[News] Judge rules for Cuban father

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Sep 27 14:15:10 EDT 2007


Judge rules for Cuban father

By LAURA WIDES-MUNOZ, AP Hispanic Affairs Writer 15 minutes ago

The father of a 5-year-old Cuban girl at the center of an 
international custody battle did not abandon or neglect her, so he 
should get her back, a judge ruled Thursday.

Circuit Judge Jeri B. Cohen said she would not immediately return the 
girl to her father, Cuban farmer Rafael Izquierdo, who wants to take 
her back to Cuba.

The girl went into foster care after her mother brought her to the 
U.S. in 2005 and then attempted suicide days before Christmas. She 
has been living with foster parents in Miami for the past 18 months 
and they want to keep the girl here.

The Florida Department of Children & Families said Izquierdo 
abandoned the girl and officials want the girl to stay with her 
foster parents, Joe and Maria Cubas, a wealthy Cuban-American couple. 
The girl has bonded with the Cubases and she wants to remain with her 
half brother, whom they have adopted, the department said. The 
state's attorneys said removing the girl after such a long time would 
cause her serious emotional trauma.

Cohen said she would hold a follow-up hearing to listen to the 
state's arguments, but urged the department to "take the blindfold 
off and see the forest for the trees."

Izquierdo has denied that he abandoned his daughter and has professed 
his desire to return with her to Cuba.

"The court cannot deny Izquierdo custody of his child," Cohen said.

At a news conference outside the courthouse, Izquierdo said in 
Spanish: "Truth wins."

"I'm asking for what's mine. I want only what's mine," Izquierdo 
said. "I'm dying to go home. I want to be with my family, be together."

His lawyer, Ira Kurzban, said he is unaware of any cases in Florida 
where a father, after being found to be fit, was denied custody based 
on "nebulous" psychological harm the child would suffer from being 
separated from her foster parents.

DCF spokeswoman Flora Beal said afterward that "to separate siblings 
from each other does have an emotional and psychological effect."

The father, foster parents and mother were all in court as the judge 
read her 47-page ruling over several hours. The judge said 
Izquierdo's efforts to regain his daughter once she was put in foster 
care "were not marginal for a man of his circumstances."

"He has diligently participated in what must seem to him a mysterious 
and daunting legal process. While geographically, Cuba is only 90 
miles from the United States shores, the two countries are 
philosophically and politically worlds apart," Cohen said.

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