since you are
asking the panel, the witnesses. I happen to believe that this
is unlike the POWs. As a matter of fact, I was on the POW-MIA
Task Force for Vietnam, and made trips over there, and I
remember going through the footage. We were originally talking
about live sightings and then unfortunately it became just a
matter of trying to repatriate remains.
But in looking at all of those old clippings, there were
men under duress, who were tortured day in and day out. Witness
Jeremiah Denton, Sam Johnson, both of whom have written books,
and many, many others who were being coerced and tortured if
they didn't say exactly what they were told to say--matter of
fact, Jeremiah Denton, while he was giving his testimony,
false, about how great things were, was actually blinking
``torture'' in Morse code. He had the presence of mind to do
that during that horrific ordeal.
I have met many, many people who have lived in captivity,
such as Armando Valladares, one of the greatest leaders of
democracy, who was actually Reagan's Ambassador to Geneva, the
Geneva Convention on Human Rights. I have read his book,
``Against All Hope,'' and then talked to him extensively about
the torture that he had to endure, day in and day out, in
Castro's prisons. That may be putting a name on it. They are
Castro's prisons, like it or not, just like they were Stalin's
gulags, and then they became Khrushchev's and other people's in
the former Soviet Union.
Here we have a young child who has bonded very closely to a
young lady, and I have met with this young lady, the cousin. I
have met with other members of the family. He seems to love her
and has substituted the love that he loved so deeply for his
own mother, for this other caregiver, this surrogate mother,
call her whatever you would like, Marisleysis. And you have a
situation where the family deeply loves this child, and they
put out a video. I don't think that crosses the line.
And to make the comparison to men in combat or any other
prison-like situation where they have been tortured, goes over
the line, I say with all due respect to my friend. Because I
watched that video this morning, and it comported with
everything else that has been said. I happen to argue, and I
argued again this morning when we opened up this hearing, I
would hope that a court of competence would look at the best
interests of the child.
And we have seen, while Reverend Walker would disagree that
we can't have prophetic views whether or not he will become a
Marxist, you know, past is prologue. The clear, unmistakable
record of the Communist dictatorship in Cuba, and there are
supporting documents, witnesses to that repression, year in and
year out, have come forward to assert that in that system of
education there will be a very aggressive attempt to mold this
individual in a Marxist-Leninist perspective. That is just
based on all of the documentation.
Ms. Lee. Would the Chairman yield?
Mr. Smith. Let me just conclude. So I happen to think that,
whether it was right or wrong, that was up to the family, but
it certainly, absolutely does not compare in any way to men who
have been coerced under pain of being kicked when they return
to their jail cells in Vietnam, or in Iraq when our fliers were
paraded by Saddam Hussein, absolutely not.
Ms. Lee. Would the Chairman yield?
Mr. Smith. I will be happy to yield.
Ms. Lee. Mr. Chairman, no, I think you made the point. What
my point is, is given what you just said, is this an
appropriate mechanism or tactic to use----
Mr. Smith. Well, as I said, I think it is appropriate, and
I thank the gentlelady for yielding. I also know the Cuban
Government was very outraged when a major network personality
interviewed Elian. What is being left out of this, in my view,
is best interests of the child. We will shortly vote on The
Hague Convention on Adoption, and peppered throughout that
document is that phrase, ``best interests of the child.'' And
maybe it is to return with his father. I would hope that his
father, if given the opportunity, could make a case for staying
But we are talking about a situation where we have not
heard at all. I am learning things myself today, and I have
been following Cuba for years, about this code that is forced
upon young children. Now, we would never settle for that. And I
think the more time we have as this goes forward, I will make a
major case on the floor about this robbing of parents of their
rights, including Elian's dad.
You know, when his child, Elian, goes, if he does go back
to Cuba, when he is now handed off for the final molding by the
government, where are we going to be? You know, we will have
lost that child. Maybe he will come back. Maybe he will resist
it. People do resist it. But he will be molded. And I think we
have got to think of his future. That is not prophetic. That is
based on all of the available evidence that reasonable men and
women can possibly have.
