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Elian Gonzalez travesty: Where was Hillary?

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By Paul Kengor


It was 16 years ago this spring that the Clinton administration handed over a six-year-old boy named Elian Gonzalez. Elian, his mother, and a dozen others had escaped the communist tyranny of Fidel Castro and his brother Raul. They attempted to do what an estimated 100,000-plus Cubans have risked since the Castro brothers began destroying that beautiful island nearly 60 years ago: they headed into treacherous, shark-infested waters in search of freedom. Tens of thousands have perished in that process.


In November 1999, Elian’s group pushed off in a shaky aluminum craft. It was the best thing they could find in this surreal island without boats. Boats are banned by the communist regime.


Like a scene right out of Hollywood, a storm hit, waves began crashing, the motor failed, the escapees profusely bailed water, and Elian’s mom clutched her son as the boat sank. Elian was placed in some sort of inner tube before passing out from exhaustion.


Elian awoke to be spotted by two fishermen. He was brought safely to American shores, vindicating the sacrifice his mother made. She literally gave her life for him. He was free at last.


Or so he hoped.


Elian was taken in by relatives honoring his mother’s wishes. The story immediately made international headlines, and then Fidel descended, holding a staged press conference in Havana with Elian’s (divorced) father. Obviously not free to speak his mind, Elian’s dad demanded the child’s return.


What would the Clinton administration do? What would President Bill Clinton, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Attorney General Janet Reno, do?


As the media assembled in profusion outside the tiny Florida home in Little Havana where Elian was staying, we got our answer. Reno issued an edict to the family to surrender the boy by April 13. The family refused.


And so, late at night on Good Friday 2000, while most of America slept, as did Elian, armed federal agents from the INS grabbed their gear and guns and got ready. As the night grew late, they stormed the one-story house before dawn, broke down the door, and seized the screaming Elian, whisking away the terrified child.


The Clinton gang was handing over Elian. They were sending the boy back to communist Cuba. His late mother’s wishes be damned.


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