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Elian Gonzalez Case: Government Deadline Passes; Miami-Dade Police to Abandon Post at Opa-Locka Airport

Aired April 13, 2000 - 2:25 p.m. ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Again, the 2:00 p.m. government deadline to hand Elian Gonzalez over back into the care of his father, Juan Miguel in Washington, comes and goes. And Elian's Miami relatives remain defiant, and the crowd swells outside their home in Little Havana.

Let's go to Susan Candiotti for an update of what's happening there -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sorry about that, Natalie. We were distracted for just a moment.

As this 2:00 deadline has come and gone, as promised, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno has not immediately acted by sending U.S. marshals, which is within her authority, to come here and forcibly remove the boy from this home.

Of course, the Florida relatives of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez were told that by 2:00 that they were to surrender the youngster, drive him to a nearby airport, and put him on a plane, a government plane, so that he could be flown back to -- flown to Washington, D.C. to see his father for the first time in more than four months. That has not happened. And the family remains steadfast in its opinion and viewpoint that it is not going to do any such thing and has said time and again that if U.S. authorities want to come and retrieve Elian Gonzalez that they will have to come here themselves and do it.

The family is still studying an option that it has to go to court to ask a court to stop the U.S. government from possibly taking any such action. And we are waiting to hear whether that will happen.

As you continue to take a live look at demonstrators here, we can tell you that within the last hour, the attorneys representing these Florida relatives lost another legal battle. First, you recall, they lost in federal court, when a court threw out their lawsuit in an attempt to get a political asylum hearing for this youngster, and now a state family court judge, which was an action in which this family was pinning a lot of hopes, has thrown out a request by this family to hold an evidentiary hearing, during which time this family claimed that they could put on evidence that would prove that Elian would face imminent danger if he were returned to Cuba.

Well, the state family court judge has said that she does not have jurisdiction in this particular matter, because the U.S. government has the highest authority in immigration matters.

And so now the attorney -- the attorneys representing this family here faces another legal blow.

In the meantime, demonstrators have been behaving all day long. They have stayed behind these police barricades, and from time to time, Lazaro Gonzalez, Elian's great uncle, has come over to greet them and to thank them for their support. And a little while ago, Marisleysis Gonzalez, Elian's cousin, came over to help hand out water to this crowd on a very, very hot and humid day.

They have also had visits from the two area mayors here, as well as singer Gloria Estefan and Cuban-born actor Andy Garcia.

I spoke with the family's spokesman not long ago. Elian did come outside to play for just a little while today. But most of the day he has spent inside. We understand, from Armando Gutierrez, that Elian, to the best of his knowledge, has not spoken to his father, but he has spent a lot of time watching television. And, according to Gutierrez, has been watching news reports of what's going on outside his home. And you can just imagine what he must be thinking about all of this activity, all of this ruckus going on, with helicopters flying overhead and all these photographers whom -- with whom the boy has become accustomed.

Also, earlier this day, one of the attorneys representing the family, an attorney by the name of Manny Diaz, responded to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, who said that she did not intend to send U.S. marshals here at 2:01 p.m. However, she remained hopeful that the family would agree and was rather disappointed that they would not agree to fly to Washington D.C. to have a meeting with Juan Miguel Gonzalez, Elian's father.

Mr. Diaz says that he didn't consider that to be an invitation but more like a demand.


MANNY DIAZ, ATTY. FOR ELIAN'S MIAMI RELATIVES: What's on the table today is not an offer, what's on the table today is a demand. This family does not want a react to demands. This family just simply wants to meet with their relatives. We need to let that happen.


CANDIOTTI: So everything remains at a standstill right now. Each side seemingly watching the other. And perhaps, behind the scenes, attorneys are deciding what they are going to do next.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, reporting live in Miami.

Natalie, back to you.

ALLEN: And Susan, in the mist of this defiance. do you get a sense that this family thinks there still could be viable legal avenues or viable chances that Elian Gonzalez could somehow stay here, or is this simply a way to stall what perhaps is the inevitable at this point?

CANDIOTTI: Well, certainly, even the crowds believe there's a sense of inevitability about the boy being reunited with his father, when you talk to them on a one-on-one basis. And certainly the lawyers, for their part, want to forestall any possible further legal action by the U.S. government to try to make that reunion happen.

So they are in no hurry, it would seem, to file any kind of legal action. Certainly they have certain options available to them because it is no surprise that the more time they can buy, the better for them, as they see it.

On the other hand, as you know, Natalie, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, sitting there in Washington, D.C. has said that he is tired of waiting for his son, that the U.S. government has promised to enforce the law, and he wants to know how they are going to do it.

ALLEN: All right, Susan Candiotti, thank you from outside the home there of Elian Gonzalez in Little Havana.

For more now, here's Lou.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: And that nearby airport Susan referred to is where CNN's Martin Savidge has been watching and apparently futility waiting for this transfer today -- Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, we were just notified a short time ago by a spokesperson for the Miami-Dade Police Department that, as of 3:00 this afternoon, a half-hour from now, their operations, their people here will leave this airport. Apparently, their services will be considered no longer needed.

That would seem to imply, obviously, number one, what we already knew, that the family was not planning to comply with the order and bring the child out here for -- actually deliver to a federal authority or possibly travel with that boy to Washington. Now we are being told that the police will be leaving, that would also imply, if there had been any plans in the part of the federal government to retrieve the boy by force and bring him out through here, that is also not going to happen, at least not through this particular airport.

Miami-Dade police have been here in about a number of 200 officers showing up early this morning, 5:00 a.m. They have been here throughout the day. Their numbers really never changed from that, but they had always been in a standby status, and they had also been waiting for any possible protesters that might show up. And there were no protesters either.

So we are being told that, right now, a half hour from this very point, the police officers here, the show of force that they've had patrolling around the perimeter will come to an end. They are ending their operation here at this point -- Lou.

WATERS: All right, CNN's Martin Savidge on to his next assignment.



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