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Breaking News

Juan Miguel Gonzalez Awaits Son's Arrival at Andrews Air Force Base

Aired April 22, 2000 - 8:46 a.m. ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: If you are just tuning in, you are watching breaking news here on CNN concerning Elian Gonzalez. It is now 8:46 Eastern Time, 5:46 on the west.

Just about three hours ago, 5:00 a.m. Eastern Time, we're going to show you videotape now of federal agents who did come to the home where Elian Gonzalez has been staying, the home of his Miami relatives. Janet Reno made the decision after hours of negotiating with the family. She felt that the negotiations had, were not going anywhere. Therefore she, 4:00 a.m. Eastern Time, decided to have the federal agents come to the home and seize Elian Gonzalez.

Agents came to the front door, right here, knocked a few times, identified who they were, had to end up using a battering ram to break through the door. The family did not come to the door. A female federal agent therefore went into the room, wrapped Elian Gonzalez in a blanket, told him in Spanish that everything will be OK, things will be over soon, he is being protected, she's taking him to see his father.

Here INS officials on the outside trying to keep the crowds away from the white minivan that was taking Elian to a nearby helicopter in a nearby island to be taken to a hospital to check for injuries. He was then put on an airplane. He is now en route to Maryland to be reunited with his father. That there is videotape of the pepper spray that the crowds were hit or rather sprayed with. Things have calmed down now in front of the home and we're going to continue covering this story as we're getting more information -- Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: According to federal officials, Elian Gonzalez is in good spirits on board that U.S. Marshal plane as he continues his journey to Andrews Air Force Base. He has some food. He has some toys, including some Play-Doh, and he's been on the telephone with his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez. We're told by the federal officials that he is a strong child who is doing well.

Let's turn now to CNN's Patty Davis, who is at Andrews Air Force Base, which is precisely where Elian Gonzalez will be reunited with his father, Juan Miguel -- Patty.

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Juan Miguel Gonzalez, Elian's father, arrived here at Andrews Air Force Base a little over an hour ago for a long awaited reunion with his son, Elian. Now, he arrived in a white Suburban, darkened windows. We couldn't see him as he drove by us, but he was flanked by police cars, sirens blaring.

Now, he's at Andrews Air Force Base awaiting that arrival. We do not know when that airplane will arrive. Of course, Elian, as you said, INS officials seized him this morning from his relatives' home in Miami. Now, the long awaited reunion set to take place we assume within the next couple hours. We are told that he will spend some time here at Andrews Air Force Base with his father and then be taken away to an undisclosed location here in the Washington area with his father.

Now, we're being kept a good distance away, outside of Andrews Air Force Base here outside of Washington, where it's in Maryland just north of Washington. As you can see, a police car behind me. We're being kept outside of the perimeter. This is a very secure airport. Security is tight. There are no protesters here. About two dozen members of the media here are awaiting the arrival of Elian Gonzalez, a meeting with his father here this morning.

Now, Andrews Air Force Base, as I said, is very secure. That is where President Clinton's plane, Air Force One, is kept, also Vice President Al Gore's plane, Air Force Two, is kept here at this airport, very secure. It is out of the media spotlight. When that plane does arrive, the Air Force can control the situation. They can keep people away from it. The attention that has surrounded, the media spotlight that has so surrounded this case now for the past four and a half months.

Now, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno called this reunion that is to take place in the next few hours here long awaited. No reason, she said, why the son and the father should be kept apart any longer. Kyra, back to you.

O'BRIEN: Yeah, Patty, I'm going to have to interrupt you there.

This is Gregory Craig, who represents Juan Miguel Gonzalez, live.

GREGORY CRAIG, ATTORNEY FOR JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ: The need for the use of force, we worked through the night trying to reach a mutually acceptable agreement that would accomplish the orderly return of Elian Gonzalez to his father, Juan Miguel. The attorney general was tireless. She was insistent that we continue our effort to achieve a peaceful and voluntary transfer of custody.

The attorney general walked the extra mile and then walked yet another mile. She never gave up until the very final moment in her effort to achieve that objective. 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. The relatives in Miami, however, were intransigent on that issue and many others. To the very end, Lazaro Gonzalez placed roadblocks in the path of an orderly transfer of custody. He gave the attorney general no alternative.

