The latest pictures of Elian Gonzalez showed the boy studying at the Wye Plantation and playing an instrument typical in Caribbean bands. But what angered Cuban Americans on Tuesday was the neckerchief the boy wore -- the uniform for the Pioneers, the youth communist league.
Modeled after groups in the former Soviet Union, the Pioneers instill communist ideals through songs, schedule weekend trips to help with harvests in the countryside, and instruct children to repeat the group allegiance ``Pioneers for communism, we will be like Che [Guevara].''
...Membership is expected for Cuban children, who join in the first grade and wear the Pioneers uniform to school. Parents of students who refuse to enroll are ostracized, labeled counterrevolutionaries and denied promotions at work, said Jaime Suchlicki, director of the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies. Pioneer members also are instructed to tell on their parents if they make statements against the revolution.
The pictures, released in the Cuban daily Granma, confirmed the worst fears of many Cuban exiles, who believed the boy will be brainwashed by the Cuban government as long as he is with his father.
``Is Elian in Cuba?'' a confused Gladys Chong asked, when her husband, Ramon, burst through the door of their Southwest Miami-Dade home with the news of the images.
``No,'' Ramon Chong, a security guard who came to the United States four years ago, told her. ``It seems communism has penetrated the United States.''
Gladys Chong, who wore the neckerchief in her youth, was shocked.
``They didn't even wait until he got to Cuba to start conditioning him!'' said Gladys, a 44-year-old dental lab assistant.
The images also troubled Dr. Marta Molina, a psychologist who in her 20-year career in Cuba said she treated 500 children with problems she said stemmed from communist indoctrination.
``The oppression has already started,'' Molina said.
The Pioneer uniform is part of a strategy to ensure the boy's return, she said, by convincing Elian that he wants to return to Cuba so he will tell the courts as much.
In other developments, attorneys for Elian's Miami relatives said Tuesday that the boy's father would be powerless to stop the communist regime from sending the 6-year-old to work camps.
``Irrespective of [his father's] wishes, Elian will be doing agricultural work such as cutting sugar cane in the fields, to further indoctrinate him and separate him . . . for extended periods to break down the bond between parent and child and cement the bond between child and state,'' the attorneys wrote in court papers filed Tuesday.