December 23rd, 2009
12:59 PM ET

The Goldman controversy: Memories of Elián González

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/06/19/brazil.child.custody/art.david.sean.goldman.jpg caption="David Goldman has been locked in a legal battle over custody of his 9-year-old son, Sean."]

Tim Padgett

It's hard to watch the judicial farce playing out in Brazil right now and not remember the one that began during the holiday season here in Miami 10 years ago. Brazil's Supreme Court on Thursday halted the return of nine-year-old Sean Goldman to his American father — even though international law clearly dictated that the boy should have been handed over when his mother, who had absconded to South America with the child five years ago, died last year. It sounds a lot like the case of Elián González, the six-year-old Cuban boy who, after washing up in Florida in 1999 after a boat disaster his mother did not survive, was for seven months kept from his father in Cuba by a string of outrageous and politically motivated U.S. court rulings.

The Sean Goldman case sounds so much like the Elián González case, in fact, that Brazil has opened itself to charges of especially egregious hypocrisy. It's no secret that Brazil, especially under hugely popular President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has become a hemispheric counterweight to the U.S. And it loves to play tit-for-tat with Washington. Because Washington still insists Brazilians secure a visa before entering the U.S., Brasilia makes Americans pay for a "reciprocal" permit to get into Brazil; after the U.S. started thumb-printing foreigners in immigration lines after 9/11, Brazil obliged Americans to do the same. Those are understandable counterjabs. But while no one is suggesting that the Brazilian justice system has been keeping Sean from his father as payback for Elián, Americans can't forget how loudly — and rightly — Brazil and the rest of Latin America decried America's violation of international law in the Cuban case.


Filed under: Parenting
soundoff (One Response)
  1. Emily

    Finally! Thank you! Someone finally made the comparison I've been saying all along: Elian Gonzalez!!

    December 23, 2009 at 1:25 pm |