The story continues heading toward the ultimate show-down.
April 5 update:
by KATHARINE Q. SEELYE
WASHINGTON, April 4 -- Vice President Al Gore made three different
statements today on Elián González, but by the end of the day it was not
entirely clear what he had meant to convey.
Mr. Gore prompted harsh criticism from fellow Democrats last Thursday
when, breaking with President Clinton, he endorsed permanent residency
status for Elián.
The vice president had not since spoken publicly on the matter until
this morning, when he was interviewed on the NBC News television program
In the interview, he seemed to suggest that the boy should be returned
to his father, Juan Miguel González. "Nobody from the start has disputed
the fact that this child eventually ought to go back with the father, if
that is what is clearly decided is in the best interests of the child,"
Mr. Gore said, although he also said Mr. González ought to first be able
to say on American soil rather than Cuban that he wants to take the boy
back to Cuba.
But Mr. Gore refused to answer directly the question, posed three times,
of whether Mr. González should be granted custody if he comes to the
United States. "If the father says on free soil that he believes the son
should go back to Cuba with him, that of course is likely to be
determinative," Mr. Gore said, carefully sidestepping whether that would
be his own preference.
About three hours after his appearance on "Today," Mr. Gore's staff
issued a statement in his name that sought to clarify his position.
"Giving Elián, and his father and family, permanent resident status
would allow this matter to be handled in family court and would allow
his father to express what is in his heart," the statement said. "We
need to ensure that his father can speak, freely in a court of law on
free soil. I believe a ruling by a court of this kind, with these
guarantees, would be respected by all parties."
A couple of hours later, Mr. Gore appeared on the Lifetime cable
television network, whose programming is aimed mostly at women. He said
the Senate bill he had endorsed granting Elián permanent residency
status "would have the legal effect of making it much easier to have
this dispute resolved in a family court."
Asked if Mr. González should be allowed to take Elián home to Cuba, Mr.
Gore said, "I think that if the father comes here with his wife and new
baby, and in an atmosphere free of intimidation makes his true wishes
known, then obviously a family court that traditionally decides such
matters would take that heavily into account."
Again, he did not say that this was the preferable outcome, only that it
was the outcome he thought likely.
Mr. Gore's remarks provided fodder for his presidential campaign rival,
Gov. George W. Bush,
who has made much of what he says is Mr. Gore's inconsistency on a
number of topics. Mr. Bush has said since January that Elián should be
given American citizenship.
Today Ari Fleischer, a Bush spokesman, issued a statement saying, "When
it comes to the future of Elián González, it's becoming increasingly
hard to understand what Al Gore believes in or what he thinks should be
Elian Dad in U.S. To Reclaim Son
By GEORGE GEDDA
.c The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - On U.S. soil Thursday, Juan Miguel Gonzalez declared his love for son Elian and chastised those who are trying ``to obtain political advantage'' from the custody battle over the 6-year-old shipwreck survivor.
He received immediate assurances that the U.S. government is eager to reunite the Cuban father and his son. ``It is simply the right thing to do,'' said Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder. ``The father and his son need to be together.''
To set things moving, Gonzalez planned to meet Friday morning at the Justice Department with Attorney General Janet Reno, Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner Doris Meissner and other officials.
In Miami, Elian seemed unaware of the new phase in the struggle over his future. He played on a slide outside his great-uncle's home and fired a toy gun as the usual horde of reporters and photographers took note.
Relatives said he learned of his father's trip only hours before it took place.
It was an unsmiling Juan Miguel Gonzalez who disembarked from a small chartered plane at Dulles International Airport at dawn Thursday, accompanied by his wife, Nercy Carmenate Castillo, and their infant son, Hianny. ``This is Elian's true family and we love him very much,'' he said.
Gonzalez deplored the 137 days that he has been apart for Elian and said, ``I hope I soon will be able to embrace my son.''
``It's been an agonizing experience to see my son submitted to cruel psychological pressures aimed at influencing his personality,'' Gonzalez said, speaking through an interpreter. ``Worse still, Elian's been paraded and exhibited in public rallies and by the media with a clear intent to obtain political advantage'' from the tragedy that befell him last November, when his mother died while en route with Elian to South Florida from Cuba. Miraculously, Elian survived the shipwreck.
``As if his mother's disappearance before his eyes and the miracle of his arrival have not inflicted enough damage on a 5-year-old boy, he has had to spend time under the temporary custody of some distant relatives who had never seen him before,'' he said.
Negotiations resumed Thursday in Miami between immigration officials and lawyers for Elian's Miami relatives over how to transfer custody of Elian from his great-uncle Lazaro Gonzalez, who has cared for the boy over the past four months.
``Lazaro was almost in tears'' when he heard Juan Miguel Gonzalez's statement, said Armando Gutierrez, a spokesman for the Miami relatives. ``He felt that that is not his nephew. He felt that was not the person he knows.''
A seven-car police motorcade took Juan Miguel Gonzalez and his family to the suburban Maryland home of Cuba's chief diplomat in Washington, Fernando Remirez, who vacated the house to make room for the visitors.
A Cuban official said Gonzalez rested after his arrival, although several people were seen coming and going from the house. He had a late afternoon appointment with his American lawyer, Gregory Craig, who flew to Cuba on Tuesday to help arrange the father's visit.
Several anti-Castro demonstrators spoke with reporters outside the home after greeting the father at the airport with placards saying ``Welcome to Freedom.'' Several shouted the same slogan but Gonzalez paid them no heed.
It was quite a different scene in Miami, where the number of demonstrators around Lazaro Gonzalez's house swelled to more than 200 by midafternoon. Some held Cuban flags; others carried lilies and carnations - to greet Juan Miguel Gonzalez, they said. ``Let the boy stay'' was a frequent chant. From a small radio, the Cuban national anthem played.