Ms. McKinney. Mr. Chairman? Mr. Chairman, would you just
Mr. Smith. Yes.
Ms. McKinney. Is it not the case that Elian is being molded
now? I have got a report here that says that he fell in love
with chocolate milk, and when his relatives give him chocolate
milk, they tell him Fidel Castro won't let his grandma make
that for him in Cuba. Is he not being molded now? And could
that have some bearing on----
Mr. Smith. Let me just say, since----
Ms. McKinney [continuing]. The content of that video? I
have not seen the videotape, so I don't know it, but it
certainly appears to me that there is some molding going on
Mr. Smith. Yes, Mr. Diaz-Balart.
Mr. Diaz-Balart. I know we have a vote, and I want to first
thank you, Mr. Chairman, again for this opportunity, and I just
want to make sure that I have this opportunity to thank all the
panel. Ileana, I know you are leaving, thank you. Thank you.
And I have felt very proud of all the Cuban and Cuban-
American members of the panel, and you, sir, from the Lawyers
Committee, for standing up for children's rights. Children have
rights. They have a right to seek political asylum, and it is
in the regs, and I have read the regs. Any alien means any
person, including a child, and I am glad that you all picked up
I just want to say this. I have had a chance to meet Elian.
Elian is a human being, and he is a brilliant 6-year-old. The
fact that people may be bothered because he likes freedom, he
likes to be in the United States and he doesn't like to go back
to oppression, is no excuse for saying that he is not speaking
the truth when he tells Sister Jean, changes her mind; when he
tells Diane Sawyer, changes her mind; when he tells a
psychiatrist that Diane Sawyer brought, changes his mind; and
now he tells the world--I haven't seen that video--but
everybody who talks to him, he knows apparently, since this
administration is not following its own precedents and
procedure, that he has got to act as his own lawyer, and that
is the sad case.
That is the reality of Elian Gonzalez. So he doesn't want
to go back to oppression. He is 6 years old, and he is
convinced of that. And I remember when I was 6 years old, I
knew what was going on in Cuba, and I wouldn't have wanted to
go back to oppression when I was 6 years old.
And I just want to ask one question of Mr. Cohen, if I may,
if I can ask you a question.
Ms. Fuentes. I have got to go.
Mr. Diaz-Balart. Do you really believe, do you believe that
after Elian fades as a human interest story, do you think that
Castro will take the risk of letting Elian and his father
exist? (Repeated in Spanish.)
Mr. Cohen. Never. (Remarks in Spanish.)
Rev. Walker. May we have a translation? Somebody?
Ms. Dominguez. I could do it.
Mr. Cohen. You better, because I don't want to make any
mistake in this.
Mr. Diaz-Balart. Dr. Dominguez will translate.
Mr. Cohen. Who, you?
Ms. Dominguez. I will.
Mr. Cohen. OK. Anybody. [Speaking through an interpreter.]
Here is the reality. Where is Rowina? Where is Aldana?
[Ms. Fuentes resumes as the interpreter.] The answer is no.
We know how the system works. And if you want to know what has
happened in the past, don't look at this humble family. You can
look at the example of the best and most prominent government
officials. The most recent one is Rowina, who was the Foreign
Minister, a public figure who had traveled the entire world,
with contacts in every foreign office in the world. The
question is, has anyone seen Rowina again? Has any journalist,
has any foreign journalist been able to interview Mr. Rowina
again? Where is Mr. Rowina?
