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Cuba Says Snatched Boy Is on Island

November 23, 2000

HAVANA (AP) _ Cuba said Thursday that an American boy and his Cuban mother are staying with relatives on the island _ confirming the suspicions of the child’s father in Florida, who wants the boy back.

Jonathon Loren Colombini, 5, and his mother, Arletis Blanco Perez, 29, are staying with family in the western province of Pinar del Rio, the Communist Party daily newspaper Granma said.

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 newspaper said.

The child’s U.S.-born father, Jon Colombini, 31, said this week that his ex-wife had taken the boy to the island without consulting him. He has asked the U.S. government to help him retrieve the child.

The case is being called a reverse example of the recent international custody battle over Elian Gonzalez, a child who was taken to Florida without his father’s permission.

Both Colombini and U.S. authorities have said the parents shared custody of Jonathon, a status that would prohibit the boy’s mother from taking him out of Florida.

But Blanco told Cuban border police that she wanted to remain in Cuba permanently, according to Granma. The paper said she told authorities that Colombini’s custody had been withdrawn because he allegedly had a drinking problem.

That allegation could not be confirmed, and Colombini refused comment when contacted Thursday.

Blanco and little Jonathon arrived on the island Nov. 12, with her current boyfriend, Cuban-born Agustin Lemus, 37, and their 18-month-old daughter, Jessica Lemus, the paper said. Blanco and Lemus lived in Key Largo. 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 under way,″ 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.

Colombini, a restaurant kitchen manager who lives in Homestead, Fla. with his second wife, noted the similarities between his case and that of Elian, who was the focus of an intense international custody battle that divided Cubans on both sides of the Florida Straits.

Elian’s mother and 10 others died in an ill-fated voyage to Florida. The boy was rescued and taken in by his Miami relatives, but his Cuban father fought for his return. The boy was repatriated on June 28.

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