Visas for Elian's father and his family were issued on Tuesday. Also receiving visas were a pediatrician, a kindergarten teacher and a male cousin who was close to Elian, but they were not aboard the plane.
Cuban President Fidel Castro was at the airport in Havana to bid farewell to the Gonzalez family when they departed before dawn. Gonzalez said Castro ``has been like a brother giving me advice and support through our long days of pain and uncertainty.''
Elian's Miami relatives have asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta to overturn a federal judge's ruling in late March affirming the INS decision to return Elian to his father. Opening arguments are scheduled in about a month.
Although Holder noted that the government has no written promise from the father that he will stay in this country with Elian until the appeal is completed, he and other Justice officials said they had been told by his attorney that Gonzalez was willing to do that.
The government cannot force Gonzalez to remain in this country, but they could issue a ``departure control order'' preventing Elian from leaving. ``It's very rarely done, and that's not where we want to go,'' said one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Should the Miami relatives refuse to hand over custody, the government has the option of sending them a letter that would formally advise them that Elian's temporary care was being transferred to Juan Miguel Gonzalez. Under this option, the relatives would receive a second letter shortly thereafter outlining when and where to turn over Elian.
It's not clear what would happen next if the relatives ignored the letters.
Commentary 4-6-2000 by Richard Tryon
Well now, after 137 days, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, natural father of Elián, one of the world’s most celebrated ship wreck survivors appears in the U.S. capital to declare to the world that he loved his son, and wanted to protest about those who wanted `to obtain political advantage'' for their agenda at the expense of his son! He still seems to be able to contain his emotional stress after having flown well past the point where his son is being held and given tender loving care by his great uncle!
Apparently, the father is more concerned about making statements in Washington that involve words given to him by someone in Cuba,where a chap named Castro tells folks what to do, than in stopping to give his son the emotional hug that has been missed for not just the 137 days, but several at sea as well.
Why did this father let his son go? Why didn’t he send Castro out to catch the runaway boy who managed to get his mother to take him on an ill-fated trip to the U.S.? Could it be that he wanted his ex-wife to escape the land where the father might have to support the ex-wife and first born son? Could it be that the father wanted the son to escape for a chance to grow up in a free country with relatives that knew he was coming? Or did they just guess the identity of the boy brought to shore?
Several things are now clear: One, the U.S. Justice Dept. and the INS want to move beyond this problem by conspiring to move custody rights from the Miami relative to the apparent natural father, no matter how dilatory his arrival to make the claim may be.
Two, it is clear that once the custody papers are in place, then the Justice Dept. will have the right to send in the same kind of troops that burned Waco to obtain the son and then return it to the father. There to await the rest of the American system of justice to work. At least the boy will then be spared the horror of living with relatives that do not try to bend the boy’s mind to the needs of the state. Of course, they want to sanction a little Havana in Washington, D.C. to serve as the real Little Havana, complete with imported temporary furniture, fixtures, and people that Castro can trust to replace those in Miami, whom, he might think, have worked so hard to help the little boy join with others in a school not designed by the state to teach the love of Castro, as the first thing to know in life.
That the Great Uncle was surprised and crestfallen to hear of the nephew who is not grateful in a public manner, for what he has done for this man’s son, should not be a surprise. But, then, gratitude is not a common hallmark of the communist system as taught by Lenin and his later henchmen like Stalin and Castro.
All that remains in the present chapter is for us to be on hand with live TV when the Justice Dept sends in its official notices demanding that the boy be delivered to some ‘neutral’ exchange point for shipment to safety in Washington. Of course, you can count on the people of the Uncle’s neighborhood to challenge the Justice Dept to figure out how to punish the Uncle for failure to heed its demands.
Will it send in troops to capture the boy? Will it send in the father to bring the boy out? They might tell the father to do that. But, what if he refuses and insists that it is up to the U.S. government to solve this domestic problem and go in an seize his son by force! To drag him out kicking and screaming, while the Uncle stands by helpless to stop the U.S. government, will not make some people look very good. It will not make the boy feel very good either. But, some will say well he is just a boy, he will get over it!
April 7, 2000
Article from Columbia:
FOREIGN AFFAIRS / By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Elián and the Panderers
* Op-Ed Columns Archive
* Join a Discussion on Thomas L. Friedman
OGOTÁ, Colombia -- Visiting Colombia today is a very clarifying act.
This is a country where things that we value and take for granted in our
own society -- the safety of our children, the right to speak one's mind
freely, respect for the rule of law -- are threatened every day. Being
here you are reminded not only of how much you cherish these things as
an American. You are reminded of the sheer political courage it takes to
fight for them in a country where speaking truth can cost you your life
or get your kids kidnapped with the snap of a finger.
It was therefore doubly clarifying, and doubly disturbing, to be in
Colombia during the Elián González case in Miami. It was sickening --
there's no other word for it -- to see Vice President Al Gore, someone I
actually respected, intervening in this case. He intervened in a way
that was not only wholly inappropriate for a vice president, but he did
so in a way that attempted to fiddle with U.S. law, by introducing a
legal ruse designed to give Elián U.S. residency status -- status that
would never be granted in such a way in any other case. And for what? In
order to chase a few cheap votes by right-wing Cubans in Florida -- who
are so consumed with hatred for Fidel Castro that they couldn't care
less about the U.S. Constitution.
If Mr. Gore has decided that he no longer wants to function as vice
president, that he no longer wants to stand up for basic principles,
then would he please donate his salary to the Lawyers Committee for
Human Rights or some other group that does have the will and the courage
to defend the rule of law in the U.S. and abroad. And while we're
asking, what is one to think of Alex Penelas, the mayor of Miami-Dade
County, who suggested he wouldn't use the county's police to assist
federal officials if they came for Elián? Mr. Penelas signaled that his
allegiance was to anti-Castro Cuban-Americans, not to the laws of this
I understand politics and pandering. But there are limits. Thank God,
the U.S. is still a long way from the lawlessness of Colombia. But if
you want to know what happens, in the extreme, when people cheapen the
rule of law and political movements let any means justify any ends,
well, visit Colombia -- a country where the honest judges, journalists
and politicians, and there still are plenty here, cannot walk the
streets without fear of being abducted or killed by drug lords,
vigilantes or Marxist guerrillas.
