Elian Gonzalez’s case: conflict dynamics, interests, and positions




Simoes, Elton

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Elian Gonzalez’s case is an intriguing example of how a small-scale dispute over the custody of a boy escalated to the point at which it became an important element in a much larger conflict involving the U.S. and Cuban governments and the Cuban American exile community. Looking at this case from the standpoint of the field of dispute resolution, understanding both the interests and positions that drove the dispute for Elian’s custody and how the conflict dynamics played out during this conflict will help shed light on Elian’s impact on both the United States and the Cuban American exile community. The purpose of this study is to understand the interests, positions, and conflict dynamics in the Elian Gonzalez’s custody dispute and its impact on the U.S. government and public opinion and on the Cuban American community, using case study documents and qualitative and quantitative studies. Using an interest-based approach (Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 1991), this study attempts to separate the respective parties’ interests from their positions during this conflict. Further, using the conflict analysis escalation dynamics model (Mitchell, 2006) and the conflict dimensions model (LeBaron & Pillay, 2006), this study demonstrates how the dispute over Elian’s custody escalated from a small-scale, interpersonal dispute into a major international struggle involving communities, countries, and U.S. public opinion at large.



Elian Gonzalez, United States, Cuba