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Triangle Residents React To Elian Gonzalez's Reunion With Father

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RALEIGH — Triangle residents are divided about the Elian Gonzalez saga. The six-year-old Cuban boy was taken from his relatives by armed federal agents early Saturday morning. Many wonder if Gonzalez is at the center of a custody battle or political power struggle.

Gayle Gonzalez-Johnson, a therapist, says the loss of Gonzalez's mother, compounded by the custody struggle and the constant media spotlight, could have long-lasting effects on the boy. She says several factors could play a key part in the emotional outcome.

"What kind of lifestyle he's living, with whom, how stable that is and how loved he feels," Gonzalez-Johnson says. "It's very tough on a child."

Triangle residents sounded off about the government's decision to take Gonzalez away from his relatives with a show of force.

"I feel that it had to be done because the family had been given numerous opportunities to turn the child over, and they didn't do what they were asked to do," says Deborah Blaylock.

"I really don't think it was a good move because we really have to first consider the child," says Raleigh resident Sherry Robinson. "He is going to be the one most affected by it. I understand that the father wanted to be with the son. However, he should have put the child's psychological health first."

Ned Walsh, a former university chaplain who taught in Cuba, believes the move was well-advised.

"I think this child has been laid on a symbolic Berlin Wall, and it's time to tear it down," Walsh says. "I think we will see the wounds begin to heal."

Walsh says Elian's plight has brought Cuba into people's living rooms and that the struggle of Elian Gonzalez may end up bridging the gap between two countries.

"Two governments that haven't talked much at all are finally in common agreement that a father and his boy should be reunited," Walsh says.

Gonzalez and his father will stay at Andrews Air Force Base for a few days and then go to an undisclosed location in the Washington area. From wire reports


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