Not many six-year-old children find their way into foreign policy debates. But Elian Gonzalez is not your ordinary six-year-old.
Because Elian is a Cuban citizen and his father still lives in Cuba and wants him returned, this child custody case, perhaps like no other, has touched almost every area of concern between the U.S. and Cuba.
While the Justice Department and its Immigration and Naturalization Service are pulling legal levers in one direction (return Elian to the custody of his father), the boy's Miami family and the Cuban-American community in Miami push the opposite way (keep him in the U.S. any way possible).
Members of Congress want to make Elian an American citizen. Presidential candidates Bush and Gore have spoken out, the vice president even breaking with administration policy over the case.
And as the cameras have followed Elian's every trip down the slide in the backyard in Miami, Cubans in Havana have periodically held demonstrations for his return, and the Cuban government has gathered a 31-person entourage to go to the U.S. and see him.
Could the case perhaps be an opening, a reporter asked at the daily State Department briefing, for some other kind of relationship between the U.S. and Cuba than has existed since Fidel Castro took power more than four decades ago?
"No," replied spokesman James Foley. The United States for a long time has been willing to have a better relationship with Cuba, "...namely, with a Cuba that has embarked on the road to political reformto democratic reform," said Foley.
Another reporter tried a different approach. Could this case "galvanize in some way a more realistic approach to Cuba?"
Again, Foley said the answer was "basically no." Then he amended his answer to say: "we are open to working with a Cuba that is changing, that is embarking on democratic reforms. But we don't see that."
A final try to see if somehow the case of Elian Gonzalez could loosen a long-standing diplomatic knot.
Foley was firm. "...In no way, shape or form is the U.S. government's treatment of this issue connected with any larger political intention, vis-a-vis Cuba, nor is it really, I think, realistic to speculate that there could be such a movement or shift in the absence of fundamental changes in Cuba."
Policy change, it seems, will have to wait for another daypreferably one which is not on an election-year calendar.
By CHARLES WOLFSON