But it's not the random chaos here that impresses me. It is the courage,
the raw courage, of those who have chosen to stay and fight for the rule
of law and freedom of speech. I speak in particular about the
journalists of Colombia.
I speak of Enrique Santos Calderon, the editor of Bogotá's biggest
paper, El Tiempo, who picked me up for dinner in his bulletproof jeep,
followed by a car full of his machine-gun-toting guards -- whose
presence is essential for him to do his job.
I speak of Maria Jimena, a columnist for El Espectador, whose sister was
murdered while filming a documentary, and who now gets threatening
e-mails from guerrillas or vigilantes any time she writes critically
"You don't have any arguments to stay here," she remarked. "The only
argument is that it's important -- freedom of expression has always been
important here. We know we have a very important place in this country.
But it is very scary because more and more [the journalists] here have
become the targets of the worst violence facing this country. . . . I
have stopped reading my e-mails."
Roberto Pombo, the editor of Cambio, insists that journalists are not
heroes here. Anyone who stays to try to improve Colombia, or to just
live here, is. "Don't write that being a journalist here is dangerous.
Half the journalists are killed here not for being journalists but for
just being here. Everybody is killed in Colombia in the line of living,
not just in the line of work. . . . We don't want you to come save us,
but we need your help so we can help ourselves."
This is what dinner conversation with good people sounds like in a
society whose politicians, years ago, became complacent about the rule
of law, where they sold themselves cheap to the highest bidders and
where political factions became so polarized and consumed with hatred of
each other that they would not let any law, any norm, constrain their
This is how it ends. The Elián González case is how it starts.
April 12, 2000 commentary
Yes, the Elián case is very confusing. I do not know if the great uncle, obviously recruited by the father to help his ex-wife and son when they got to Florida, is able now to tell the truth; or only whatever Castro dictates. I have no doubt that the father loves the son and let him go with his blessing with his ex-wife, leaving him only with a new wife and baby- both of whom survived! The ex-wife died! Too bad, but no more alimony?
I do believe that many in the hispanic part of Miami have reason to be zealous in their hatred of Castro. They lost it all and left. Right or wrong, they don't see any connection objectively. But, we do not know about the 21 yr old daughter, now in the hospital (a ploy or is she exhausted?) The great Uncle has to balance his love of his nephew and surviving son with his need to live in the neighborhood where many think it is better to die than to surrender to Castro.
Reno is caught with politics and the law. If she has a human side, it gets surpressed and has to.
I can still remember being a six year old boy wondering about what Hitler had done to my friend's electric train in Denmark. It was scrap for bombs! I was hating Hitler in 1938 when the German-American bunds were going strong! Elián is not unable to think for himself and he may well have learned a lot about the freedom missing in Cuba, before he got onto the boat with his mom.
I can, therefore, believe that Elián is both brainwashed and alert! He has seen life in Cuba and in America (some of it in a normal house of the Uncle and some of it at Disneyworld! I will take any bet that he will someday live in the U.S. Unlike the Russian boy of 12 who got to stay, Elián may be forced to go, kicking and screaming with his father to Cuba. The only question now is will he be on TV when it happens? Will Janet Reno have to carry him out of the house where none of the family will break the law to stop her? Or will she employ a WACO sized force to disperse the crowd of Cubans around the house and then go in to do the deed? OR will she be able to send in the father?
Right now, they are hoping to get the boy to see the father in Miami instead of Washington where the report is that the boy refused to go! What right does this boy have to refuse? What right does the Justice department have to require the Uncle to do the deed?
The saddest part of all to me is that most of America is tired of it and doesn't really understand why anyone would stand in the way of a five month late to arrive- but loving father? Some day Elián will come back and tell the rest of the story.
Government Asks Family To Give Up Elian
By IAN JAMES
.c The Associated Press
MIAMI (April 15) - With protesters in Little Havana maintaining an uneasy vigil, the tug-of-war over Elian Gonzalez is back in federal court, where the government has asked judges to order the boy's great-uncle to hand him over.
The next move is expected to come from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, which issued an injunction Thursday temporarily blocking the 6-year-old boy from being taken out of the country.
The government has asked the court to rescind that decision and to go a step further by ordering Elian's great-uncle Lazaro Gonzalez to end the 4 1/2-month custody struggle by surrendering the boy.
The government also increased its pressure on Lazaro Gonzalez by telling him pointedly in a letter that he lost legal custody Thursday when he defied an order to put the boy on a plane to Washington for a reunion with his Cuban father.
''You have no legal basis to continue to exercise control over Elian,'' wrote Michael Pearson, the executive associate commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
The government's court filings revealed for the first time that Elian's father has agreed - if he gets custody - to stay in the United States until the appeals court rules on the case.
In documents filed in the 11th Circuit late Friday, the Miami relatives repeated their claim that they are willing to meet with Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez. But they said they would only do so within driving distance of Miami to avoid traumatizing the boy.
Attorney General Janet Reno has said Elian's father would not feel comfortable coming to South Florida, where Cuban exiles have called him a pawn of Fidel Castro.
The family also contends that Elian would be psychologically harmed if his relationship with them was severed. His cousin Marisleysis, 21, regards herself as a mother figure to Elian.
The boy's father, who came to Washington on April 6 in hopes of reclaiming his son and bringing him back to Cuba, visited the National Cathedral on Friday and said he was frustrated with the repeated delays in the case.
The injunction issued Thursday defused an escalating crisis. The Miami relatives had ignored a government deadline to present him for a flight to Washington and dared officials to take him by force. After the injunction, the Justice Department agreed not to take action to reunite Elian with his father for a few days.
