April 22, 2000: Clinton sends armed agents to kidnap Cuban refugee boy Elian Gonzalez

April 22nd is a dark day in Cuban American history. On this day in 2000, Clinton and Janet Reno sent heavily armed agents to storm a family home in Miami and kidnapped a small child, all to appease the Cuban dictatorship.

Here is something I wrote about this dark day back in 2012:

April 22nd, 2000: It was an early Sunday morning twelve years ago today when I was awakened by a phone call. On the other line was my sobbing sister telling me to turn on the television, that they had taken Elian. I ran downstairs, put on the news, and the first image I saw was the photograph above: A horrified Elian Gonzalez staring down the barrel of an assault rifle held by a terrifying masked man who had just violently burst into his bedroom in the predawn darkness.

A few minutes later, my daughter, who was about the same age as Elian at the time, awoke and came down to join me on the couch. She climbed up on my lap and I gave her a kiss, holding her close to me as I held back the tears. Moments later, when her grogginess dissipated, she glanced at the television and the image of Elian with a gun pointed at him reappeared on the screen. I wanted to cover her eyes, distract her from this horrible atrocity that no person, much less a child, should ever have to lay eyes upon, especially Elian. But I was too late. She looked at the image and then looked back at me with fear in her eyes.

“Papi, why is that man pointing a gun at Elian?” she asked.

I could not answer her question, at least not in terms she could understand. How do you explain to a six year old that the president of the United States has just broken the law and authorized a violent raid on a family’s home with armed men in order to kidnap a small boy and appease a brutal dictator? How can a small child understand that they are perhaps witnessing one of the most abhorrent acts in modern history carried out by a U.S. president? How can my daughter, or Elian, understand that the long arm of the vile Castro dictatorship can reach into the freest nation in the world and carry out the same type of violent raids that take place in Cuba? They cannot. And the truth is that neither can many adults, including myself, understand.

The image above has been seared into my mind ever since that fateful morning. So one can only imagine how that morning must replay itself in Elian’s mind. How he must see the barrel of that gun in his dreams, the eyes of a soldier staring at him, ready to end his life with the simple squeeze of a trigger. Nevertheless, the images of that morning, if they indeed haunt his dreams, are no doubt a reprieve from the memories of watching his mother drown in the Florida Straits. The image of a soldier pointing a loaded assault rifle at his face is sadly preferable to the image of his mother disappearing beneath the waves for the last time, never to be seen again.

Elian’s mother, Elizabeth Brotons, risked it all and ultimately gave her life so her young son could grow up in freedom. But her sacrifice, her life, her death, were not enough for President Clinton. Instead, he and Attorney General Janet Reno decided that appeasing a ruthless and murdering dictator was worth more than the life of Elizabeth, and certainly worth more than Elian’s freedom.

Twelve years ago, a despotic dictatorship from an island in the Caribbean showed the world just how much power it can wield. With little to no economic influence and no military might whatsoever, the Castro dictatorship was able to exert enough pressure on the U.S. government to induce it to not only break its own laws, but also deprive a young boy the right to grow up to be a free man, not a slave of a vile and criminal regime. From ninety miles away, a tinpot dictator manipulated and forced the leader of the most powerful nation in the world to forsake the country’s own principles and condemn a boy to life on an island prison. This is something to keep in mind the next time someone tells you they do not understand why we should pay so much attention to Cuba.

Even after twelve years, we still weep for Elian. The pain is still there, the wound is still raw. Every day we remember Elian in one way or another, and every day a tear somewhere is shed for the injustice he and his mother were forced to suffer. And speaking of his mother, twelve years later, I am sure she is still weeping for him from heaven.

4 thoughts on “April 22, 2000: Clinton sends armed agents to kidnap Cuban refugee boy Elian Gonzalez”

  1. That agent pointing the gun was subsequently disgraced. I can’t find the reference to the article, but he was fired and arrested for being involved in kiddy porn. Gave me a small bit of satisfaction knowing that karma at least got back to one of the people involved in this tragedy, well two if we include Reno who died of Parkison’s alone and disgraced.

    • Lots of people eagerly got their hands dirty with the Elián affair, but the ultimate responsibility lies squarely with Clinton, who’s been allowed to get away with plenty of things of far greater import to Americans–which is not his fault, and the SOB is predictably still running around like it was just trivial games, all of it. It is utterly vain to expect a dirtbag like him to even remotely give a shit about anything he’s done as long as he gets to skate–and he’s been skating for ages.

      As for Reno, even if she personally wanted to do what she did, she had to go by what her boss wanted done, meaning she had to get his approval. I expect that she did want to do what she did, but Clinton is still primarily responsible, the miserable POS.

      • Oh, definitely, Bill Clinton is the real culprit. Don’t understand why he played along with fidel castro who wanted the boy return and willingly did secret backdoor negotiations with the tyrant. Don’t know what he gained from that, unless castro had embarassing information on Clinton that he could leak?

        That said, the exile community mishandled this terribly. This was all started when Jorge Mas [son of the founder of the CANF] took out an add with a picture of Elian that declared, “one more victim, etc…” fidel got furious, spinned it around and demanded the child back. When you throw a rock at an enraged rabid hyena, you have to be ready to fight back. They didn’t do anything. castro got his public relations working 24/7, hired one of the best lawyers in the US and ultimately won.

        You don’t win a public relations war having well-meaning but chusma people protesting at the front of Elian’s house. We needed to hire a PR machine and we needed to spend millions of dollars taking out ads and commercials on TV. NOTHING WAS DONE. Worst thing is that they allowed a sleazy, political hack [whose name escapes me] to handle the woefully naive Gonzalez family.

        • Clinton knew he was on the “correct” side and probably figured putting “those people” in their place would please his public–and he absolutely LOVED to be popular. Since he no longer needed the Cuban vote, and probably didn’t much care about the consequences for Gore, there was little or no downside for him. Of course, being an SOB makes it easy to act like one.

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