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Elian Gonzalez Case: U.S. Judge Temporarily Blocks Elian's Return to Cuba

Aired April 13, 2000 - 4:14 p.m. ET


LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Still today, the fight over 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez, of course. The deadline for the Miami relatives to relinquish custody came and went today at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight and then a new round of legal action began.

CNN's Susan Candiotti has been outside Elian's Miami home all day, she joins us now with an update -- Susan.


A day that began with tension has now eased among the Florida relatives of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez and the hundreds of demonstrators who have gathered nearby the home where he has been living. As you indicated, a deadline has passed, a deadline whereby U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno could have used authorities, could have used force to remove the boy from his home and fly him to his father who has been waiting for him for more than a week now in Washington, D.C. So the attorney general has decided not to use force for now.

And there's been yet another development, as you take a look at pictures of demonstrators who have been gathering here all day long. We can tell you that one judge, one member of a three-court panel with the Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta has decided to at least temporarily enjoin after the family attorneys asked for this motion, has temporarily prevented the boy from being returned to Cuba. Until a three-court judge panel rules on a motion in its entirety filed by this family that ask the boy -- that the boy not go back to his father who might then take him back to their home in Cuba.

Now, on the other hand, we are still waiting to see whether the U.S. government will take any of its own options which it could do now. For example, it could go to federal court to ask for a court order to force this family to comply with the U.S. immigration order to surrender this youngster. Throughout the day, we can tell you that demonstrators have been giving support to this family by cheering, by cheering and by greeting the great uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez, the great uncle of the boy, Elian. In fact, you see him now thanking the crowd for its support or standing, thanking these demonstrators for their continued support. And, Manny Diaz, who is one of the attorneys representing the relatives, is also standing by to give us his reaction to receiving this temporary injunction. Now, the U.S. Justice Department has said that it will not take any further enforcement action until the Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta rules on this motion to -- asking for a permanent stay on removing the child to Cuba. Now, all of this means, of course, that U.S. immigration could still move forward on a reunion between father and son, but at least for now has not chosen to do so. Throughout the day the family has received visitors, visitors that include the Miami area mayors as well as Cuban-born actor Andy Garcia and Cuban-born singer Gloria Estefan.

What has the boy been doing all day long? Well, those celebrities, for one thing, have been visiting him. And we understand, according to a family spokesperson, that young Elian has spent much of the day indoors watching events unfold on television along with getting visits from supporters. In fact, Armando Gutierrez says that Elian even at one point was giving a relaxing massage, as Mr. Gutierrez put it, to one of his aunts. Also, Marisleysis Gonzalez has also addressed this crowd to their cheers, and even brought out drinking water to them on this very hot Florida day.

And so, we are waiting to see what develops next, but for now the crowd is not dispersing and has been well behaved throughout the day despite the fact that police have set up barricades and chained them together. No one has made a move to come across those barricades. The family -- demonstrators have said that they will demonstrate peacefully.

And now we will hear from Manny Diaz, who is the lawyer representing the Gonzalez family in Florida.


MANNY DIAZ, LAWYER FOR ELIAN'S MIAMI RELATIVES: ... that was unreasonable and unprecedented. They forced us to file a motion with the court and the court said to them, this is unreasonable and unprecedented, we will set our own schedule. Today, after seeking the assurance of the government that Elian would not be removed from the United States during the appendancy of the appeal and the government's refusal, continual refusal to give us assurances that, that would not happen, we were once again forced to file a motion with the court.

The court has ruled today, and I would like to read you the order of the court: "Plaintiff Elian Gonzalez is enjoined from leaving the United States. Any and all persons acting for, on behalf, or in concert with plaintiff Elian Gonzalez are enjoined from aiding or assisting in the removal of Elian Gonzalez from the United States. All officers and agents of the United States, including but not limited to officers and agents of the United States Department of Justice which parenthetically includes the attorney general, are enjoined to take such lawful and reasonable precautions and actions as are necessary to prevent the removal of plaintiff from the United States. This is a mandatory injunction on all concern, including the attorney general of the United States until further order of this court."

Now you all heard Mr. Craig say a little while ago... HOPKINS: We are having some technical difficulties in Miami. As more news happens there, we will return.