Outside Lazaro Gonzalez's home in Little Havana, protesters have repeatedly promised to form a human chain to block federal agents from seizing Elian.
They jubilantly declared victory after Thursday's deadline passed. But by Friday night, a sense of unease rippled through the crowd of about 300.
''The feds are going to come in here and take the boy,'' said Oskar Larrauri, 27. ''We all know that's what's going to happen.''
Ramon Saul Sanchez, leader of the Democracy Movement, tried to soothe the crowd through a bullhorn. He told the crowd to pray that God ''uses his hand so that tomorrow when that sun appears in the sky he makes it so the boy is still in the house.''
Elian was rescued by fishermen while clinging to an inner tube in the ocean on Thanksgiving. His mother and 10 other people fleeing Cuba drowned when their boat sank.
His Miami relatives have cared for him since then and have been fighting in court for an asylum hearing. The Clinton administration has ordered Elian back to his father, saying only he can speak for the boy on immigration matters. The relatives are appealing a federal judge's ruling that upheld the government's decision.
The Miami relatives have also opened an attack on a new legal front. They argued in federal court in Washington that Elian should be barred from leaving the country until the government can certify that his human rights wouldn't be violated if he returned to Cuba.
In Cuba, ''Elian would face the risk of being persecuted for having sought asylum in the United States,'' lawyers for Lazaro Gonzalez said. A judge set a meeting with lawyers for Wednesday to discuss whether the case will go forward.
The Miami relatives contend that if Elian had been granted an asylum hearing, they would not have had to distribute the widely criticized home video of Elian telling his father he does not want to return to Cuba.
''What's disturbing is that Elian should have had the opportunity to speak in the privacy of an asylum hearing or a family court hearing,'' attorney Spencer Eig said. ''But he was not permitted that opportunity by the INS. He was not willing to be condemned to a future in Cuba in silence.''
As another strategy, the relatives repeated their claim that Elian's father was abusive. On Friday night, they made public an affidavit from a Miami man named Orlando Rodriguez, a former resident of Elian's hometown, who said Elian's father hit the boy's late mother, Elisabeth Brotons, ''to the point she went to the hospital.''
The father's attorneys have characterized such abuse allegations as desperate smear tactics, and the INS has said it found no evidence the father was abusive.
The news of April 15 shows that a new twist is developing- the basic human rights of Elián are now playing a part in the saga. Thanks to the INS position of denying a custody hearing approach, and leaving the boy no way to express his dissatisfaction with life as a boy of a divorced couple, a new factor is now appearing. One, that may reveal that his parents separated because of abusive practices by the father toward both mother and son, as a related part of the activity with another woman that is now his wife and mother of another son.
America has not heard if this left the boy disturbed and anxious to go with his mother to live with relatives in Miami? If so, a family court will want to ask Elián if his great uncle and daughter Marisleysis are giving him a comfortable and stable home in which he can safely grow up? How might this compare to what his natural father will provide in Cuba where Castro may want to both celebrate and give the boy some apparent advantage; or condemn him as one who tried to escape from his Utopian society!
Will the UN be asked to step in? One thing is clear. Janet Reno is not going to take a company of Marine types to the front door and force her way in to seize a six year old boy; or bring the father with her to try to command his son to leave the protection of a home that may well seem more loving and friendly to him than what he knew in Cuba. He was bounced back and forth between two homes in Cuba and certainly was not nurtured by his step-mother insofar as is known. Perhaps the father can prove that the step mother is a lot closer to Elián than his real mother? Or Marisleysis?
It would be great theater to see these questions answered in a family court instead of just living with the simplistic legalisms of Janet Reno.
Elián Update 4-18-00
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Cuba Sets Up School for Elian
.c The Associated Press
HAVANA (AP) - Cuban officials say they have prepared a boarding school in Havana to help 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez readapt to the island once he is returned from the United States.
Saying the boy has been psychologically damaged during his stay in Miami, psychologist Patricia Ares told Cuban state television late Monday that a team of teachers and psychologists would help him recover.
That work would be done by psychologists at a special boarding school in the Miramar district of Havana, which would include stays by his teachers and fellow students from Cardenas, 60 miles east of Havana.
The new school bears the same name as Elian's school in Cardenas and is equipped with ``all the conditions so that the relatives of the little one, a specialized medical team and 12 fellow students can stay there for the necessary time,'' the government's Prensa Latina news agency reported.
It quoted teachers as saying the boy would probably be there for at least three months.
Cuban officials say Elian has been psychologically abused by his great-uncle's family in Miami, which has had custody of the boy since he was rescued after a shipwreck in late November. Elian's mother died in the shipwreck, and his father has gone to the United States to try and reclaim his son.
They have been especially critical of heavy media attention on the child and the family's release of a videotape showing Elian saying he does not want to return to Cuba.
``The more time that passes, the more dangerous it is,'' said Aurora Garcia, a psychology professor from the University of Havana.
Wow! Has Castro really pulled out all of the stops! Now his experts, helped by the Reno hired experts in the U.S. are claiming that little Elián, after five months of being left to relatives in Miami, is really a victim of abusive relatives and he will need a special school set up just for him. Nothing too good for a Cuban boy eh?
At least one abused so badly after being shanghied out of Cuba by a defecting woman, who left her ex husband with a new wife, one son, and another coming, to take Elián from Paradise to Hell!
Come on America. Wake up! The family in Miami may be surrounded by thousands who lived with the hell of Castro and hate him, but this family gave Elián love and care for four months before the father ever was told to consider going to not Miami, but Washington to get his son. He was to be handed over on a ‘silver platter’ courtesy of the National Council of Churches, but that failed to work out.
Then the INS decided to change the temporary custody to none at all since the father arrived in the D.C. Castro headquarters. Only problem, the family failed to deliver the boy and Janet Reno doesn’t want more blood on her hands. So, she blusters, threatens, and hires experts to denigrate the family that has loved this boy, even though he is not their son!
