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Elian and Family Arrive in Cuba

Aired June 28, 2000 - 7:30 p.m. ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Six-year-old Elian Gonzalez is due to arrive in Cuba shortly, more than seven months after being rescued off Florida's coast. Elian's father and a group of friends left Washington's Dulles Airport late this afternoon, hours after the Supreme Court rejected a final appeal by his Miami relatives, aimed at keeping him here. Elian's father thanked the U.S. government and the American people for their support. A small group of relatives plans to welcome Elian back to Cuba.

CNN Havana bureau chief Lucia Newman joins us now live with the latest.

LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN HAVANA BUREAU CHIEF: Good evening, Wolf. I'm speaking to you from Havana's International Airport, the Jose Marti International Airport, where little Elian Gonzalez and his father, stepmother and stepbrother are expected to arrive here at any moment.

I'm going ask my cameraman now to pan onto the tarmac. The last- minute preparations are under way. You can see that there are hundreds of children on the tarmac. These are all the children from Elian's school in the town of Cardenas. They've all been brought out here.

But simply by Cuban standards, in a country where we've seen hundreds of thousands people demonstrated for Elian Gonzalez' return, this is going to be a very low-key reception. Apart from these children, Elian's closest relatives -- his grandmothers, his closest cousins and uncles are here. They've already arrived. In fact, I saw one of his grandmothers already crying, even before the child arrives. Also the president of Cuba's National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon, will be here, and leaders of Cuba's youth and student organizations.

But conspicuously absent will be President Fidel Castro. He's asked that this be a low-key affair. He has asked that Cuban people not go out in the streets and celebrate and rally. Rather they are at home watching as the events unfold moment by moment -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lucia, what is the best estimate when the plane will actually touchdown at the airport in Havana?

NEWMAN: The plane should have been arriving in about five minutes from now, but there was a storm, and we were told that there would be a 15-minute delay. So, Wolf, anywhere between 10, 15 minutes from now, Wolf, we expect the plane to be arriving, unless they've been able to make up for some of that time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lucia Newman, our bureau chief in Havana, thanks.

Meanwhile, CNN's Mark Potter is in Little Havana, in Miami. He's monitoring the situation there with the latest.

Here's Mark. What have you got for us, Mark?

MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, here at the home in Miami's Little Havana, where Elian spent so many months with his relatives, it's pretty quiet here right now, except for this silly heckler who's standing next to us.

Most of the protesters left this area a short while ago to go to an area, Marina, where they're going to hold a protest there. There were several dozen protesters here earlier today.

Now we've been joined by several others who are complaining about the fact that we work for CNN, making this a little bit difficult.

There was quite an outpouring of emotion earlier today when the Supreme Court ruling came out, and then when the television coverage covered the plane taking off, the crowd, unlike this one right now, got quiet, watched the television very closely, and then expressed themselves with great sadness, great anger, when they saw that the plane had finally taken off.

The Supreme Court ruling was no surprise to this community. They had witnessed so many losses in the courts, but the finality of that moment hit very hard here, because when Elian Gonzalez came here seven months ago, it brought such hope to this community, and those hopes were dashed.

So there is concern throughout this community, and despite the expression of these maybe six people here, there is very limited expression in terms of any sort of public demonstration here in Miami.

We are here, and we will not be shouted down. We will continue talking.

The demonstrations in this community have been very quiet. The police say there has been no violence. They didn't expect any, and the community is sad, it is angry about what has happened, but there are very few manifestations of that, and a very small crowd here at the house outside the home where Elian Gonzalez spent time with his relatives. That family is asking the community to remain calm and to honor the court's decision, as they say they have done reluctantly.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: OK, Mark Potter, a sad day for many Cuban-Americans in the Miami area, a happy day for Cubans in Havana. We are going to be monitoring the situation at the Havana Airport. CNN will have live coverage when Elian Gonzalez and his plane touches down, arrives in Havana.

For now, let's go to our colleagues Mary Matalin and Bill Press for CROSSFIRE.


On the CROSSFIRE, in the CROSSFIRE tonight, California Congresswoman Maxine Waters, long an advocate of Elian's return to Cuba, and Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, staunch supporter of Elian's remaining with his American family. Will the dramatic -- diplomatic drama have any impact on U.S.-Cuban relations? And can Castro claim victory? We'll discuss that events, that and more, while continuing to monitor events in Havana, as Wolf said, and we'll cut back to that when Elian's plane arrives.

In the meantime, the ongoing debate -- Bill.

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, let me ask you, if you look back now, you and the family in Miami lost in Miami family court, you lost in Miami federal court, you lost in the Atlanta appeals court twice, you lost at that time Supreme Court. Doesn't this prove that your argument that this boy should be separated from his father was wrong from the beginning?

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R), FLORIDA: Absolutely not, because what those court decisions have said over and over again it is that it is to the discretion of Janet Reno, the attorney general. She could have very easily decided that Elian should stay or that Elian's petition should be accepted by INS. The discretion is for the attorney general, so every time that Janet Reno says we are...

PRESS: OK, congresswoman, I have to interrupt you, because we're going back to Wolf Blitzer. As you can see, Ileana's plane is nearing the Jose Marti Airport, and Wolf Blitzer picks it up from there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Bill.

We're now looking at a scene at the airport in Havana, where many of the schoolchildren, the friends of Elian Gonzalez, have gathered to receive him, to welcome him, his father, the rest of his family members who are coming on this plane from the United States. It's been a short, relatively short flight, less than three hours. They left the Washington Dulles airport at around 4:40 p.m. Eastern Time. That's about three hours or so from now. It's about a three-hour flight, we were told. Cuban Television is providing us with these pictures.

