Cuban students protested the government's decision to take the six-year-old boy by force. The now-famous photograph of Elian Gonzalez closeted with an armed immigration agent in the house of his Miami relatives was dramatically splashed across countless newspapers and televison stations last weekend. And now that the government's return of the six-year-old to his father Saturday morning has ignited passionate nationwide debate, Cuban-American students at Penn are making their own statement about the controversial situation. Members of Penn's Chapter of the Youth Leadership Committee of the Cuban American National Foundation were out on Locust Walk yesterday to demonstrate against the government's decision to return Elian to his father. The political group -- which has about 12 members and was established at Penn last semester -- handed out copies of its statement regarding Elian and other documents on Cuban President Fidel Castro to students and other passers-by. Members said the goal of the demonstration was to educate Penn students on the issue, as well as to tell local media about their perspective. "This is about a child that's being returned to a father who is unable speak for himself," said the group's founder, Engineering senior Andro Nodarse. Nodarse, who lived in Cuba until he was 12, said the media has portrayed Cuban-Americans unfairly. "No one, no one can possibly be against a child being with his father," he said, but added that sending Elian back to Cuba is returning him to a repressive nation. As they handed out information and talked to students, the demonstrators got mixed responses, according to College sophomore Philip Riveron, a member of the Foundation, as well as treasurer of the Cuban American Undergraduate Students Association. "Some people were receptive, some were very skeptical," Riveron said. Although it is a cultural rather than political group, CAUSA -- which has 20 members, about half of whom are in the Foundation -- fully supports the Foundation statement and demonstration, Riveron said. In its statement, the Foundation chastised the U.S. government, saying that Saturday was "a sad and reproachable day in this nation's history." Since November, Elian has been trapped in a seemingly endless custody battle between Cuba and the United States. The boy was taken in by his Miami relatives after he survived a refugee trip to Florida, during which the boat sank and his mother drowned. The family had refused to give the boy back to his Cuban father, spawning a passionate response from Cuban-Americans in Miami -- who believe that if Elian does return to Cuba, the U.S. government is effectively caving in to the Castro dictatorship. Protests exploded on Saturday after armed immigration agents forced their way into the home of the boy's Miami relatives and took him to his father in Maryland. The father and son have reportedly had a happy reunion. Penn's Cuban-American faction also said the Miami protesters had been given a bad rap. "The vast majority of them were holding up posters," Riveron said. "I have family down there [and some were] tear gassed." Riveron said the Penn students may hold another demonstration in the upcoming week, possibly with the support of other universities, such as Harvard and Duke.Comments powered by Disqus
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