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Judge to rule soon in custody dispute over Cuban girl
One of the key issues is whether the father abandoned the child.
Published September 20, 2007
MIAMI - A Cuban farmer did not speak on the phone or write letters to his daughter for nine months after she moved to the United States, a clear sign of his abandonment of the girl, state child welfare attorneys said in closing arguments Wednesday in an international custody dispute.
Rafael Izquierdo wants to take his daughter back to Cuba and denies he abandoned the girl.
But he made virtually no effort to be a parent when the girl left the island nation with her mother, said attorneys for the Florida Department of Children & Families and the girl's state-appointed legal guardian.
If Circuit Judge Jeri B. Cohen decides Izquierdo did not abandon his daughter, she must then rule on whether the 5-year-old is better off with him or with her Cuban-American foster parents, who live in the Miami area and want to keep her.
The judge said she would make a decision by Friday or early next week.
The case has been compared with the one of Elian Gonzalez, who returned with his father to Cuba after armed federal agents took him from relatives in Miami. But unlike that case, the girl's mother wants her to be with the father and Miami's Cuban-American community has largely stayed quiet.
The girl has been in foster care since her emotionally troubled mother, Elena Perez, tried to commit suicide almost two years ago. Her testimony was marked by her lying on the stand, but attorneys for the state tried to focus on Izquierdo's behavior toward the girl. "He left her - like Elena - out to dry," said John O'Sullivan, attorney for the girl's legal guardian.
Defense attorney Ira Kurzban disputed a claim that Izquierdo did not make efforts to communicate with his daughter. Kurzban referred to testimony by the girl's half brother who said the girl spoke to her father at least once a month by telephone.