We are relieved that Elian Gonzalez has been removed from the custody of his relatives in Miami and returned to his father and family. We understand that he is in good spirits on the airplane and eager to be reunited with his family. Let me be clear about one thing. Juan Gonzalez has made a commitment to remain in the United States during this appeal and he will live up to that commitment.

We commend the INS for accomplishing this objective without serious injury to anyone. We are grateful to the attorney general and the Department of Justice for upholding the rule of law with utmost concern for the safety and well being of Elian and we thank the millions of Americans who supported this young father's effort to be reunited with his most wonderful son.

Thank you very much. Good morning.

QUESTION: Can you tell us one thing here...

O'BRIEN: Gregory Craig, representing Juan Miguel Gonzalez, leaving a few open questions, not taking question, as a matter of fact, from the media, chief among them from many a reporter's mind, of course, would be what would be next for Juan Miguel Gonzalez, how long would he be inclined to stay in the United States, a question which is a point of contention and debate among our legal experts Greta van Susteren and Roger Cossack.

Nevertheless, as this story dribbles out, we're hearing the other side of the interpretation of those negotiations, ongoing negotiations between the federal government and the Miami family of Elian Gonzalez, which literally continued a phone open almost until the very last minute with a INS agents on their way to that home, Attorney General Janet Reno saying she went to the last to try to settle this but the goalpost kept getting moved and the hurdles became higher -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: We're going to turn to Kelly Wallace now, who's live at the White House. We had talked to you, Kelly, earlier this morning by phone. You said that the president had been contacted before this operation commenced, that he was disappointed the negotiations had not gone anywhere, according to Janet Reno. What is he saying now? What can you tell us right now?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's exactly right, Kyra. We do know that the president spoke on the telephone with Attorney General Reno about 6:00 a.m. this morning. In her news conference, Ms. Reno said that the president expressed to her satisfaction about the way this operation had been carried out. And as you mentioned, as we reported earlier, it was shortly before 5:00 a.m. that Ms. Reno telephoned the president's chief of staff, John Podesta, to inform him, according to White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart, that the negotiations that were going on through intermediaries with the boy's Miami relatives had broken down and that preparations were underway to go in and remove the boy.

Mr. Podesta then telephones the president. Mr. Lockhart said that the president, as you mentioned, Kyra, was disappointed that this could not be resolved through a negotiated settlement but believed this was the right thing to do, this being sending INS agents in to go and take the boy out, to reunite him with his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez.

Now, all throughout Friday night and into Saturday morning there was constant communication between the White House and the Justice Department. Mr. Clinton himself spoke with the attorney general a number of times. About 4:45 Friday before he taped his weekly radio address he spoke with the attorney general. Mr. Lockhart said that negotiations were looking promising at that point. Mr. Clinton had another conversation with the attorney general, this time at 8:30 p.m. Friday night. He was in the Oval Office at that point. And then around two in the morning, about 2:15, Ms. Reno telephoned the president's chief of staff, Mr. Podesta, once again to brief him.

Again, U.S. officials were hopeful that these negotiations would bear fruit but then the call came shortly before 5:00 a.m. that the negotiations had broken down and that the enforcement action was underway.

Now, Mr. Clinton is here at the White House. He and the first lady are expected to go to Camp David sometime today for the Easter weekend. The president was to go yesterday, but for reasons completely unrelated, we are told, to this case, the president and the first lady decided to leave today. We are not certain whether or not we will hear from the president when he departs, but again, he is expected to leave for Camp David some time today -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right, Kelly Wallace live from the White House, thank you for that update -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: November 25th, Thanksgiving Day was the day that Elian Gonzalez, six years old, was plucked from the waters off Cuba by some fishermen, brought to safety, the only survivor in an aborted attempt to free cube -- flee Cuba to come to the United States, his mother among those who perished on that rickety boat.

A day of thanksgiving then and by no means a morning of thanksgiving in Little Havana, as news has spread of the fact that the Immigration and Naturalization Service now has taken Elian Gonzalez. He is in federal custody on his way to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, the concern, of course, being that emotions may get the better of people in Little Havana and in the greater Miami area.

CNN's Susan Candiotti is there with more.


It's not that it was unexpected to a lot of the people here who have been here day in and day out. Demonstrators who have been behind police barricades promising to break through those barricades if they could to try to form a human chain around this house if, indeed, federal agents came to seize Elian Gonzalez.