But before Rowina there was Mr. Aldana, and all the
previous VIPs that Fidel has vanished. So you are really able
to answer this question on your own. Would Castro allow this
child, in another 2 years, or the grandmothers, or his father,
to stand before the foreign press and say, ``Well, perhaps we
made a mistake.'' Things are already happening. Elian's father
can't even get together with his own family. The grandmothers
were not allowed to meet with their own family. And if I wanted
to go to Bethesda now and speak to Elian's father, to ask him
to intercede for my own family, you could witness if you came
with me that I would not be allowed to do that either, because
it is a risk that Fidel Castro will not take. Thank you.
Mr. Diaz-Balart [presiding]. I fully agree with you, and I
think that anyone who understands the reality of Cuba would
agree with you, and that is why it is so monstrous to see that
they are turning this child back to what is inevitably,
inevitably a situation where, after he ceases to be a human
interest story, after he can perhaps be visited at that mansion
that Mr. Garcia talked about before, that he will probably be
placed in, after that passes, Castro will simply not take the
risk that 2 years from now or 3 years from now, any member of
that family can show up and say things were different to as
they were being portrayed by Castro and the Clinton
administration. So that shows how monstrous that situation is.
I want to also thank, in addition to all the panelists,
Ms. Torres. Thank you.
Mr. Diaz-Balart [continuing]. For pointing out the truth
about Cuba. The history of your family, by the way, people of
color in the history of Cuba have had a disproportionate, had a
disproportionate, extraordinarily disproportionate role in the
liberation of Cuba.
Ms. Torres. Cuba is always being outstanding, we are in the
right to be part of the country, and----
Mr. Diaz-Balart. Not only that, not only the right to be
part of the----
Ms. Torres [continuing]. Of everything that happens in the
Mr. Diaz-Balart [continuing]. But that, as I said before,
the great source of strength that Castro had from the beginning
was racism. He was always viewed as----
Ms. Torres. The opponent of Batista, who was a colored man.
Mr. Diaz-Balart. And remember that there was the phrase
(Spanish phrase). That is just an aside.
Ms. Torres. Well, they wanted the devil to come, and they
Mr. Diaz-Balart. But what is interesting, what is
interesting, how interesting it is that----
Ms. Torres. Well, let me tell you something----
Mr. Diaz-Balart [continuing]. In the context, in the
context of Cuban history----
Rev. Walker. Do we deserve a translation or not? Please.
Mr. Diaz-Balart. What language am I speaking in?
Rev. Walker. Can someone translate? You spoke Spanish which
was not translated.
Ms. Fuentes. (Spanish phrase) Meaning, that was the popular
word out, let the black----
Mr. Diaz-Balart. The rich bourgeoisie----
Ms. Fuentes. For the rich class, mostly, ``Let the black
man get out of power,'' Batista, who was a black, a mulatto,
``Let the black man go, even if what comes after is chaos.''
And that is very true.
Ms. Torres. Can I point out something? During Castro, we
always live in fear, that they tell us not to go to America,
``No, don't travel to America because the KKK is going to take
you, the dogs are there, black is treated like hell,'' and it
has always been a very hard issue for black people to leave
First of all, it was the economical lack of power for
Cubans, because first in the 1950's who left the country were
the white people who were in power, because they were the rich
people. Then the black people had to stay, and when finally we
decided to leave, it was too late and people were feared that
there was something happening here with the black people. So it
wasn't until the 1980's that black people took conscious that
we were able to leave too, because we had even the right to be
against the government too. I mean, it is not that we have to
bow to everything that happens in the country.
Mr. Diaz-Balart. Mr. Chairman, I have to leave. I want to
again thank you, Neri, thank all of the panelists. I know Mr.
Walker is leaving. I wanted to ask you one question. You said
you visited political prisoners. Can you give us some names?
Rev. Walker. I have an appointment and I am running late,
but I would be glad to talk to you anytime.
Mr. Diaz-Balart. Well, if you could just provide some names
of political prisoners you visited, it would be very
I think his exit is most enlightening, at this point.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for pointing out so
many of the unfortunate realities of today's Cuba and what
would face Elian if the Clinton administration gets its way.