This story is starting to smell worse and worse. Every effort is being made by Castro and Reno to make it look like the family is beastly, the boy is suffering, and he needs the kind of goodies that only Castro and the father can provide! What a charade!
The memory of the mother, the likelyhood that the father knew and approved the defection, but can’t admit it are being ignored. Sure, the father loves his son. Why do you think he let the boy go? Because he hated him? It might have been convenient with a new wife and two kids to support without Elián, and maybe wife #2 didn’t care much for a step-son, for the father to let the boy and his mother go to Florida.
Reno is knocking herself out as though she has nothing else to do, trying to placate Castro and all she can achieve is to play into his hands, buying into the hype and nonesense about the poor suffering boy! That boy can do very well, if Fidel will just bring the father home and leave the boy in the U.S. But, he can’t do that without letting the finger be pointed at him as the reason for the defection, something understood a lot better by Cubans in Miami than by the rest of us who live in America and never had to think about survival in Cuba.
Sure that place is just like the heaven known in the Soviet Union. All it needs is a lifting of the embargo to have a market for what- sugar? Cuba can only sell tourism and it needs a lot of capital and time to set that up again. But, this is another part of the story. The simple truth is that this is a family custody matter that the media have turned into a bonanza with help from Castro and Janet Reno.
April 19 Updae:
Elián won this day in court!
Court Keeps Elian in U.S.
By RUSS BYNUM
.c The Associated Press
ATLANTA (April 19) - In a strongly worded ruling today, a federal appeals panel extended a court order keeping Elian Gonzalez in the United States and said the U.S. government should have taken the 6-year-old's wishes into account.
In Miami's Little Havana, a crowd of more than 300 people erupted in cheers and chants of ''God Bless America!'' after the ruling from a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
''This is the second miracle of Elian,'' said Ramon Saul Sanchez, leader of Democracy Movement. ''We are taking the right way.''
The 16-page ruling bars anyone from attempting to remove Elian from the United States. But it did not specifically forbid the INS from taking custody and it did not address government efforts to reunite Elian with his father, who has been waiting in Washington since April 6. He wants to return to Cuba.
But the appeals judges expressed support for efforts by Elian's great-uncle Lazaro Gonzalez to win an asylum hearing and questioned the Immigration and Naturalization Service's handling of the case.
''According to the record, plaintiff - although a young child - has expressed a wish that he not be returned to Cuba,'' the judges wrote.
''It appears that never have INS officials attempted to interview plaintiff about his own wishes,'' the ruling said. ''It is not clear that the INS, in finding plaintiff's father to be the only proper representative, considered all of the relevant factors - particularly the child's separate and independent interests in seeking asylum.''
There was no immediate reaction from the Justice Department, and the INS said it was preparing a statement. One issue under debate as Justice Department officials met this afternoon was whether their previous promise to that court not to remove Elian from great-uncle Lazaro Gonzalez's home still applied.
The ruling, which could be appealed to the full circuit court, is considered a critical step in the international custody dispute that has lasted for nearly five months. It addressed an emergency order issued last week that delayed government efforts to bring Elian to Washington.
In Little Havana, Cuban Americans had feared that only the court order was keeping federal agents from attempting to remove Elian from the home of Lazaro Gonzalez. Earlier today, Attorney General Janet Reno said taking the boy by force was an option but she was trying to avoid any violence.
''There may come a time when there is no other alternative. But we've got to do it in a careful, thoughtful way,'' Reno had said.
Elian was rescued by two fishermen while clinging to an inner tube off the Florida Coast on Thanksgiving Day. He was among three people who survived, but his mother and 10 others fleeing Cuba drowned when their boat sank.
Lazaro Gonzalez was awarded temporary custody and the boy's Miami relatives have been caring for him ever since. They insist Elian will be better off living with them, and argue that the boy would be psychologically harmed and face persecution if he is returned to Cuba.
Their bid for an asylum hearing is also before the appeals court, with oral arguments scheduled for May 11.
The Clinton administration, however, has pressed for the reunion of Elian with his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, saying only he can speak for the boy on immigration matters. The court order had temporarily blocked anyone from taking Elian out of the country until it decides whether to hear the asylum claims.
The government has said Juan Miguel Gonzalez is willing to wait in the United States for the asylum issue to be settled - if he has custody of his son.
Since January, Reno and the government have repeatedly extended the deadline for Lazaro Gonzalez to surrender the boy. Last week, the nation's top law officer took the extraordinary step of flying to Miami to meet with family members.
But both sides failed to agree on details of a reunion. The government insists that Lazaro Gonzalez - referred to by federal attorneys as ''a mere distant relative'' - surrender custody of the boy, while the family has sought a meeting with Juan Miguel Gonzalez without conditions.
The appeals judges, however, noted that Lazaro Gonzalez is a ''blood relative'' and said his interests, ''to say the least, are not obviously hostile to plaintiff's interests.''
This story clearly shows that not all writers are seeing this as a simple case of a matter for the INS and Janet Reno to handle. Clearly, the uncle is not a distant unknown member of the Elián family. He quite possibly knew of the trip before Elián did! He may well have assured his nephew that he would keep confidential the reasons for the nephew to go along with the trip.
The real truth in this family custody battle is easily lost in a media event where an expert at propaganda like Castro uses all to his ends. He has been proven more right than wrong. Most Americans are tired of the story and would like Elián and his father to get ‘out of their hair’ so they can focus on something more important- like a baseball game!
Apparently the Federal Appeals panel has taken the time to make some pointed observations of the failure of the INS and the Reno staff to recognize that Elián may have a right to be heard too!
4-21-2000 Clinton issues pronouncement and Reno plans attack!
