Iowa State split on Elian

Jacqui Becker

Members of the ISU community differ in their opinions of the U.S. government’s actions in the case of Cuban Elian Gonzalez, who was taken from his Miami relatives’ home during Easter weekend to be reunited with his father.

Montgomery Van Wart, associate professor in political science with a specialty in public administration, said one of the biggest issues in this case is what he perceives as the excessive use of force by federal agents who took Elian from the house early Saturday morning.

“It was a standard use of force; only the number of people was different,” Van Wart said. “The philosophy is that you prevent danger by making sure you have more than sufficient force to go in.”

However, he said raids are uncommon in custody cases.

“It was not the custody of the child that required the number [of agents],” Van Wart said. “There was a cause; the community support is that cause. A whole community became involved, and then [agents] needed that number.”

Some ISU students said the crowds made a difference in the government’s decision to raid the Little Havana home.

Scott Mohwinkle, senior in industrial technology, said the action was necessary.

“With all of the protest, it would have been a bigger conflict,” he said. “The element of surprise got him out of there quicker.”

However, Scott Simon, junior in landscape architecture and horticulture, said he believes the people camped outside Elian’s temporary home weren’t going to harm the officers.

“I think the brute force the government used was uncalled for,” he said. “They acted like they were going into a terrorist situation.”

Some students agreed that the use of force wasn’t right.

“I think it’s a very political maneuver. I don’t think they should have gone in armed to get him,” said Susie Kinzenbaw, senior in management information systems and finance.

However, some students noted that Elian’s Miami relatives ignored court orders to return the child to his father, prompting Attorney General Janet Reno to order the raid.

Jolene Williamson, junior in computer science, said the U.S. government was in the right. “The family should have given him up a long time ago,” she said.

Van Wart said the actual case of whether Elian belongs with his Miami relatives or with his father is obvious.

“The father has the right to the child, no matter what,” he said. “It is a clear and concise case unless the father is abusive or inadequate to be the custodian of the child.”

But even after Elian has been reunited with his father, Van Wart doesn’t predict the saga to be over.

“Now the interesting issue is how speedy can justice be at this point since it is appealable,” he said. “It could be up to a year before it is resolved, which I think is unfortunate.”