By Ron VandenBoom
It must have been a horrified Elian Gonzalez that was snatched from the home of his Miami relatives Saturday morning by armed federal agents.
They removed the 6-year-old child by force after five fruitless weeks of effort on the part of Attorney General Janet Reno to reunite the boy with his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez.
While the majority of Americans agree that the child needed to be reunited with his father, the lingering question now seems to be: was the amount of force excessive and were negotiations about to resolve the issue without the use of force.
Reno, after the raid, characterized negotiations as "stalled" and claimed the Gonzalez family continued to move the goal posts. Left with little choice and frustrated by the lack of agreement, Reno felt she had no option left.
I too watched the weeks-long negotiations wondering when the government would finally say "enough" and move in to take the boy.
I know, deep down inside, that if it were my family holding a child illegally, there would be no hesitation on the part of authorities to retrieve the boy.
The political issues, the large crowds in the street, and the involvement of local, state, and federal, political figures, were the only things allowing the Gonzalez family to escape enforcement of the order immediately.
They were also what ultimately necessitated the use of heavily armed federal agents.
It was no longer possible for one or two sheriff's deputies to casually knock on the door and politely ask for the child. The early morning raid complete with automatic weapons, riot gear, and military style tactics, were the only option that would guarantee the safety of the agents and the success of the mission.
Let's not forget, the goal of the Miami family had always been to keep Elian from being returned to Cuba and therefore from being returned to his father. It was a completely political reason standing in the way of the transfer.
I am convinced the Lazaro family also was caught up in the spotlight reveling in the national attention that came with their newfound status as spokespersons for the anti-Castro, Cuban-American community.
A lot of truth seems to have gotten brushed under the carpet in the haze of anti-Castro rhetoric. It has been common over the last several months to hear anti-Castro supporters claim that Elian's mother lost her life seeking freedom from Castro's Cuba. The comments imply Elian's mother was a martyr who died escaping tyranny and wanting only freedom for her son.
The reality is she was an apolitical figure who, as near as can be determined, was trying to reach her boyfriend in the United States. Her decision to leave Cuba had nothing to do with freedom and taking Elian with her was nothing more than child endangerment a criminal act in this country.
I have also wondered why there was such deep concern over the psychological health of Elian, and the need for psychologists, when discussing the custody transfer, but virtually no attempt was made to provide counseling when he first arrived here and was suffering the loss of his mother and near death at sea.
I still believe parents possess certain inalienable rights in relationship to their children. Among those rights is the right to custody. Also included is the right to chose where you will raise your children and in what political atmosphere. It is a right you possess regardless of whether I agree with your decision or not.
It is not up to me, or the government, to decide what a parents religion, politics, employment, education, or ethnic background should be in order to measure up to the yardstick of political correctness.
Juan Miguel Gonzalez had a right to his child and Reno was right to return him.