Mr. Smith [presiding]. Thank you, Mr. Diaz-Balart.
Let me ask Mr. Cohen, I understand that you went to the
National Council of Churches to ask that they intervene on your
family's behalf. Can you tell us about this?
Mr. Cohen [speaking through an interpreter]. My family has
gone to all the government agencies and departments, including
all the religious institutions in Cuba, all the religious
denominations, and among the groups that my family went to
visit was the National Council of Churches chapter in Cuba.
I personally sent a fax letter to Ms. Campbell, to Reverend
Campbell. My family also sent the information directly to the
National Council of Churches office in Havana, in Cuba. I have
yet to receive an answer from the U.S. office of the National
Council of Churches. My wife was called in Cuba, was called to
Oto Marachal's office, from the National Council of Churches in
Cuba, but basically the message was, ``We can only do what
Fidel Castro allows us to do.''
That is exactly what happened with the Jewish community. I
am of Jewish origin. My family approached Dr. Jose Miller, who
is the president of the Jewish Congregation in Cuba, who made--
he participated in one of those open forums in favor of the
return of Elian to Cuba. Miller hasn't even called my family.
What we have realized is that all these institutions in Cuba
can only do what Fidel Castro allows them to do.
That is the sad reality of my family. Thank you.
Mr. Smith. Thank you very much, Mr. Cohen.
I would like to yield to our chief counsel and staff
director, Grover Joseph Rees.
Mr. Rees. Mr. Shanfield, I take it from the Lawyers
Committee testimony that you do recognize that where there is
an apparent conflict or the possibility of a conflict, that the
child's interest isn't exactly the same as the parent's, then
some other person should be allowed to file an asylum
application for the child and there should be some kind of a
proceeding to determine whether it is appropriate for that to
Now, what do you say to the argument that has been made
here earlier, that if you allow somebody other than the
parent--where there is a parent living, even if that parent is
in the country that it is alleged will cause the persecution of
the child--that if you allow other people to file asylum
applications, every child who happens to be in the United
States, the child of an ambassador from a terrible country, or
rather a country with a terrible government, or some visitor,
that we would simply have lots and lots of children in this
situation who would not ever be able to be with their parents
after that? How would you limit this in order to make sure that
wasn't what was going on?
Mr. Shanfield. Well, what is at stake here is that every
child should have access to a fair adjudication of an asylum
claim; that any child, with support or without support, has an
opportunity to receive protection from the United States.
It is difficult to speak to the specifics of this
circumstance, but what has happened in this case seems to run
contrary to permitting access to children. What we have at
stake here is a decision by the Attorney General, supported by
the District Court, where the Attorney General has been
basically granted unfettered discretion to determine what ``any
alien'' means. If the Attorney General can say that Elian
Gonzalez does not fall under the rubric of ``any alien,'' I am
uncomfortable about what is going to happen to future children
where there may be conflict between that child, a parent or a
Mr. Smith. Ms. McKinney.
Ms. McKinney. Sure. I don't know, Mr. Chairman, if you
asked the question about whether the U.S. Government had helped
Mr. Cohen with his particular situation, so why don't we start
off with that?
Ms. Fuentes. Is that your question?
Ms. McKinney. Yes.
Mr. Cohen [speaking through an interpreter]. I met
personally with Charles Shapiro with the State Department. He
saw me in his office. He explained to me that he had full
knowledge of my situation, of my case. He said that every 6
months they give a report, a 6-month report to the Cuban
Government, asking for reparation on the violation of the
treaty and presenting cases where the treaties are being
violated. But the Cuban Government, according to Mr. Shapiro,
the Cuban Government has never given him an answer, given the
State Department an answer.
