The Miami Herald
June 19, 2008

Elián saga might hound Obama visit


Summoning a time of political upheaval in Miami, a great-uncle of Elián González plans Friday to publicly denounce two Barack Obama campaign advisors who helped send the boy back to his father in Cuba eight years ago.

One day before the expected Democratic nominee addresses a conference of mayors in Miami, Delfín González will hold a 1 p.m. news conference outside the Little Havana home where Elián lived with relatives for several months in 2000.

Earlier this week, CNN reported that Elián, now 14 years old, has joined Cuba's Young Communist Union. Obama was an Illinois lawmaker during the 2000 dispute and did not take a public position.

At issue are foreign-policy advisor Greg Craig, who represented Elián's father in the custody battle with the Miami relatives, and legal advisor Eric Holder, a member of Obama's vice-presidential search committee who was deputy attorney general when the 6-year-old boy was seized by federal agents and returned to Cuba.

''We're going to express opposition to Barack Obama's visit to Miami, and explain how we're opposed to him having individuals on his campaign who were associated with Elián's seizure in 2000,'' González said. ``Some wounds are so deep that they do not heal over time, such as taking a child and sealing his fate to a communist dictatorship.''

González, 74, said he has not given money to Republican John McCain. Asked if the Republican Party had put him up to holding the news conference, González said, ``No, no, no. This is spontaneous between us and the community.''

The Miami Herald was notified about the news conference by Republican state Rep. David Rivera, of South Florida. He also provided background information about the two campaign advisors.

''The link between Barack Obama and a Castro apologist like Greg Craig is extremely relevant to Cuban-American voters because it provides further insight into Obama's weak position toward the Castro dictatorship,'' Rivera said.

Obama has called for lifting restrictions on travel and money transfers by Cuban Americans to family on the island, and for initiating talks with the Cuban government in the hope of sparking democratic reforms.

Asked to respond to the concerns about Obama's advisors, campaign spokesman Josh Earnest issued a statement that focused more on the candidate's proposal to change U.S. policy toward Cuba.

''Senator Obama -- like the vast majority of voters -- is looking to the future, not the past, which is why he believes we should both: keep the embargo to pressure the Cuban government to respect human rights and lift travel and remittance restrictions for Cuban Americans so that families can visit and support one other,'' he said.

Rivera said Cuban Americans are also planning to protest Obama's speech Saturday at the InterContinental Hotel at the nearby Torch of Friendship in Bayfront Park.

During the months-long custody battle over the shipwrecked Cuban boy in 2000, Craig antagonized Miami's Cuban exile community by keeping Elián's father cloistered in Washington with Cuban government operatives. Craig was hired by church groups who wanted the boy reunited with his father after his mother died at sea, but the high-powered lawyer was accused of doing Castro's bidding.

More recently, Craig represented former Bolivian defense minister Carlos Sanchez-Berzaín, accused of ordering a violent crackdown on anti-government protests in 2003. Craig said Sanchez-Berzaín was not to blame for the deaths of at least 60 people.

This is not the first time Craig has drawn flak for advising a presidential candidate. In 2004, he played the role of President Bush to help Democrat John Kerry prepare for a debate in Miami.