Well, they never had that opportunity because things happened so very quickly. The crowd here remains very passionate and, of course, they remain stunned about what occurred.

But joining us now to talk about crowd control and the various issues at hand is Lieutenant Bill Schwartz (ph), a spokesman for the Miami Police Department.

Mr. Schwartz, how would you gauge the mood of the demonstrators right now?

LT. BILL SCHWARTZ, MIAMI POLICE SPOKESMAN: Well, obviously it's very passionate, you know? They are expressing themselves. They have a lot to vent. There's a lot of anger, of course. But, you know, in general it has been peaceful here at the Elian compound.

I understand there are some problems outside the compound but, you know, all along those problems have been caused by hoodlums not by the good citizens of Miami. Most of the folks interested in this issue care passionately about it and are decent folks.

CANDIOTTI: At the precise moment that the federal agents came around the house here at about five o'clock and the barricades were taken away, what was the role of the Miami Police Department? What warning did you have that this was happening?

SCHWARTZ: We had very little warning here on the compound. Now, the chief had some earlier notice. I don't know the exact time. But, you know, all along we have said this is a federal operation. This is not a Miami Police Department operation. The federales, the federales, the federal government did their operation and they're gone now. Now it's incumbent upon us, the Miami Police Department and the citizens of Miami, to make sure this does not become more of an international incident than it already is.

CANDIOTTI: Do you know why pepper spray was engaged upon members of the spectators once the vans were rolling away?

SCHWARTZ: Again, this was a federal operation. I guess you'd have to talk to them about that.

CANDIOTTI: How long do you expect to allow people to remain out here at the house? Why are you letting them stay?

SCHWARTZ: Well, you know, people have had, have got to have an opportunity to vent. I'm turning off my beeper and my cell phone. People need to have an opportunity to vent. It would be wrong of us to try to stop that, even if it takes some time, as long as it's peaceful. If it's peaceful, let 'em vent.

CANDIOTTI: What lasting effect do you expect this to have on this community? You've been here a very long time. How do you think Miami will come together? The U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno has said that she's sure the community is hurting, she is hurting but she looks forward to a reunion between father and son, what she has promised to the father. What do you make of it?

SCHWARTZ: I think the community here is hurting, obviously, and they're going to express that hurt. Our prayers are that they express that hurt in a peaceful way. That's what this country's all about.

CANDIOTTI: How widespread do you expect that hurt is? A number of polls have shown that many people, the majority of people actually favored a reunion. Clearly, there is a segment of this community that feels otherwise.

SCHWARTZ: Well, I know that's true. Right now, however, I am dealing with the situation here at the Elian compound. So you can imagine the feelings here. However, that's something to look into in the future.

CANDIOTTI: Lieutenant Bill Schwartz, thank you very much.

It was just a few hours ago, shortly after five o'clock when that seizure took place. No one was expecting it, of course, at that particular hour, although enforcement action had been planned for at least 10 days now and authorities went into enforcement mode.

I think we can take you back to that moment to show you what happened at that time. Federal agents showed up shortly after five o'clock. The police allowed them to pass through the barricades. They went up to the front door, eight agents, we are told, with about 130 backup agents. They identified themselves after knocking on the door three times. No one answered the door.

Elian's great uncle Lazaro Gonzalez has consistently said he would open the door if agents arrived and allow them to come in. However, agents did, indeed, use a battering ram to break down the front door when they were, when the door was not opened to them and they made their way inside.

They were inside, according to government officials, for only about three minutes. We are told that Elian Gonzalez was found inside a closet and, in fact, we have seen still photographs of him being held by one of the fishermen who rescued him at sea. At that moment we are told that the federal agents inside held the people inside at bay. Government officials say that the child was not, that a gun was never pointed at him, that the agent's hand, his finger was never on the trigger.

They quickly hustled the boy outside, held by, in the arms of a federal agent, put him inside that minivan that pulled away and at that point agents did engage the use of pepper spray in an effort to control the crowd to keep them back.

We are told there were no serious injuries, at least not at this point, at least not thus far, and that van, when it left the scene, made, drove to what's called Watson Island, an island not far from here in Miami. The boy was put on a helicopter to go to Homestead Air Force Reserve Base, put on a plane belonging to the U.S. Marshals Service and was flown and is being flown to Washington, D.C., where he'll be reunited with his father.

