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Elian Gonzalez Custody Case: Elian Gets Reacquainted With His Father at Andrews Air Force Base; Miami Relatives Look to Visit Elian

Aired April 22, 2000 - 4:03 p.m. ET


BRIAN NELSON, CNN ANCHOR: In a predawn raid, federal agents swarm the house of Elian Gonzalez's Miami relatives. From there, they whisked the frightened 6-year-old away.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Just hours later, a different image emerges, a little boy getting reacquainted with his father.

NELSON: But in a Cuban-American community neighborhood Elian once called home, protest and anger over the boy's removal.

Welcome to our international viewers. From "CNN SATURDAY" in Atlanta, I am Brian Nelson.

KAGAN: And I'm Daryn Kagan. Thank you for joining us for our ongoing coverage of the Elian Gonzalez saga.

We continue with the story and the reunion between Elian and his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, and his new family taking place -- continuing at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland where, as we understand it, his Miami relatives are also headed again at this hour.

CNN's Patty Davis is outside the air base, she joins us with the latest -- Patty.

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez was flown here to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland earlier today to be reunited with his father. His father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, did greet him as he landed.

You can see Elian's plane touching down here more than six hours ago. Father and son had not seen one another in the past five months. Now, the U.S. marshals took these photographs of the reunion and they were released to the press. Elian and his Cuban father looking very happy in these still photographs, glad to be together again. Also, Juan Miguel Gonzalez's new wife and their new baby also taking part in that reunion.

The father's attorney, Greg Craig, praised the U.S. government's action to reunite the boy and his father, saying that the boy appears not to have been traumatized by the seizure earlier this morning, and he said that all avenues were pursued in an attempt to have a negotiation and an end to this ordeal.


GREGORY CRAIG, ATTORNEY FOR JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ: 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.


DAVIS: We are told that Elian Gonzalez and his father will be here at Andrews Air Force Base -- a private secluded Air Force base where there is not really much access, as you can see, we are being kept outside as well -- they'll be here for a couple of days, we're told, and then move to an undisclosed location here in the Washington area -- Daryn and Brian.

KAGAN: Patty, as we understand it, the Miami relatives have just landed and are headed on their way to Andrews Air Force Base. Any preparations being made to get ready for them and any indication that they will be welcomed onto the base to see Elian?

DAVIS: That is the $64,000 question and I (AUDIO GAP)

KAGAN: Right. We just lost our live shot with Patty Davis from Andrews Air Force Base.

Let's go ahead and bring in Jim Hill who is standing by, he was on the plane with Marisleysis Gonzalez and Lazaro Gonzalez as they flew up from Miami with the intention of trying to see Elian Gonzalez.

Jim, you also just landed. Do you have any information for us from the flight that you took with the family members?

JIM HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The flight took off at about 1:30 from Miami International Airport, landed about 10 minutes ago here in Washington. The entourage, if you will, from the Gonzalez home in the Little Havana section of Miami included Lazaro Gonzalez, Elian's great-uncle. It is at his home of course where the child has been staying the past few months. Also on board, sleeping next to Gonzalez was Marisleysis Gonzalez, the great second cousin of Elian, she is the young woman who took a major role in helping care for the child during his stay in the Little Havana area. The entourage also included the attorney, Roger Bernstein, someone from the Cuban activist community who was very outspoken about the taking of the young boy this morning.

During the flight, the Gonzalezes slept for the most part. I approached them, talked briefly with them, they refused any comment, shook their heads, wouldn't say what their reaction was, wouldn't put it into words, to the taking of Elian this morning. They would not be specific on what they expected to accomplish from their trip here, exactly what their actions would be other than as has been reported they have wanted to make sure the child is in safe hands. And as we have reported, they are apparently on their way to Andrews Air Force Base. Now, also on that flight, one of the fisherman who rescued Elian last Thanksgiving Day off the coast of Miami, Florida. That fisherman very outspoken, very emotional about the welfare of the small child.

