Elian Goes Back to School as 'Happy Child'

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:10 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - The communist regime of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro is claiming that Elian Gonzalez, the boy who found himself at the center of an international custody struggle last year, won't be used as a "war trophy."

The pronouncement via Radio Havana came as the Castro government proclaimed the boy's return to school this week in the Cuban school system, calling him a "happy child."

Elian started the new school year in his hometown of Cardenas on Monday, according to Cuban broadcasts.

Gonzalez became the subject of a tug of war between the United States and Cuba during the Clinton administration after being rescued from the Atlantic Ocean and being temporarily placed with American relatives in Miami.

The boy was ultimately taken by armed federal agents in April 2000 and later returned to Cuba to live with his father.

In a broadcast by Radio Havana, the official voice of the Castro government, Thursday described Elian as a child living in a "familiar, secure atmosphere" in the communist nation.

"The enemies of the Cuban revolution find it hard to stomach that this child, who was the object of a heartless and opportunistic kidnapping in the city of Miami, wrapped in the U.S. flag, and used as a instrument of propaganda and politicking is now a happy child studying at school with his friends," the broadcast said.

According to Radio Havana, "Cuban society respects Elian's privacy and that of his family. It respects his well-being and his happiness, not only as a human being but also for the honor and dignity of his country."

The broadcast that announced the boy's happiness was met with sharp criticism by Armando Gutierrez, a spokesman for the Gonzalez family in Miami, Fla. "This is typical rhetoric from El Loco Fidel Castro," said Gutierrez.

The Cuban-American National Foundation also took issue with the broadcast, claiming that things are not so rosy for Elian in Cuba

"In Cuba, he (Elian) is constantly followed by Castro agents and no one has access to him unless Castro wants it so," charged Mariela Ferretti, a spokesperson for CANF. "Elian Gonzalez clearly is their poster child who they want to uphold as a symbol of their failed revolution," in 1959.

Gonzalez's return to school this week also served as a platform for the Castro government to tout Cuba's education system which, "unlike the United States, guarantees this right at every level of their education all the way through university," the broadcast said.

"Elian Gonzalez is not used as a war trophy to needle the anti-Cuban right-wing terrorists in Miami. The boy will be educated in a spirit of tolerance, understanding, and friendship among peoples, peace and universal brother and sisterhood, fully conscious of his socialist background," the broadcast stated.

But Ferretti said there is much misunderstanding outside Cuba about the island's school system, claiming that people don't realize that the Castro government instills terrorism in Cuban children.

"This is Marxist indoctrination that begins at the earliest levels of childhood. There is only the state run Marxist indoctrination schools and that's all there is for the Cuban child," she said.

Ferretti also accused Castro of running a Hitler-esque youth program for children called Pioneers, which she described as "nothing short of Nazi youth groups that we often saw during the times of Hitler."

She said Cuban children in the Pioneers "perform war games, they learn how to throw grenades and how to attack bridges."