We are told that the agents told the youngster don't be afraid. They described him as being very startled, naturally, when this happened. They told him don't worry, we're not taking you back to Cuba, according to government officials, we are talking you to see your poppy, we are taking you to see your father. And, they said, the boy remained calm.

Kyra and Miles, back to you. PHILLIPS: Susan Candiotti, thank you. Susan is live in front of the home of the Miami relatives where Elian Gonzalez, at about 5:00 a.m. Eastern time, was taken away by federal agents. He's now en route to reunite with his father in Maryland.

We are going to go to Mark Potter, who is on the phone. He's also in Miami. Mark, can you tell us where you are in relation to Susan, and if the feel is different where you are? And what is taking place in your location?

MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kyra, I'm about seven, eight blocks northwest of where Susan is. The intersection is -- for those who know Miami northwest, 27th Avenue and Seventh Street.

This is an area where the protests got out of hand a short while ago. Several hundred people made their way to the intersection, walking up the avenue, and they set fire to a tire in the middle of the intersection. There's -- they tipped two furniture (ph) into the area, knocked over garbage cans, threw garbage around, knocked over the bus benches, the newspaper stands.

And the police came in here in force, the Miami Police Department, and they began to break up the crowd. I saw one person being arrested at the end of that effort. The police dispersed the crowd. They then moved north up toward the highway. Others in the crowd then headed south, back to the intersection of 27th Avenue and Flagler (ph) Street, which had been blocked before, and also an area where the Miami police had gone in.

What seems to be happening is that as these protests flare up, the police come running in in force. They secure the area, they block traffic from coming in, and then they move on to the next location. There still are a couple of dozen officers here now that this area has been secured, but we did see a bus for holding prisoners that was here move off to another area, and a number of the officers who were here apparently got a call, because they went out of here fairly quickly with lights flashing.

And I do not know where they went, but it appears that there's another entrance somewhere that sent those officers scurrying.

The situation here is fully under control. The crowd is gone. But they can't open up the intersection because of the debris in the streets, and it appears, as I look to the west, that the police have cordoned off this whole area from all directions, one block to the west, another block to the east, several blocks to the north and south, just to keep this area under control.

And the concern among the officers is that as more people learn about this situation, that there will be more incidents like this, and they're bracing for that.

PHILLIPS: OK, Mark, so at this point everything is peaceful around the perimeter of the home. The police are out there controlling the crowds. Everything is OK. Earlier on there were protests, there's now debris in the streets surrounding the home and on the outside, so there's a lot of traffic buildup. But at this point, no protests and everything is calm. Good news to report -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Attorney General Janet Reno, in her talk to reporters a little while ago, indicated that everything was being done to do this in a way that would not harm the child. After all, we are talking about a 6-year-old boy, Elian Gonzalez.

And in watching those pictures, one cannot help but have one's heart go out to the little boy who has been caught up in this struggle which is way beyond him.

Let's turn now to an expert on this issue, Dr. Alan Delamater, who is a pediatric psychologist from the University of Miami.

Dr. Delamater, I'm sure you've had an opportunity to see some of the videotape this morning, as well as -- in particular, there is one still image that was captured by an Associated Press photographer who managed to spirit his way into the house during that raid. And it showed a riot gear-clad INS official wearing a helmet and carrying some sort of semiautomatic weapon there.

From this picture -- of course, pictures can be deceiving -- you have the impression that it is pointed in the general direction of Elian Gonzalez, there held by the fisherman who retrieved him on Thanksgiving. I'm asking you to make an instant analysis without having any interviews. But what can we determine and what can we not determine from these images?

DR. ALAN DELAMATER, PEDIATRIC PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, this was surely a scary thing for a young child to experience. I think it would be scary for anybody to experience. This was a stressful way to have this transition occur. It's not the scenario that anybody wanted to see.

O'BRIEN: Dr. Delamater, I'm going to have to ask you to stand by for a moment. We apologize. I know you understand we're trying to cover this on all fronts.

Let's turn now to Pierre Thomas, who is at the Justice Department in Washington. He is with the deputy attorney general, Eric Holder. Pierre?

PIERRE THOMAS, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Miles, again we're joined by deputy Attorney General Eric Holder, who's agreed to take a few questions for us.

Mr. Holder, talk us through what happened around 4:00 a.m. when the attorney general made her final decision.