Now, on the flight, the passengers were taken off of the front of the American Airlines flight. The Gonzalez entourage, perhaps six or eight people in all, were kept at the back of the aircraft. Once all passengers were off, including journalists who were not allowed to take pictures at that point on board the aircraft, then the Gonzalezes were taken off the rear of the aircraft and put into a waiting van, which was under police escort at that point.

It is assumed, if reports are correct, that the entourage will be heading for Andrews Air Force Base, where 6-year-old Elian is being reunited with his father, his natural father from Cuba. But at this point, the entourage is saying very little about specifics, not giving their reaction to what happened this morning at about 5:00 a.m. in the Gonzalez home and the Little Havana section where Elian was taken. Now, the boy, of course, at Andrews Air Force Base, his natural father there, this entourage apparently heading there right now under police escort.

I'm Jim Hill reporting live from Washington. Back to you.

KAGAN: Jim, thank you very much.

And we have indeed confirmed that the Miami relatives are headed to Andrews Air Force Base. Whether they will be welcome, whether they will be allowed to visit with Elian Gonzalez, we'll have to wait and see -- Brian

NELSON: In the meantime, in Miami's Little Havana section, tension has been high ever since word of Elian's removal spread throughout the community.

CNN's Mark Potter joins us now from Miami, Florida with an update on the situation there -- Mark.


Well, this situation is still somewhat troubled. It's a lot quieter than it was earlier today, but there are still some hot spots. Behind me about six blocks back, police tell me that they have had some problems with people blocking traffic. They had to use tear gas to try to get the people out of there and a very serious situation developed.

We saw some police cars and some ambulance just speeding by us a few minutes ago, and we were told by a commander on scene here that two Miami police officers had been injured by a man wielding a baseball bat. So the situation has gotten critical at that intersection about six blocks away from where we are.

The arrest number still stands -- it was given out about two hours ago, the police have not updated it. They said that 80 people have been arrested. I can guarantee that, that number is much higher than that now given the situation. In fact, we just saw a prisoner vehicle go by as I was speaking, underscoring the point that more arrests are still being made.

I would like to you meet a gentleman that we met here this afternoon. Antonio Rosado, please join us. He is a Cuban-American, came to this country in 1970 -- right -- at the age of 4, he is cardiologist who cares very passionately about the Elian Gonzalez situation, but is also very upset about what is happening out here now on the streets. Tell me first about what your concern is about the situation here on Flagler Street.

ANTONIO ROSADO, PROTESTER: Well, Mark, my concern is that this morning I came here to express my disgust really with what's been a shameful display of force against the family here in Miami. Now, what is displeasing to me is that the wisdom of what the government did today might take a back seat to what is happening here now.

POTTER: You mean the protests and the people blocking traffic and all of that. Do you think that your protest has been taken over, been co-opted?

ROSADO: Yes. Actually, that's what's going on. I was part of a large peaceful demonstration here this morning, and unfortunately, now, a small group of school-age punks and thugs have come out here, who probably have no idea what the Elian Gonzalez case is about, and are really wreaking havoc in the community and I just don't want that to be the picture of our community, because it is only a small group of people who really have no interest in the Elian case and are just having some fun, and are not part of the peaceful protesters. And I just don't want that to be the picture that is portrayed, and the problem is what the government did this morning might take a back seat to what's happening here now.

POTTER: And what would you say to those people who say that what -- the images that they are seeing today that, that represents the totality of the Cuban-American community in Miami? You have a chance to respond to that as a Cuban-American yourself. How do you feel about that? What would you say to those people?

ROSADO: Well, I'd tell them that this is not representative of the totality of the Cuban-Americans here in Miami, Florida. We are for the most part very peaceful people. We understand the laws of this country. We embrace this country and we are as patriotic as anyone else out there. I think if you'll look around you'll notice that the people that are here now are different than the people that were here this morning expressing their outrage over what the government did.