I know that Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen and Congressman
Lincoln Diaz-Balart have also done their bit on my behalf, and
I also think Congressman Serrano has taken up my case, who did
not know of my case until about 2 weeks ago. He learned about
my case in a television program where he was a speaker, a guest
speaker with Oliver North. Michele from his office was here
with us just now, and she said to me that they wanted to show
me what Congressman Serrano's office was doing for the case. I
truly believe that someone like Congressman Serrano or someone
like Reverend Lucius Walker, because of a more friendly
relationship with Castro, if they interceded my family would
probably be released immediately, and I hope that this happens.
Ms. McKinney. Could you talk to me a little bit about what
your responsibilities were with the Intelligence Service?
Mr. Cohen. In Cuba?
Ms. McKinney. Yes.
Mr. Cohen. OK. [Speaking through an interpreter.] I
specifically worked taking care of, in other words, giving
personal attention to foreign investment in Cuba. I worked for
a department the M-6 Department, whose charge, whose mandate
was to study, to do a profile on any foreign, potential foreign
investor from any foreign country who were coming to, you know,
I also worked for a time, a while, in other departments. In
one of those departments, I worked in another department whose
objective was to, in effect, steal technological information
from the United States For example, there was a case where
there was someone, the case of a microprocessor, the technology
of that that the Cuban Government wanted to have, even though
this technology cannot be used in Cuba because there is just no
way of using it. But the Cuban Government would then send that
information, release that information to governments like the
Iraqi Government, sometimes like China.
That is why sometimes I say to friends, people that I know,
that I am friends with in this country, that Fidel Castro is
not just the enemy of the Cuban family or of the Cuban people.
He is an enemy of all of us, yourself included, yourselves
But in order for me to explain this, a lot of people say to
me I am betraying Fidel Castro. And my answer is, Fidel Castro
has betrayed the Cuban people. And the people I don't want to
betray are my people, is my people, because I was forced, I had
no choice, really. That is my reality, and I am branded by that
past. That is a result of having had no choice, up to a point.
Ms. McKinney. You mentioned that the Cuban Government keeps
Mr. Cohen. The Cuban Government?
Ms. McKinney [continuing]. Yes, keeps a file on people who
travel there. And we have recently learned that the U.S.
Government itself might be keeping files, as well, similar
kinds of files. Recent revelations about a particular program
of the National Security Agency called ``Echelon'' that
monitors all telephone calls, all e-mails, all faxes, all
communication that I would conduct with my colleague, any
communication that I would conduct with friends that I have
abroad, it is my understanding, and we are just finding this
out, that all of that communication has the potential of being
intercepted by the U.S. Government.
Now, when I went to China, I was told that one of the bad
things about China was that they listen to the e-mails and the
communications of people in China, and so I am a bit shocked to
discover that my own government does the same thing. But I
shouldn't be very much surprised because my father's name was
mentioned as one who was under surveillance by the government,
whatever, local or Federal Government, because of his civil
rights activities in this country.
So I don't know that--I guess the point I am trying to make
is that perhaps, maybe it is just the nature of government,
period, that our private, innermost thoughts are intercepted or
can be intercepted by people that we trust.
Ms. Fuentes. He says first of all he doesn't really know
the extent to which things are operant in this country.
Mr. Cohen [speaking through an interpreter]. But I want to
say that there is a great difference, and I will explain. If
there are files that the U.S. Government has available or has
opened, it is because the United States is protecting its own
Nation, its own interests. The President of the United States
is democratically elected, and I feel that all the strength of
government and all the efforts are rightfully praised in
preserving the security and the survival of this country, of
this system, of this Nation.
The difference that I see when comparing it to Cuba, that
in Cuba the only interests that are being advocated for or
defended are the interests of one person, of one ego, not the
interests of the whole nation. The interests of the people are
really not the ones that are being advocated.
And the saddest thing I see is that in Cuba someone like
you could not possibly say what you have just said in a country
where there is freedom. No one can go up to the National
Congress, the National Assembly, with a different idea or with
a criticism of some sort.
