The significance of Fidel Castro in the memory of Juan Miguel González, father of Elián, recalls today one of the most memorable battles devised by the historical leader of the Revolution: the return of the child to the island.
“Without him, without his wise decisions, without his physical presence in every act, in every march, without his leadership I think this would not have been posible”, said Juan Miguel in an interview with Escambray.
The cause of the child born in 1993 in Cárdenas, Cuban province of Matanzas, gave rise to a worldwide campaign demanding his return to the island. The barely six-year-old had been rescued by American fishermen a few days after the shipwreck in which his mother and other people died when trying to reach the United States illegally.
According to Juan Miguel, Fidel followed step by step the legal process he was faced with in the North American country to recover his son who had been kidnapped by his relatives in Miami, Florida. These people counted on the support of the anti-Cuban mafia. The Commander in Chief led an unprecedented battle in this respect that turned into one of the most important political victories of the island against the North American government, he added.
The article says that as soon as Juan Miguel caught on the trap being prepared in Miami, he asked the help of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba (Minrex), so that its authorities would handle the return of his son, Elián. However, both Fidel and Juan Miguel knew that in more than 40 years the US government had never agreed to file a legal request of that nature, that’s why they needed the help of the people and the international community to denounce the kidnapping.
Juan Miguel said to Fidel that he had no interest in going there, all he wanted was to have Elián back. The Cuban leader told him not to worry because starting the next day, the whole country would be involved in the claim for the return of his son.
“After talking for an entire night with Fidel, I felt a great relief. I felt calmer when I saw that the leadership of the country and our lifelong leader, personally met me and gave me their support”, said González.
Almost five months after the kidnapping, on April 22, 2000, Attorney General Janet Reno announced in the CBS that little Elian was traveling by plane to the Andrews Air Base, in Washington DC, where he will meet with his father.
Juan Miguel said that on the way to the airport, he received a phone called from the marshalls that had rescued his son and he could talk to him. He was crying. He told him to be quiet, that those were his friends, and that they would both meet soon.
“When the plane landed, it entered a hangar. I remember someone lent me an overcoat because Elián had been taken out of the house where he was staying in underware and just convered with a blanket. I went through all that hangar until I got to the plane and to where he was. People said that when we both hugged, if a needle fell, we would feel the noise”, he recalled.
Elián’s classmates and part of the family gave him a memorable welcome in Havana’s José Martí Airport. “He (Fidel) was not physically present, as he is not today, yet he was the most present, I would say, because he was aware of the least that happened”, Juan Miguel added.
Since then, the Cuban leader maintained a close friendship with child Elián and his family. He visited his home and school on several occasions, which Juan Miguel considers as unique moments.