Elian Gonzalez’s Attorney Endorses Holder
When Attorney General nominee Eric Holder appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, he may well be asked about Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban castaway boy whose incredible saga dominated the news in the spring of 2000. At the time, Holder was serving as deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration.
The Hill reported last month that Republicans on the committee had asked the Justice Department “for any information on Holder’s involvement with the Cuban boy seized by U.S. agents in April 2000.” The U.S. agents returned Elian to the custody of his father who took him back to Cuba, much to the outrage of the Cuban-American community in Miami.
Despite queries from House Republicans, and murmurs from the right that Holder’s involvement in the case is cause for concern, Jose Pertierra, a Washington attorney who advised the boy’s father, praised Holder’s handling of the case.
“The Miami relatives didn’t have a prayer of winning the case, and Eric Holder recognized that from the start,” Pertierra said in a telephone interview. “He made that very clear through various channels.”
Gonzalez, then six years hold, had washed up on a Florida beach in November 1999 after his mother and a boatload of people seeking to escape Cuba had drowned at sea. The only survivor, Elian was taken to stay with relatives in Miami who refused to turn him over to his father because his father preferred to live in Castro’s Cuba.
“The law is clear that the father spoke for the boy. Holder upheld the law, which I think shows he is qualified to be attorney general,” Pertierra said.
After a five-month standoff in early 2000 featuring the antics of the eccentric relatives, angry street demonstrators, Fidel Castro, various judges and squadrons of TV news reporters, Attorney General Janet Reno, Holder’s boss, finally ordered immigration agents to take custody of the boy. Father and son returned to Cardenas, Cuba where they still live. Juan Miguel Gonzalez is a waiter in a beachfront hotel; Elian, now 15, attends high school and has reportedly joined the Young Communists Union.