Which is why I respect this country and I admire it,
because I am a witness. I have seen that freedom, those rights,
but that freedom that we enjoy here, that the society enjoys,
is unfortunately used by the Cuban Government, by governments
like the Cuban Government. I truly, from the bottom of my
heart, respect your points of view, and I have a lot of things
to learn from a person like you.
But you have a photograph of Elian on your lapel, and you
are advocating for his return to Cuba. That is freedom. But to
think that in Cuba anybody could have a photograph on their
lapel of my family, do you really think that anyone in Cuba can
say on the street that they are in favor of the reunification
of this family? This is what I think makes up the difference,
and every day I thank God for allowing me to see all this and
be here. Thank you.
Ms. McKinney. Thank you.
I would just like to remind the Chairman that we do have
victims of our own government, U.S. Government excesses in the
COINTEL program, the counterintelligence program, where African
American and minority leaders were targeted and in some cases
eliminated because of their advocacy for freedom for black
people and minorities in this country.
I have other information that I would like to submit for
the record, Mr. Chairman. I have got a letter from Congressman
Ney and some information from Congressman Ciro Rodriguez, who
would like to have their information entered into the record.
Mr. Smith. Without objection, those additions will be made
a part of the record.
Ms. McKinney. Finally, Mr. Chairman, if I can be indulged
just two questions more, one on Amnesty International reports
that, of 27,000 people interviewed, they only found 10 who had
claims of political persecution. Do the panelists think that
this is reflective of the reason why people leave Cuba?
Mr. Cohen [speaking through an interpreter]. Twenty-seven
thousand Cubans, interviewed by Amnesty International----
Ms. McKinney. Yes.
Mr. Cohen [continuing]. In Cuba?
Ms. McKinney. No. These are people who had left, and I
believe that, yes, they were in Guantanamo Bay, I believe. I
can find out.
Ms. Dominguez. Ms. McKinney, I would like to answer that,
please. Actually, I was very involved in Guantanamo, and I can
One of the reasons that perhaps Amnesty International was
not able to find as many people interested in applying for
asylum is because we do have the Cuban Adjustment Act, and many
people would not--the asylum process is very difficult. It is
hardly understood by people who come in from systems that are
repressive. They do not understand what the procedure is all
I do conduct a class on a weekly basis to people who are
seeking asylum, because I think it is our duty to inform them
about the procedure. It is very difficult to understand, and I
am talking about Chinese, I am talking about Haitians, I am
talking about Colombians, I am talking about Cubans. And I find
that it is my duty to explain the process because many people
might have a case, and yet they are not able to elaborate or to
explain it to the satisfaction of the asylum officer, and that
could have happened to anyone who might not have been able to
hear it explain, the procedure beforehand.
One of the things that we are finding now in Cuba is that
unfortunately we have the in-country refugee processing
program, and unlike many other countries, Cuba does not allow
NGO's or a ``VOLAG,'' (what we call a ``VOLAG'')to go in and
act as a mediator or as a facilitator between the United States
Government officer and the Cuban Government. And that is why a
lot of people who then reach the U.S. Interest Section cannot
qualify, because they do not know.
I do have now a program that gets aired to Cuba every
Wednesday, where I explain precisely the immigration rules and
regulations, because we do want to actually encourage the
orderly process in immigration, under immigration laws. And I
don't think that the interviews are really reflective, in
answer to your question. I think this just basically reflects
the overall response of anyone who comes out of the country and
they don't know what to say because they don't know what is
Besides, they are in fact very fearful when you have an
officer interviewing them, and Amnesty International people
might have come across as maybe people who might have been
representing a government agenda. And that, it happens to me
too. I always have to clarify, I do not represent the
government. I have to first establish myself as an NGO before
they can even confide in me. It is very difficult.
And again I wanted to touch also on a point that somebody
asked about Mr. Cohen's situation. I think he is not unique.
