The Cuban Connection, by Don Liebich
During my recent trip to Cuba I had the opportunity to meet with Johana Tablada, the Deputy Director of the North American Department of the Cuban Foreign Ministry. Ms. Tablada had served in the Cuban Interest Section in Washington, D.C. for a number of years and with her youth, engaging personality and fluent, slangy American English; she was a popular figure on the lecture circuit around the U.S. and an effective public relations spokesperson for Cuba. The right wing Cuban émigré community testified to her effectiveness by accusing her of being a Cuban spy. (Emphasis added). (See here) https://cubaconfidential.wordpress.com/2012/11/13/today-in-history-senior-spy-targeted-church-two-washington-universities/
Ms. Tablada explained that she had had two largely sleepless days as she had tried to unravel the messy case of Joshua and Sharyn Hakken, who had kidnapped their two children from their maternal grandparents in Florida, who had legal custody, and fled on a small sailboat. After encountering bad weather in the Florida Strait, the boat ended up docked at Marina Hemingway outside of Havana. Needless to say, the arrival in Cuba of a boat from the U.S. attracted the attention of Cuban Security who immediately put the couple under surveillance.
In cases like this, the default position for the Cuban government is to respect the rights of the parents. However, as Ms. Tablada explained, for Cubans, the welfare of the children trumps everything. She explained that she understood that American family law is complicated and it took some time to receive the appropriate documents from U.S. authorities in order insure that the grandparents had legal custody. Once this hurdle was crossed arrangements were made to return the family to authorities in Florida. There was, however, one glitch. The children wouldn’t leave without their dog. Ms. Tablada said “I have spent the last six hours looking for the dog. The good news is that we found the dog and everybody parents, kids and dog are on their way back to Miami.”
While the U.S and Cuba have no formal relations, there is a lot of cooperation on issues such as immigration, counter-terrorism, drug interdiction and search and rescue. Hopefully, this episode can be a small step toward normalizing U.S. relations with our neighbor to the south. The odds are slim, however, as demonstrated by Florida Cuban-American Congresswoman, Ileana Ross-Lehtinen who issued her usual helpful statement: “Unfortunately, these parents and these poor children, these innocent ones, will now be in a country where there are no laws, there is no redress, and that has been a refuge for fugitives and wanted criminals for many years,”
Editor’s Note: My sincere thanks to Don Liebich, the author of this sorely misguided blog posting, for accusing me of being part of the “right wing Cuban émigré community.” I’ll take that as a compliment.