POTTER: That's a point that I will underscore. I have noticed the same thing myself.

Antonio, thank you very much for your time, we wish you well.

ROSADO: Thank you.

POTTER: A point that we have noticed, this is a much different crowd now than what we saw earlier, an older crowd this morning, now a younger crowd and seemingly a more violent crowd. Two officers we are told have been hurt by a gentleman wielding a baseball bat.

Brian, back to you.

NELSON: Mark Potter in Miami, thanks for the update -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Elsewhere -- there we are, elsewhere in Little Havana, we have our Susan Candiotti who, seems like for months now, has been standing outside the home where Elian has been staying in the Little Havana neighborhood -- Susan.


Just moments ago I was handed -- gosh, it looks like an extra edition of "El Nuevo Herald," this is the Spanish-language version of "The Miami Herald," and as you can see, already the photographs taken by Al Diaz (ph) who was inside the home at the agents came in and seized the boy has been reprinted in a special extra edition of "The Miami Herald." It says: "What An Embarrassment," in Spanish. And on the other side, under the word "extra" you see a crying Marisleysis, who is the cousin of Elian Gonzalez. So it has not taken long for these photographs, which we have been of course broadcasting all day long to now be published, perhaps in very first print publication as well, the main newspaper here in south Florida.

And we can tell you that this -- in the past several hours, the number of people who have come here has been lowered considerably. We can show you -- well, actually, now we're taking a look at some of those photographs taken by Al Diaz when the child -- when the federal agents came inside the house. There he is being held by one of the fishermen who helped rescue him on November 25th at sea. They are in a closet there.

Al Diaz then told me -- I don't know if we already have seen that photograph or can see it one more time -- the photograph in which the federal agent is pointing a gun -- and U.S. government officials say that the gentleman's finger was never on the trigger and they maintain that the gun was never pointed at the child. The family disputes that notion. Now, I asked Al Diaz, who took the photograph, how it looked to him and he said, I could not tell.

Now, back here live we can show you that the number of people here has gone down and the mood here has changed here just a little bit. Sure, there is still a lot of anger and resentment and betrayal being expressed by these people here, but it is quieted down considerably at least for now. We have seen no uniformed police officers here since earlier this morning, so people here have been able to stand in front of the house as much as they want to and chant from time to time. They are waving both Cuban-American flags. In fact, some of the American flags have been flying upside down, some have been tied up, knotted with black garbage bags and -- but right now it is fairly quiet.

We have also talked to some people here about the photographs that we have been showing that indicate Elian -- show him smiling, showing him smiling after he's being reunited with his father. Some people said that they were happy to see the youngster with that express on his face given the trauma that he had gone through -- happy to see him smiling. Others are suggesting that the photographs have been altered by U.S. authorities, or they suggest by the Cuban government. And still, others say that they -- while they are happy to see this youngster and his father in the United States, they say they will not be happy if they see the two of them hugging in Cuba, because they fear that he will be under the control of the Cuban government.

Now, earlier this day, after agents came in, Elian's cousin Marisleysis talked to reporters by the house -- talked to a pool of reporters about what had occurred and here is part of what she had to say.


MARISLEYSIS GONZALEZ, ELIAN'S COUSIN: ... came through here and they trashed my room, which this is Elian's room and my room. They broke the closet door. They broke the closet door. They broke Elian's bed. They -- then they came here and they broke the door of my mom's room. They broke the door of my mom's room. And this is where Donato was with Elian. Donato, the fisherman, was holding Elian here and there was -- on that side -- two ladies, the wife of my cousin with her 5-year-old son, who also had a gun on his head, told his mother, don't move, and he had a gun.


CANDIOTTI: Those who have organized protesters out here at the home for the past several weeks say -- they say that they are very sorry to see violence break out. However, they are promising additional peaceful demonstrations in the coming days.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, reporting live in Miami.

KAGAN: Susan, thank you.

NELSON: And we will take a short break and be back with reaction from Havana in just a moment.



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