There are many, many things that happen to people who actually
ask for asylum here in the United States. They are granted
asylum, and yet their family members are really sanctioned in
Cuba. The United States Government does not disclose this
information but yet, because of the procedural processes that
exist there, because of the in-country refugee processing
program, the Government of Cuba does punish the family members
and they do retaliate by avoiding or denying the exit visas to
And I would suggest something else to this Subcommittee.
There are migration talks every 6 months between Cuba and the
State Department and INS. It would be very interesting and very
useful for many of you to actually try to find out what goes on
during those migration talks. There are certain, I am sure,
understandings and agreements that might even be impacting the
situation that we have today.
I can tell you that from my experience, people in his [Mr.
Cohen's] situation, this has been going on forever. I mean,
this is not new. We have a long list of cases. The United
States has stepped in many times to try to resolve this issue.
We haven't yet come to any, you know, conclusive solution to
this. But I just wanted to let you know that this has been
going on for a while.
Mr. Smith. Would my friend from Georgia yield to Joseph
Ms. McKinney. Sure.
Mr. Smith. Joseph Rees used to be the general counsel of
the INS before becoming chief counsel and staff director of the
International Operations and Human Rights Subcommittee.
Mr. Rees. I just wanted to comment that that statistic, 10
out of 27,000, I assume that you knew that that wasn't that
Amnesty thought there were only 10 legitimate refugees out of
27,000. That was the number that INS found out of 27,000 people
who managed to escape on rafts and were picked up on the high
And that statistic is eerily reminiscent of the number of
Haitians that we found when we were doing that for about 10
years between 1981 and 1991. Out of 22,000 people interviewed,
we only found 11 people who were deemed to be refugees. Well,
once we started doing it right in 1991, we found 30 percent to
at least have a credible case of being refugees.
So a lot of it just depends on how close a look you take,
and I think the Chairman will probably take Professor Dominguez
up on the suggestion that we need to take a closer look both at
the in-country refugee processing, at the interviews for the
people who come on rafts, and at what impact those migration
Ms. McKinney. Thank you. My final question would be about
U.S. policy to overthrow Castro. There have been assassination
attempts and other kinds of biological terrorism that has been
used, invasion on at least one occasion, to try and overthrow
Castro, and nothing has worked. Why?
Mr. Cohen [speaking through a translator]. My personal
opinion, so many of these things happened long before I was
born, that I don't think there really was a serious attempt on
the part of this country to kill Fidel Castro. This is my
personal opinion. Why do I feel this way? I also do not have
evidence, and I don't think any of us here have evidence of
everything that Fidel Castro says or claims that has been done
as attempts on his life. I think there is a CIA document to the
effect, that addresses this issue, but I personally don't think
that there was ever a serious, a real serious, concerted
Neither would I want to advocate in favor or to opine in
favor of such attempts. What I can say to you, the
demoralization, the breakdown of authority, of degradation, of
humiliation, of lost values of the Cuban intelligence system or
the counterintelligence system would not allow--no, ``allow''
is not the word--would not withstand a real serious attempt.
In other words, a few months ago a member of Castro's
personal bodyguard defected. His name was Lazaro Betancourt,
more or less my age, whose family is in Cuba, of course as a
hostage. And I told him, ``Are you the only one who feels this
way?'' ``No, I'm the only one who dared to defect, because not
everyone is willing to have their family be retained as a
hostage and be harassed.''
Truly, and Castro knows this, all of that, all of this
system, this entire thing will end with his life. When his life
ends, all of this will come to an end. Not that we are betting
on this or that you are betting on it, or that we are
projecting or prophesying or anything like that. Cuba will be
And he knows, Castro knows, that no one is going to really
attempt to end his life, not in Cuba, because there are no
conditions that would enable such an attempt, because there is
over a 2,000-man security force around him, with 33,000 men,
and you can't get weapons in Cuba freely. So whatever attempts
might have occurred in the past, I don't really think they were
motivated truly or seriously, and of course for Castro that
becomes, he turns it into some sort of victory. Thank you.