ERIC HOLDER, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, we had been through a really intense and long evening of negotiations involving both sides, had put forth, we thought, some proposals that might have resolved this whole matter voluntarily, and had decided at that point that we simply did not have that ability. And the attorney general decided to go with an enforcement action. THOMAS: Did she go around the room? Did she talk to people? What was her request? What did she want to know at that point?

HOLDER: As is her style, she asked everybody in the room what their opinion was, and it -- there was unanimity in the room that we needed to go, given all that we gone through this evening and over the past five months, that there was a need for the enforcement action. We did it reluctantly, but we thought it was something we had to do.

THOMAS: Now, at the moment that the raid took place, where were you folks, and what was your reaction as you watched it unfold?

HOLDER: We were in the attorney general's conference room, and we saw it first on CNN, watched it. And I think we were all saddened by what we saw. It is not an easy thing. Many of us are parents of children of that age. It was not an easy thing to see a young boy carried out in the way that he was. And yet we were proud at the same time of our people, of our agents, INS agents, who we thought did a good job.

And they practiced for it for an extend period of time and did things in the way that we wanted them to do them.

THOMAS: And I understand the attorney general made this decision a half an hour or so before the raid. She was holding out hope for some resolution, peaceful resolution?

HOLDER: Yes, up until the last minute. It was -- it's always been the attorney general's hope, and I think all of our hopes, but especially hers, that there might be a way that this could have been done voluntarily, that the families would have found a way to resolve this without the intervention of agents.

But it simply was not going to happen tonight, and we ultimately concluded that it was just simply not going to happen, and that's why we took the enforcement action.

THOMAS: But what about that image of the weapons drawn, having to go in with that? How do you explain to the American people the need to do that?

HOLDER: Well, I hope the American people will understand that we had information that there were weapons in the house. I don't know if that's true or not, we have to do a debriefing of the agents. But given that fact, we had to make sure that our agents, when they went in there, were able to protect themselves and make sure that they could get Elian out in a way that was most protective of him as well.

We didn't go in there with an intention to intimidate anybody. We used female -- they had a female agent to bring him out, who spoke Spanish. We tried to be as sensitive as we possibly could, understanding that this was ultimately a law enforcement operation.

THOMAS: What was your advice to the attorney general?

HOLDER: That she do what she did. I too harbored hope that the people who said they cared most about the boy would have found a way -- and I'm talking about the Miami family -- would have found a way to get beyond a lot of the things that I think were politically driven, maybe even ego driven, but get beyond those things, and think most about Elian. And I think in failing to do that, they forced us to do what we did this morning.

THOMAS: How frustrations -- how frustrating were the negotiating process?

HOLDER: It's been extremely frustrating, but not one that was so frustrating that it stopped us from trying. We tried a whole variety of levels. The attorney general was personally involved, I was personally involved, there were people on my staff who were personally involved. We tried to resolve this at a whole bunch of different levels on a whole bunch of different occasions, tried to resolve this matter voluntarily, and ultimately simply weren't able to do that.

THOMAS: And finally, if you were trying to give a message to the Miami community and also to the American public generally, what would you say?

HOLDER: That we did this as sensitively as we could, that we acted only when we were faced with no other option, and we hope that the Miami community would try to understand that, and they would heal. I understand that people have very strong feelings about Castro. I share those feelings. This is not in any way some kind of indication that we in the Justice Department have any love for, any affection for the system that Castro has put in place.

I understand a lot of the anger that is there, but I hope that people will get beyond that anger and that that community would heal.

THOMAS: Deputy attorney general of the United States -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right. That's Pierre Thomas with Eric Holder. Thanks very much.

And before we took it up to Washington and the Justice Department, we were talking with Alan Delamater, who is a pediatric psychologist at the University of Miami. And let's resume that discussion.

Dr. Delamater, this is a 6-year-old boy who, on my account at least, has been through a lifetime of trauma. How will he be able to recover? I mean, after all, we're -- 6-year-old boys can be very resilient, but they can also be rather fragile.

DELAMATER: Well, he has been through a lot already, no doubt. The thing to keep in mind at this point, though, is that he is returning to his father. He's returning to a familial environment that he has known all of his life, with the exception of the last few months. These are important relationships for him. And I think once he gets back into that relationship, things should get a little bit easier for him, particularly when they're stable and when they're calm. O'BRIEN: Let's back up for just a moment, because prior to the action we saw this morning, there was a lot of talk in your profession about the -- what appeared to be the deteriorating mental health of Elian Gonzalez. Were you among those who expressed those concerns?

