BLANCA ARENA, Cuba -- While most Cubans sailing illegally across the Florida Straits are headed north -- toward the United States -- Arletis Blanco Perez believes she is offering her children a better life by returning to her homeland from Florida.
"If you are a good parent, you are a good parent in a rich country, in a poor country, in a communist country, in a free country," the 29-year-old said Thursday in her first comments to the foreign media. "Here, because of the tranquility, they will have more freedom."
Blanco's story is one of reverses.
Mother returns to Cuba with her son; his U.S.-born father wants him back
After leaving Cuba with her family for the United States when she was a little girl, Blanco returned to the island this month with her new companion -- a Cuban-born man she met in south Florida. They also took their 18-month-old daughter and her 5-year-old son from a previous marriage.
But little Jonathon Colombini's U.S.-born father wants his son back and has asked American authorities to help.
Jonathon is being called the "Reverse Elian," a reference to the story of Elian Gonzalez, the 6-year-old who was taken from Cuba to Florida without his father's permission. The boy was then at the center of a protracted custody battle between American relatives who wanted to keep him in the United States and a father who wanted him back here.
Blanco admitted Thursday she didn't consult with the child's father about bringing him to Cuba, but predicts her son will have a "brilliant" future there.
Sitting on a rocking chair in the front door of her boyfriend's parent's home in this town 44 miles west of Havana, Bianco said her children did not have a bad life in Florida. She just thinks things will be better for them here.
She refused to allow reporters to see either of her children.
The boy's father, Jon Colombini, 31, a restaurant kitchen manager who lives in Homestead, Fla. with his second wife, has said he and his ex-wife shared custody of Jonathon. That status would prohibit the boy's mother from taking him out of Florida. Blanco told Cuban border police that she wanted to remain in Cuba permanently.
Cuban authorities hope the case "can be resolved as rapidly as possible, in agreement with the pertinent legal regulations, with absolute impartiality and in the spirit of justice," the Communist Party daily newspaper Granma said Thursday.
Elian's father also claimed that ex-wife took his son boy out of the country -- Cuba, in that case -- without his permission.
But Jonathon "will not become Elian for the simple reason that I am not dead," Blanco said. Elian's mother perished during the sea journey a year ago this week.
Blanco and Jonathon arrived on the island Nov. 12, with her current boyfriend, Cuban-born Agustin Lemus, 37, and their daughter, Jessica Lemus, Granma said. Blanco and Lemus had lived in Key Largo, Fla.
Lemus' cousin Yuriel Leon Lemus, 21, captained a sailboat across the Florida Straits, from Key West to Bahia Honda, in Pinar del Rio province.
While Blanco and the children are staying with family, the two men were detained "awaiting the results of an investigation" said Granma.
Meanwhile, federal authorities in south Florida have said they are working to resolve the case. Cuba and the United States have no diplomatic relations and do not share an extradition treaty covering such cases, which could complicate matters.
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