Clinton: Reunite Elian, His Dad
By GEORGE GEDDA
.c The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Clinton said a court ruling has stripped Elian Gonzalez's Miami relatives of all arguments against transferring temporary custody of the boy to his father. ``That is the law,'' Clinton said amid reports that the government was preparing to forcibly take the 6-year-old boy.
Clinton commented Thursday, a day after a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Atlanta said Elian must remain in the United States until the court decides whether he should get an asylum hearing. A hearing was set for May 11.
The ruling was viewed by the Miami relatives and their allies as a victory, but Clinton said it reinforced the administration's case for Elian to be reunited with his father.
The Washington Post reported today that Attorney General Janet Reno has decided to remove Elian from his great-uncle's home in Miami and has instructed federal law enforcement officials to determine the best time to do so. The report quoted unidentified government officials as saying they expected to move by the middle of next week.
Asked about the report, Justice Department spokeswoman Carole Florman said Reno remained open to a voluntary settlement, but declined to discuss whether she has made any decision about forcibly removing the boy. She said, ``For obvious reasons, we've always said we wouldn't discuss a law enforcement action in advance.''
The New York Times, quoting government officials it did not name, said today that law enforcement action is now all but certain and would be carried out by immigration agents and federal marshals who have been quietly arriving in Miami in recent days.
A lawyer for the Miami relatives indicated today that the great-uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez, who has control of Elian, and other family members will not assist federal agents' attempt to take the boy.
``So he's not going to cooperate?'' attorney Jose Garcia-Pedrosa was asked on CBS' ``The Early Show.''
``Without a psychological evaluation that says that that is in the best interest of the boy in the opinion of a professional, not a lawyer or an immigration official, that's correct,'' Garcia-Pedrosa replied.
Clinton, making his strongest statement to date on the case, said he knew of ``no conceivable argument'' against the custody transfer.
``I think he (the father) should be reunited with his son,'' the president said. ``That is the law. And the main argument of the family in Miami for not doing so has now been removed.
``Their main argument was if we let him go back to his father before the court rules, he might go back to Cuba. The court has now said he shouldn't go back to Cuba. The Justice Department agrees with that.''
Clinton generally has been standing back and leaving the decisions in the Elian case to Reno, who last week ordered the Miami relatives to turn over the boy. The family refused.
``The attorney general is leading the effort,'' presidential spokesman Joe Lockhart said Thursday. ``The president has been briefed and has had input. Is she making the decisions here? Yes.''
Less than two hours before Clinton spoke, Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, asked Americans to write to Clinton and Reno, urging them to act decisively to end the five-month father-son separation.
``Don't let them continue to abuse my son,'' the elder Gonzalez said, referring to the Miami relatives who have been caring for Elian since he was found clinging to an inner tube off the Florida coast on Thanksgiving Day. Elian and two others survived, but his mother and 10 others fleeing Cuba drowned when their boat sank.
``I was promised that I was going to be reunited with my son,'' he said, speaking in Spanish near his temporary home in suburban Maryland. ``Two weeks have gone by and it hasn't happened. I have always understood, I have always thought, that the United States is a country which abided by its laws.''
He asked Americans ``to send message and write to the president ... to the attorney general of this country so they should act immediately (to) reunite me with my son,'' he said, speaking through a translator.
Thursday evening, Elian spoke on a cordless telephone in the yard outside his Miami relatives' home and blew kisses into the phone. Family spokesman Armando Gutierrez said the boy was talking to his father.
Lazaro Gonzalez offered to bring the boy to a meeting with his father after being assured by the court ruling that the boy could stay in the country, an attorney for the family, Linda Osberg-Braun, said Wednesday. But that promise seemed clouded by today's statement from another lawyer, Garcia-Pedrosa.
Previously, the Miami relatives had said they would meet the father only if it was without the boy. Juan Miguel Gonzalez's lawyer, Gregory Craig, said Thursday that discussions between his client and other family members can take place only after the father regains custody of Elian.
In Fort Lee, N.J., Vice President Al Gore urged Elian's feuding relatives to get together ``without government officials or lawyers'' to try to end the impasse. Earlier he had split with the administration by supporting permanent resident status for Elian, his father and other relatives in Cuba. “
With the moral pronouncement of the nation’s most prestigious proponent of living by the law- the U.S. President all but ordered the attack of the small family home in Miami where young Elián has been living since he was rescued from the ocean when his mother died. His father refused to come get him for four months. Now he is in Washington, D.C. living with his second wife, and another younger son by the second wife, with the Cuban political attaché to the U.S. Castro wants to watch and orchestrate?
By mid week, we will have evidence of the attack in Miami in the name of justice that fails to take into account any of the facts of the boy’s needs or desires. All are subordinated to the politiical need to conform to the Castro demand that Clinton and the majority of Americans simplistically choose as being right.
Soon the boy will be removed. We will not know how he is treated by the Cubans in Washington while he awaits the Court to determine that he must go back to Cuba with his father without a custody court involvement. It is to be a matter only for the INS! We will watch with satisfaction, thinking that justice has been done while the communist father and his leader take the boy back to be saved from the loving care bestowed upon him when the father refused to come and claim his son.
We will then wonder for a few years...what will happen to Elián. Most of us will forget about him. Many never paid attention to enough of the details to have much to forget. The American pursuit of pleasure will continue and the baseball season will replace this drama.
One day Elián will come back to see if his five months of U.S. experience of love were obliterated by Castro style ‘brain-washing’. It is possible that this young tree will be bent into a new direction of love for Fidel, not Marileysis or his father; of love of the system that fails to produce freedom or prosperity.
Elian Gonzalez Seized From Relatives' Home
Cuban Boy on Way to Reunion With Father
By ALAN CLENDENNING
.c The Associated Press
MIAMI (April 22) - Federal agents seized Elian Gonzalez from the home of his Miami relatives before dawn today, firing pepper spray into an angry crowd as they took away the crying and screaming 6-year-old boy for a reunion in Washington with his Cuban father.