Ms. McKinney. Mr. Chairman, I would like to put additional
information into the record about those assassination attempts.
Mr. Smith. Mr. Cohen, thank you. I just have one final
question, and I think, Mr. Cohen, you might be the right one to
direct it to.
When the grandmothers came to the United States and met
with Sister Jean and Elian, there were reports that Cuba's or
Castro's agents accompanied them. Is that the same today? Is
that true, in your opinion?
And, second, Mr. Gonzalez, who is obviously here in the
United States right now, are agents also accompanying him, both
in-country or people who have come with him? And, in your view,
and I know this is speculation--but is he operating on a
script? I mean, if he steps off and says something out of
balance, is there a possibility of retaliation?
Mr. Cohen [speaking through a translator]. The first public
appearance that Mr. Gonzalez made was to look for the--to show
the video--oh, there is a video of that presentation, of that
first public appearance. The person immediately to his right,
is Felix Wilson. He is an officer of the B-1 Intelligence
Department. M-1, I'm sorry, ``M'' as in Mary, 1. He knows me; I
The M-1 Department, their task, their mandate is to
operate, to guide operations against the United States. There
are various departments, sub-departments within that
department. There is Department M-1, Section 1. That is where
Felix Wilson works, and his task, his responsibilities are
emphatically, in other words, on the U.S. Government. That is
The target of this gentleman is the United States, so his
task is to develop relationships with, for example, university
professors, with scholars, to do a review, to do a profile on
them, to inform, to try to influence lobbying in Congress, with
a structured methodology that takes 75 percent of propaganda,
or in other words, untruth, and 25 percent of truth. And this,
according to Mr. Cohen, is a methodology of preparing
Elian's father is here, and he has to answer, he has to act
according to that libretto, to that script. He cannot speak
freely, he cannot speak openly, and he cannot contact his
family here, his American family. And the reason why he cannot
contact the family, he will discover the actual truth of what
his potential life could be in this country. In other words, he
will have access to information that is withheld from him by
the Cuban Government.
That doesn't mean that if he contacts his family, he will
automatically make a decision to stay in the United States,
because the grandmothers are there, in other words, his mother.
There is a lot of family pressures and people left behind. But
he will discover an alternative reality, the reality that we
have here, and that is a great risk for Fidel Castro's balanced
Mr. Smith. Thank you very much for that answer and for the
insight it provides us. I would like to thank our very
distinguished witnesses. If they have anything further they
would like to convey to the Subcommittee?
On behalf of my Ranking Member, Ms. McKinney from Georgia,
the other Members of the Committee, we thank you so very much.
We will be getting back to you probably with some additional
questions, and this will be the first in a series of hearings,
so I look forward to building on this record and as widely as
possible disseminating the information. So we do thank you so
Mr. Cohen. Thank you. Thank you very much.
Ms. Dominguez. Thank you.
Ms. Fuentes. Thank you.
[Whereupon, at 6:40 p.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
April 13, 2000
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.001
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.002
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.003
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.004
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.005
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.006
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.007
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.008
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.009
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.010
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.011
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.012
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.013
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.014
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.015
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.016
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.017
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.018
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.019
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.020
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.021
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.022
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.023
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.024
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.025
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.026
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.027
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.028
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.029
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.030
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.031
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.032
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.033
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.034
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.035
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.036
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.037
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.038
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.039
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.040
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.041
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.042
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.043
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.044
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.045
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.046
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.047
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.048
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.049
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.050
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.051
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.052
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.053
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.054
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.055
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.056
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.057
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.058
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.059
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.060
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.061
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.062
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.063
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.064
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.065
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.066
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.067
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.068
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.069
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.070
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.071
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.072
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.073
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.074
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.075
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.076
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.077
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.078
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.079
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.080
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.081
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.082
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.083
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.084
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.085
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.086
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.087
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] T8020.088