Elián: An Overlooked Angle?

Political commentary and more.
April 8 2000 3:45 PM

Elián: An Overlooked Angle?

Why is President Clinton being so sensitive to the concerns of Cuba in the Elián González case? Sure, the law may be on the side of returning the boy to his father. But something else may be at work, something the press hasn't spent much attention on.

Advertisement

Last December, you may remember, some Cuban prisoners took hostages in a jail in St. Martin Parish, La. The prisoners had committed crimes in the United States since coming over in the Mariel boat lift and were being held indefinitely. They demanded to be released or sent to another country.

The potentially violent six-day standoff was ended only when the Castro government agreed to take all but one of the prisoners back. Six of them were flown to Havana. Cuba had previously resisted the prisoners' return, and there was no way the United States could have made Cuba accept them. The Cuban government eventually agreed, it said, in order to avert a "bloody outcome."

One way to put this is to say they helped us out of a big jam, and we owe them one, and the State Department keeps track of such things. An anti-Castro Cuban might put it another way, charging that Castro cynically used the prisoners as bargaining chips with which to cut an implicit--or maybe explicit--deal in the Elián custody dispute (which was already underway when the prisoners took the hostages). Either way, the prison uprising gave Castro considerable leverage.

Both governments have denied there is a connection between the two incidents. But then they would, wouldn't they?

P.S.: Clinton might be expected to have been especially concerned about the Louisiana prison situation, since he had been politically burned by unrest among incarcerated Marielitos before. Rioting by Cuban refugees housed at Fort Chaffee, Ark., helped cost him re-election in 1980 after his first term as governor of that state--the last time, in fact, that Clinton lost an election.

TODAY IN SLATE

History

The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
Damned Spot
Sept. 30 2014 9:00 AM Now Stare. Don’t Stop. The perfect political wife’s loving gaze in campaign ads.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Sept. 30 2014 10:10 AM A Lovable Murderer and Heroic Villain: The Story of Australia's Most Iconic Outlaw
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal. But… What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:36 AM Almost Humane What sci-fi can teach us about our treatment of prisoners of war.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath The Methane Lakes of Titan?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.