More than 20 agents in several white vans arrived at the home shortly after 5 a.m., using rams on the home's chain-link fence and front door to get inside. The boy was being hidden in a bedroom closet by his great-aunt and Donato Dalrymple, one of the fishermen who rescued him on Thanksgiving Day.
In the bedroom, an agent in green riot gear and goggles and holding an automatic rifle confronted Dalrymple holding the frightened child, an image captured by an Associated Press photographer and broadcast around the world. Agents then took Elian out of Dalrymple's arms.
A short time later, a woman and man brought Elian out of the home and put him in one of the vans, which sped off. Maria Elena Quesada, who was at the home, said Elian was screaming ''Help me! Help me! Don't take me away!'' in Spanish.
By 6 a.m., Elian was on a government plane headed for an airport near Washington and a reunion with his father. Juan Miguel Gonzalez was told about the raid as soon as Elian was safe and will meet his son at the airport, officials said.
''Juan Gonzalez wants to be with his son, and that will happen now,'' Attorney General Janet Reno said. She said she ''did until the final moments try to reach a voluntary solution,'' but over the weeks and months the dispute has gone on, ''the Miami relatives kept moving the goal post and raising the hurdles.''
She said the boy would stay in the United States pending further court action over the question of asylum, as the federal appeals court ruled.
''Elian is safe and no one was seriously hurt,'' she said.
Doris Meissner, commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, said the Spanish-speaking, female agent who carried the boy had a soothing message - worked out in advance:
''This may seem very scary. It will soon be better.'' The boy was told he would be taken to ''papa,'' the word he used for his father.
Elian was given a physical by a government doctor before he got on the plane, a government official said earlier, speaking on condition of anonymity. On the plane were the female immigration agent who carried Elian from the house, a psychiatrist, a flight surgeon and the immigration agent who commanded the operation.
Elian was described as subdued and calm on the plane.
He was given a play kit including toys, Play-Doh, an airplane, a map and a watch, the official said.
In Havana today, Cubans wept in happiness. In an official statement read over state radio stations, the government urged Cubans to ''maintain calm and avoid public displays'' over the event
But in Miami, under a brilliant, clear sky, crowds began to gather in Little Havana as the city slowly awoke to the realization that Elian was gone. By midmorning, drivers on one highway demonstrated with a slowdown.
Police closed off 35 blocks around the home after dawn as people at a street intersection burned debris and yelled at a line of officers in riot gear.
''We have our office in full mobilization,'' said Lt. Bill Schwartz, a police spokesman. ''They're getting ready to form two field forces to take their positions if necessary.''
The siege appeared to catch the family completely off guard. After daylight, the boy's cousin Marisleysis Gonzalez came out of the house and shouted to the crowd in words sprinkled with patriotic references to freedom and the land of opportunity.
She said the agents broke down the door yelling, '''Give us the (expletive) boy. We'll shoot. We'll shoot. We'll shoot,''' as she begged them not to take him or let him see the guns.
''How can this boy be OK when he had a gun to his head?'' she said. ''I thought this was a country of freedom.''
But Reno said, ''the Miami relatives rejected our efforts, leaving us no other option but the enforcement action.'' She also said the gun was not pointed directly at the boy.
But Ms. Gonzalez and Kendall Coffey, an attorney for the Miami relatives, said they were in the middle of negotiations and had been put on hold by the mediator when the agents arrived.
''We're angry and disgusted,'' Coffey said. ''We were in communication with the mediator handling negotiations and discussion with the government when they knocked the door down.''
It was a swift and violent step in the international custody dispute over the little boy rescued off the Florida coast nearly five months ago. His Miami relatives have sought to retain the temporary custody they were granted in November, while the U.S. government has sought to reunite the boy with his father.
''Assassins!'' yelled some of the approximately 100 protesters, some of whom climbed over the barricades in an attempt to stop the agents. The agents, wearing Immigration and Naturalization Service shirts, were armed with automatic weapons.
''The world is watching!'' yelled Delfin Gonzalez, the brother of the little boy's caretaker and great-uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez.
Ramon Saul Sanchez, leader of the anti-Castro Democracy Movement, was bleeding from one ear after the raid. He said he was knocked out by an agent using a rifle as a club.
''They were animals,'' said Jess Garcia, a bystander. ''They gassed women and children to take a defenseless child out of here. We were assaulted with no provocation''
Miami police executives, including the chief, had some notice of the raid but officers at the scene had only a moment's notice, said Schwartz, the department spokesman.
The raid came amid reports of progress in talks to immediately transfer custody of the boy to his father. Reno was at her office early this morning engaged in a long-distance negotiation that began Friday afternoon.
All of that ended in failure early today.
Carlos Gonzalez said he and several others tried to form a human chain in front of the door but were forced back at gunpoint.
Inside, Dalrymple held Elian in his arms as the agents arrived. He said agents told him ''give me the boy or I'll shoot you.''
''They took this kid like a hostage in the nighttime,'' he said.
The government and Juan Miguel Gonzalez insisted that any deal contain an immediate transfer of custody of Elian to him, but the Miami relatives defied Reno's order switching custody.
The relatives have cared for Elian since he was found clinging to an inner tube in the Atlantic after a boat carrying his mother and other Cubans capsized, killing her and 10 others. They and the hundreds of Cubans who gathered for days outside their home don't want the boy returned to a Cuba ruled by Fidel Castro.
The deal that was under discussion called for Juan Miguel Gonzalez and Elian, Lazaro and Marisleysis to move to one of two foundation-owned conference centers near Washington, according to a government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The plan called for formal custody to transfer immediately from the Miami relatives to the father, the official said. The two sides also couldn't agree on how long they might live together pending the end of the court battle.
The Miami relatives lost a U.S. District Court battle to get a political asylum hearing for Elian. An appeals court has ordered Elian to stay in this country until it hears that case, but did not bar Reno from switching custody.
