Update - Cuban Exile Group Tells National Council Of Churches To "Butt Out

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:07 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) -The National Council of Churches said on Tuesday that their mission to Cuba is not about politics but about 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez. Members of the church council are in Cuba in hopes of getting the case resolved.
The Cuban American National Foundation has criticized the National Council Of Churches for traveling to Cuba in the first place.

Jose Cardenas, Washington director of the Cuban American National Foundation, told CNSNews.com Tuesday, "Our message to them (National Council of Churches) is butt out. We don't believe that the National Council of Churches has established any moral authority versus what is happening in Cuba today to mediate or intervene in this dispute."

Roy Lloyd, spokesman, The National Council of Churches, from its New York office, told CNSNews.com, "We are there at the invitation of the Cuban Council of Churches. It's interesting that he (Cardenas) says butt out. We were invited in. We're apolitical. This is not about politics. It's about a little boy who is caught between people who want to play games with him."

Radio Havana reported on Monday that a delegation of the National Council of Churches led by the organization's Secretary-General, Reverend Joan Brown Campbell, arrived in Cuba on Monday and spoke with Elian Gonzalez's father. Campbell, according to Radio Havana, expressed hope that her visit will become a vehicle to speed up the process of Elian's return to Cuba.

Lloyd says the National Council of Churches concern in the Gonzalez case is "humanitarian."

"So that his (Elian Gonzalez) best interests are served, not someone's political agenda," Lloyd said.

The communist-run radio station also reported on Monday that the church council visit came as Santa Clara residents demonstrated in protest against Elian Gonzalez's retention in Florida and by what Radio Havana called "the distant relatives supported by the right wing in Florida and on Capitol Hill."

Meanwhile, US officials have asked Cuba to grant Elian Gonzalez's father an emergency exit visa, so he can come to Miami to pick up his son in person.

"It remains to be seen how Castro's going to respond to that. Since he's (Castro) become the spokesman for the father, he has vehemently rejected the idea that the father be allowed to come to Florida," said Cardenas. "The proper resolution for this should be that the father come to the United States, bring the grandparents, sit down with the family, all of them in a situation that lacks government pressure to decide what's best for the boy."

But, according to Cardenas, the broader question extends beyond the case of a single, six-year old boy and how to deal with his situation, and he said the critical issue revolves around the precepts of communism itself.

"The fundamental reality is that there is a giant injustice going on -- on the island -- and there's really only two ways to go on it: either you seek to resolve that tyranny and end that ideological bondage of the Cuban people, or, you apologize for the regime and you do nothing to end that situation. Quite frankly, I would put the National Council of Churches in that latter situation," said Cardenas.