DELAMATER: I had been concerned, particularly in the last few weeks, because after all, these last few weeks have been among the most stressful, I think, for this child. He's been sequestered in his home, he hasn't been going to school. His house has been surrounded by crowds, crowds of people chanting things, chanting slogans, cheering for him whenever he goes outside. And he's surrounded by adults in the house who've been very tense and very anxious and trying to deal with what's going to happen with him.

So I think this environment he's been in has been very, very difficult, and in some ways I'm sure there must be some feeling of being relieved to be out of that, to be in a situation that can be a little bit more calm and can be with his father.

O'BRIEN: I suppose on the one hand, you could make a case, though, that despite all of that around him, perhaps he had the ability, because perhaps he couldn't fully understand the implications of everything, to block that out, or would you not agree with that?

DELAMATER: I don't see how it would be possible to block out what was happening around him. I think this child seems to be a very bright, very aware, and very engaging kid, who I think was probably quite aware of everything that was happening around him, certainly the struggle to keep him in Miami versus to be reunited with his dad.

Did he understand the full implications of the struggle and the politics and everything else? I doubt that.

O'BRIEN: All right. One of the things that was said this morning, both Janet Reno and Doris Meissner, head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, said that both Juan Miguel Gonzalez and his son need some space and some privacy, some quiet time, I think was the term that Janet Reno used. I guess that would be the understatement of the morning.

DELAMATER: I should say so. I think it would be real important to get away from the crowd, to get away from the media coverage, to really have some private family time would be the best thing this child could get right now.

O'BRIEN: So you would give that as your prescription, then, for the moment, anyhow.

DELAMATER: Well, for the moment. I mean, he certainly needs a lot of reassurance. And I think he's getting it, the reports we've heard so far that on the plane he's calm, he's playing, he doesn't seem to be thrashing around and in great distress. He knows he's being returned to his father right now. That's a relationship that he knows.

O'BRIEN: You know, it seems to me at times we as parents and adults underestimate the ability of our children to process and deal with these sorts of events. Aren't we in some ways underestimating Elian Gonzalez's ability to process this whole thing?

DELAMATER: Well, kids certainly can be really, really bright, and there's a lot of variability, even at age 6, among what 6-year- olds can comprehend about the world around them. They do look to adults to get meaning from the world. They need help in understanding the world. And the kinds of meanings they get are going to be dependent on who's telling them.

So he's had one set of meanings prescribed to him while being in Miami these last five months. And certainly all he had to do was look out his window to see very clear messages about his family of origin and about his country of origin in particular, and about aspects of the environment here, that he'll get a different filter to look through all this, no doubt, when he is with his father.

O'BRIEN: Dr. Alan Delamater is a pediatric psychologist at the University of Miami. Thanks very much for joining us this morning, sir.

DELAMATER: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Kyra?

PHILLIPS: And if you're just joining us this morning, we're going to recap what's been taking place since about 5:00 a.m. Eastern time, when federal agents came to the home of the Miami relatives who Elian Gonzalez, Janet Reno made the decision, she says, after failed negotiations, to have federal agents come in and take Elian out of the home and put him on an airplane to be flown to reunite with his father.

What you're seeing now are when the federal agents arrived at the home. They knocked on the door. Well, first they had to remove the crowds and onlookers away from the home. They came up to the front door, knocked several times, identified themselves. When no one came to the door, they made an entry. This all took place within three minutes.

Once they got inside the home, a female federal agent picked -- you'll see her right here -- picked Elian up in her arms, told her (ph), Everything's going to be OK, don't be frightened, we're taking you back to your pappy, wrapped him up in a blanket, got him into this minivan. You'll see federal agents had to use pepper spray to keep the crowds away. But everything besides that, the van got out of there without any problems.

Elian was taken to a helicopter in a nearby island, flown to a hospital, checked for injuries. He was fine. He was then put on an airplane and is now en route to Maryland to be reunited with his father. And we should be having that for you, that arrival, in just moments, hopefully -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Yes, as Kyra said, that arrival apparently is imminent, and we of course will bring you coverage as it occurs, although our cameras may not be able to document that particular event. But stay with CNN all throughout the morning as we continue this story. Elian Gonzalez, now in the hands of federal officials.



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