In the meantime we have some news in the business world, Sun Microsystems, we are awaiting earnings from that company. Sun Microsystems...

DIAZ: We will pursue it and we win this appeal. Thank you.

WATERS: Susan, you are on camera, go ahead.

CANDIOTTI: At least for now, we can tell you, Lou, that the family here is celebrating a victory, at least a victory that it received from a federal appeals court in Atlanta. However, the Florida relatives of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez have lost another legal battle.

Earlier this week, they filed an action with the state family court, hoping to make this a family court custody battle. And it had asked a family court judge to allow them to present evidence at a hearing so that they could argue their case before this judge. However, this day, family court Judge Jennifer Bailey has ruled that her court has no jurisdiction, that a U.S. federal court, that U.S. Immigration takes precedence in this matter.

So one legal loss, one legal victory for the Florida relatives of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez, much to the chagrin of this boy's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez in Washington.

Lou, back to you.

WATERS: All right, Susan Candiotti in Miami.

We are going to take a break. More of STREET SWEEP when we come back.


WATERS: Lou Waters again at CNN Center. We will get back to STREET SWEEP shortly. We having been having some satellite problems, and we are covering the Elian Gonzalez story. The center of which has been in Miami today around the Little Havana home of Lazaro Gonzalez, the great uncle.

Up in Washington waits Juan Miguel Gonzalez, that's where CNN's Bob Franken is right now.

Bob, I imagine there is some angst up there today.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it has been quite a day of frustration for Juan Gonzalez, who has been in the United States now over a week, trying to be reunited with his son, with some strong indications at the beginning of the day that in fact by now he might just well have been. But of course, this court order now means that, in effect, the legal advantage, at least for the moment, has gone to the Miami relatives, who have some bargaining wedges. Now, Gonzalez has been spending much of his time in the U.S. here in Bethesda, Maryland, which is a suburb of Washington in the residence of the Cuban Interests Section. He left earlier today, went downtown to the Cuban Interests Section. And then sequestered in the office of his lawyer, Greg Craig.

It was a day where he was forced to watch the videotape of his son saying that the son wanted to say in the United States, addressed to his father, that Elian Gonzalez was saying on the videotape he wanted to stay in the United States. We have no assurances that he was not being prompted or that the tape was edited, that kind of thing. Nevertheless, the attorney, Greg Craig, came out a while ago and talked about the tape and the pain it was causing.


GREGORY CRAIG, ATTY. FOR JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ: While waiting here for his son to be returned to him, he has been forced to watch Elian, exploited by those who have him in their care, on the morning shows, on national television, in the streets of Miami and now most recently in a videotape taken of Elian in his own bedroom.

Not only have these relatives broken the law, they have emotionally damaged and exploited this most wonderful little boy.


FRANKEN: Now the Elian Gonzalez case takes on a different dimension with that court order. Earlier we had been talking about the inevitability of a quick reunion, talking about where it might occur in Washington at perhaps some secret location. Of course, Juan Gonzalez had made it clear time and again that he wanted to get out of this country into Cuba with his boy as quickly as possible.

Given the fact now that there could be a delay because of the appeals court order, negotiations might be expected to resume again for some sort of gathering of the family before any transfer of Elian Gonzalez goes back to the father who has been waiting now nearly five months -- Lou.

WATERS: Perhaps you heard from Miami, Manny Diaz just moments ago, thanking Greg Craig for his legal opinion in the matter that those folks down there in Miami are breaking the law. Is that what we are going to hear now is a shouting match between attorneys?

FRANKEN: Oh yes, sure, that of course is all part of it. This is a very, very emotional case, a very intense case, the attorneys are of course adversaries, and Greg Craig was lecturing them as an advocate, trying to say that you shouldn't break the law, you should comply with the law. The problem is is that the law right now, for the moment, has switched to the side of the Miami relatives, who at least have some legal breathing room until they can resolve this temporary restraining order, and find out what the three-judge panel in Atlanta is going to do.

WATERS: All right, and we continue our Elian watch. The events down in Florida, the demonstrations outside the home of Lazaro Gonzalez continue, but for now everything appears on hold because of that decision this afternoon by the circuit court.

We will continue following the story. I'm Lou Waters, back to STREET SWEEP after a break.



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