Reno met for briefly Friday at the Justice Department with Juan Miguel, who asked Reno to give him a date certain when he would get his son back.
Afterward, Reno said she told him ''that I could not commit to a particular course of action or timetable.''
This story is not over yet! But, it now includes another example of how Janet Reno works when she can’t get her way with just the law! A pre-dawn raid when the defense is weakest on the day before Easter is the perfect time for the brilliantly executed ‘gestapo-like’ raid to happen. Point a gun at a man’s head and he probably will do what you want. If not, well you just blow him away and secure the political prize! A sleepy, but suddenly alert and screaming boy of six!
Janet and her boss Bill must now be on the radio and TV exclaiming to the world how wonderful a victory for their law! The boy is now with the father, safe in D.C. in a communist controlled house. Happy Easter! But then Cuban communists know that Christ is inferior to Fidel! With help from Bill and Janet, Lenin has again been proven right- “Don’t worry, they will give us everything we need”.
The Cubans in Miami are now enraged! The next phase of the war is now under way. How will they respond? They don’t really have any place to vent their anger.
Yesterday, this surprise attack should have been anticipated. Elián should have been spirited away to a safe place on the U.S. Navy bombing zone of Vieques- a beach enclave where the US government is afraid to interfere with about eleven camps of dissidents, each with a different reason to think that they are fighting for peace in Vieques- a claim that is blown way out of proportion to the reality.
Now the Reno justification report:
Reno Defends Use of Force in Retrieving Elian
By MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN
.c The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (April 22) - Attorney General Janet Reno today defended the decision to take Elian Gonzalez by force, saying the government believed agents might face armed resistance in ending the standoff.
Reno said the government received information that there might be guns ''perhaps in the crowd, perhaps in the house'' and agents had to be prepared.
She said the government will ''take every step necessary'' to ensure that the 6-year-old Cuban boy does not leave the United States with his father until the court battle over his custody is resolved.
The Miami relatives left the government no choice but to move in forcefully and take the boy, she said.
''I informed the parties that time had run out,'' she said after an all-night session of negotiations that ended with the boy's seizure before dawn.
Associated Press photos taken during the seizure showed one of the fishermen who rescued Elian at sea five months ago backed into a closet, clutching the boy, as an agent pointing his weapon was about to take him.
Asked about the photo, Reno said the gun ''was pointed to the side'' and the agent's ''finger was not on the trigger.''
Reno did not say whether any weapons had been found in the house.
Authorities outside fired pepper spray to control the relatives' angry and distraught supporters.
''We have been told on occasion that people would have weapons to prevent it from happening,'' Reno said.
She told a news conference that eight agents were in the house for just three minutes. A female agent spoke to Elian in Spanish as she took him from the house, where he has stayed since his Thanksgiving Day rescue off the Florida coast.
Doris Meissner, commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, said the agent's soothing message to Elian - worked out in advance - was , ''This may seem very scary. It will soon be better.'' The boy was told he would be taken to ''papa,'' the word he used for his father.
Reno said after she set the raid in motion, the intermediary for Elian's Miami relatives called with a counteroffer.
''I did until the final moments try to reach a voluntary solution,'' she said.
Reno said the boy needs to ''have quiet time and to be with his father.'' As she spoke, Elian was being flown to a Washington-area airport for a reunion with his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez.
Father and son talked by telephone during Elian's flight to Washington.
While an appeals court deals with the custody dispute, Reno said, ''We will take every step necessary to ensure that Elian does not leave the country.''
The attorney general expressed frustration in the government's dealings with the Miami relatives during the five-month-long standoff.
''Every time we thought we had achieved what we wanted, it wasn't enough,'' she said. ''It was just one step after another in which they moved the goalpost.''
Greg Craig, lawyer for the boy's father, expressed relief that the standoff was finally over and said the use of force was necessary to get Elian away from his Miami relatives.
Reno ''walked the extra mile and then walked yet another mile,'' he said in Washington.
''We agreed to virtually all the demands contained in the attorney general's proposal, but we would not compromise on the most critical issue of custody,'' Craig said.
Reno had led extraordinary all-night negotiations trying to resolve the custody dispute after Miami civic leaders serving as intermediaries proposed a settlement.
Proposals and counterproposals flew through the night by telephone and facsimile machine among the Miami house, the Justice Department and the Washington office of the father's lawyer.
Specifically, the proposal called for Elian, his father and the two Miami relatives who have been the boy's chief caregivers - Lazaro Gonzalez and his daughter, Marisleysis - to move to one of two foundation-owned conference centers near Washington - either Wye Plantation, a center on Maryland's Eastern shore that has been used for Mideast peace conferences, or Airlie House near Warrenton, Va., according to a government official, who requested anonymity.
The plan called for formal custody to transfer immediately from the Miami relatives to the boy's Cuban father - something the relatives have refused to accept.
Another sticking point was the length of the joint occupation of the compound. The intermediaries proposed that all family members stay until a court appeal is completed, in late May at the earliest. But Juan Miguel Gonzalez faxed a counterproposal back in late evening that called for a much shorter joint stay, the official said.
During the evening, Gonzalez traveled from his temporary home in the Maryland suburbs to the downtown offices of his lawyer, Gregory Craig, to review proposals forwarded by Reno. He went home before midnight.
Lawyers assembled at Lazaro Gonzalez' Miami home Friday night. A fax machine was carried in, then back out when they went to a local restaurant. At mid-evening, the crowd of Cuban exiles outside was read a letter to Reno that suggested resistance on the key issue. In it, the relatives' pediatrician, Armando Acevedo, wrote that it would be ''harmful ... (and) inhumane'' to remove Elian from their home.”
One thing is now clear. Elián will have a day or two of kicking and screaming and crying. But, he will be subdued with drugs- not love. If not pills, with shots in his body to “help him over his trauma of five months in captivity outside of the communist Utopia! Of course, some might think the gun battle display might have frightened him too.
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