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Miami Relatives Travel to Andrews Air Force Base to See Elian

Aired April 23, 2000 - 4:46 p.m. ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Our coverage continues now of the Elian Gonzalez situation. We showed you live pictures within the last hour of the Miami relatives arriving in the Washington, D.C., area, and we've confirmed they are on their way to Andrews Air Force Base with the intention of getting to see Elian Gonzalez. Whether they will be welcome we have yet to see.

Let's go to our Patty Davis, who is standing outside of Andrews Air Force Base with the latest -- Patty.

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, those relatives are seeking a meeting with Elian Gonzalez and his father here at Andrews Air Force Base where Elian Gonzalez flew earlier today. He was met by his father. He arrived here about 9:20 a.m. this morning. He was reunited with his father, an emotional and a very happy reuniting.

Now, Department of Justice sources tell CNN that the Miami relatives have not contacted the Justice Department about a meeting or requesting a meeting with Elian. We're told that the Justice Department would not block such a meeting. But here at Andrews Air Force Base, the public information officer tells CNN that in fact Elian Gonzalez's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, says that he does not want a meeting today. He will turn away those relatives here at Andrews Air Force Base if they do arrive later today.

Now, Attorney General Janet Reno is said to encourage such a meeting if it were to occur, if Elian Gonzalez's father would agree to such a meeting. The boy and his father are scheduled to have a couple of days here together, along with Juan Miguel Gonzalez's new wife and their new baby, a couple of days here at Andrews Air Force Base alone in a secure area to get reacquainted, get to know one another again out of the media spotlight, out of the spotlight of protesters, away from the family now, we are told.

Now, Janet Reno and the Clinton administration had been promising that they would reunite Elian Gonzalez with his father. That did happen today. And now, Elian Gonzalez's father is calling the shots. He says no such meeting will take place today.

Patty Davis, CNN, live at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

KAGAN: Patty, do we know what the drill would be when they arrive? I mean, I imagine anybody can show up at the base and try to get on. Is there just a place where visitors go and a place where they would be turned away?

DAVIS: There is a visitors' entrance. That's the entrance that the media would go in as well. And they would have to stop at the guards there, have to show identification. It's very tough to get on the base here without express permission to be on the base. They would go up to the guards. The guards apparently have been told that Juan Miguel Gonzalez does not want them here, so they will most likely be turned away at that point -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Patty Davis, by our estimations, it should be any minute from when they left Reagan National to when they would arrive at Andrews Air Force Base, so we'll have you keep an eye on that situation. Thank you, Patty Davis.

NELSON: And now let's check on -- get an update on events in Havana, Cuba, and CNN's Martin Savidge joins us on the phone now with the latest -- Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brian, we are still waiting for an official reaction from the Cuban government pertaining to events out of Miami this morning. But a statement could be coming in a few minutes. Each night Cuban television at 5:00 broadcasts either a protest meeting or what tonight is expected to be an outdoor rally. The event is being held in Ague Grande (ph) in Matansis (ph) Province, a town that's about a two and a half hour drive to the east of Havana.

This event was planned before this morning's operation in Miami. Cuban President Fidel Castro is expected to be on hand. Again, his presence was anticipated before the events in Miami. And if there is any statement that is made at this event, right now it's unclear who exactly is going to deliver it.

The government media here was very quick to broadcast the information pertaining to the transfer of custody that took place. It was first broadcast on radio and then almost immediately a communique was delivered on Cuban television. That all began at about 6:30 this morning. That's a very fast response time, at least by Cuban standards.

Cuban TV has also been showing video of the operation that took place at the house. They've also been showing subsequent the demonstrations that have been occurring on Miami's streets.

Many Cubans are not accustomed to seeing such visible displays of force broadcast on their television sets, the likes of which you saw outside and pertaining to the house. And some of them seemed troubled by it. But most of the people that you talk to on the street here, they are pleased by the news.

But they are not celebrating. In fact, the Cuban government has told people not to go out and celebrate on the streets. They say that those images, if transmitted back to the United States, could be harmful the decisions still to come in Elian's case.

Many Cubans believe that this is just a step in the long road that lies ahead before he returns to Cuba -- Brian. NELSON: Martin, if the government is determined to show restraint, how do you think they are making plans for this evening's rally?

SAVIDGE: Well, as I say, these rallies are traditional. They've been holding either a rally, a demonstration, or in some cases it's a round table that is held inside the Cuban television station. They have been doing this almost every night since the Elian Gonzalez story broke upon the scene.

So really this is something that was expected, it was already in the works. Many times on the weekends they hold these demonstrations outside of the city of Havana to demonstrate, try and show that support for Elian Gonzalez is a nationwide support, and not just centered here in the capital.

BRIAN NELSON, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks. CNN's Martin Savidge in Havana -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Back here in the U.S., an attorney for the Miami family was inside the Gonzalez home when officers came bursting in before dawn. Kendall Coffey says he is disgusted by this morning's action.


KENDALL COFFEY, ATTORNEY FOR ELIAN'S MIAMI RELATIVES: As all of you know, this past Wednesday the appellate court made -- sent a very strong message about the importance of the rights of Elian Gonzalez. And in that opinion, which was a stinging defeat for the INS, they said several times, and they emphasized, that the INS had never met Elian Gonzalez.

Well, this morning, at 5:15, at gunpoint, with tear gas, after a night of infamy of negotiations that were a charade that caused the community to believe that all was well, and that parties were trying to proceed to good faith negotiations, after that night, the INS finally decided to meet with Elian Gonzalez in the most disgraceful way possible.


KAGAN: Once again, that was Kendall Coffey, an attorney for the Miami relatives.

NELSON: And now let's do a recap of today's dramatic events in the Elian Gonzalez case.

KAGAN: Those events started unfolding almost 12 hours ago at precisely 15 minutes past 5:00 this morning Eastern time. That is when a caravan of armed federal agents swept into Miami's Little Havana. The authorities then forcibly removed 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez from the home where he'd been staying with Florida relatives for the last five months.

NELSON: The child was then taken to a local airport. He was examined by a doctor, then put on a plane for a flight to Maryland. And a few hours later, the plane arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, just outside of Washington, and there young Elian was reunited with his Cuban father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez.

And in the photographs released by federal officials, the boy was smiling. Elian's father and the father's wife were smiling as well in those photographs, which you do not see at the moment. Elian was also pictured with his younger half-brother. Although he is now in his father's custody, Elian, per federal court order, must remain in the U.S. pending the outcome of ongoing legal battles.

KAGAN: There are those pictures. A lot of people meanwhile in Little Havana were angered by the seizure of Elian Gonzalez. Protesters clashed with police, some even setting fires. Police have made dozens of arrests.

A short time ago, Elian's Miami relatives arrived in the Washington area. They arrived there at Ronald Reagan National Airport last hour. They, as we understand it, are driving to Andrews Air Force Base. They're hoping to visit with Elian. And we have learned just in the last few minutes that Elian's father, Juan Miguel, has decided to refuse such a meeting at this time.

NELSON: And we will be back in a few moments, continuing our coverage of the Elian Gonzalez case. In the meantime, we're going to take a short break and say goodbye for now. I'm Brian Nelson.

KAGAN: And I'm Daryn Kagan. Our coverage will continue at the top of the hour.



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