We're told it's a relatively low-key arrival ceremony for Elian Gonzalez, and conspicuously absent, according to our Havana bureau chief Lucia Newman, will be Cuba's president, Fidel Castro.

There, we are told, is the plane, the private Lear Jet, that is bringing Elian Gonzalez's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, the half brother,, the stepmother, some other family members, and friends back to Cuba. Lucia Newman is standing by at the airport. Give us some sense of what's going on over there, Lucia.

NEWMAN: Well, right now, the children are starting to cheer. They sense, they know that the plane that's bringing Elian Gonzalez finally back to Cuba is near, should be arriving at any moment now. They're very, very excited, indeed, as are most Cubans, not to mention, of course, Cuban officials who gave a very, very big sigh of relief when the Supreme Court made its decision today to allow Elian to return to this country. Although I have to say that the Cuban government has made it very clear that the struggle, as they call it, is it not over and will not end just because little Elian is arriving here.

But at this time, there is an extraordinary sense of excitement. Cubans are watching this on television. Everybody is glued to their seats. One Cuban said to me, though, "I won't believe it until I actually see him land." It's been seven months, it's a long time, and in this country, it's been the only subject for all that time.

BLITZER: Lucia, is there a microphone there, a podium? Do we expect formal remarks from Juan Miguel Gonzalez or others at this arrival ceremony?

NEWMAN: I can see a microphone. Yet Cuban Television read out an announcement, an official government announcement, which said that there would be absolutely no remarks, that it would be a very, very short reception. The schoolchildren would stand by discretely, waving their little Cuban flags. Juan Miguel Gonzalez and his son, presumably, will greet the people who are there, the relatives present, and then they will leave immediately, we are told. They will leave through an undisclosed route so that people will not be able to follow them, or at least that is the intention, as they leave this airport, and they will go somewhere which has not been disclosed to meet up with the rest of the schoolchildren who had accompanied little Elian during his stay in the Washington area.

They will all get together, and around 10:00 tonight, Eastern Time -- that will be about two and a half hours from now -- they will all gather in a house in an upscale Havana neighborhood that was designated for Elian to stay, where they will stay, we are told, for two to three weeks, while the children continue their studies, so that Elian can catch up with his first-grade studies, and presumably, will then be able to graduate and go on to second grade. It will only be in about a month from now, we are told, that the little boy, and his father and his closest relatives will finally return to their hometown of Cardenas, from where Elian left more than seven months ago -- Wolf.

BLITZER: OK, Lucia, stand by. We want to welcome our international viewers on CNN International.

I want to bring back Mark Potter who is standing by in Little Havana in Miami.

Mark, as Cuban-Americans -- and you know this community well having covered Miami, South Florida for so long -- how are they reacting when they're seeing these pictures at the airport in Havana?

POTTER: We don't know exactly. This group here has not seen the pictures. The people in the community who are watching the news, I am certain, are very upset. This is what they fought against for months, they went to court against. It's a terrible end to a seven-month saga for the Cuban-American community in Miami.

The group that was behind me briefly that was heckling is actually doing that because we are CNN and they're angry about us having a bureau in Havana. It has nothing to do with the plane landing. They have not seen it. But I can say that the majority of the Cuban-American community which is not represented by this group here is watching this event sadly and quietly. It's very disappointed and angry about this event. Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Mark. And stand by over there.

Lucia, as you know, this comes a day after a move in Congress to ease food and medical sanctions against Cuba. Is there some sense in the Cuban government that there may be a turning point this U.S.-Cuba relationship now these sanctions being eased apparently for the first time over these past 40 years?

NEWMAN: Wolf, I'm sorry. I'm having a great deal of trouble hearing you. But I think I understand that you asked me if this might perhaps be a turning point the relationship between both countries. It's certainly what -- that was the message from Juan Miguel Gonzalez as we all heard when he left Washington. And even though the Cuban government is downplaying that, it's something that ordinary Cubans seem to believe might very much be in the works. The fact that there seems to be easing now of the U.S. -- the 40-year embargo, the ability now for U.S. farmers to sell their food to Cuba, even though there are some restrictions.

Those are small steps, but important politically. And people here certainly see it as a -- the beginning of a final thaw in the relationship. But I have to underline that the Cuban government is not -- is downplaying that very much saying that there is a long way to go, that the struggle will only continue, that in fact, Elian's arrival is only the beginning of the struggle, that they have to continue now to keep to protest and to fight for an end to the U.S. economic embargo, the end of the Cuban Adjustment Act, the wet foot/dry foot policy was we call it, which allows most Cubans to stay in the United States if they touch U.S. soil. So it's still a political battle here that the government is not letting go of -- Wolf.

BLITZER: OK, Lucia, stand by. I want to bring in our senior White House correspondent John King as we see these pictures of the ceremony planned at the Havana airport, the arrival of Elian Gonzalez and his family imminent.

John King, the president was asked repeatedly today at his news conference about U.S.-Cuba relations and what this all means. Give us the gist of what he said. JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Basically what the president said, Wolf, is he does not foresee any major shift in U.S.- Cuba relations in the short term. Remember, this president has only seven months left. Anything he tried to do on that front, even if he wanted to, would become quite controversial because the other party, the Republicans run the U.S. Congress and, of course, there is an ongoing presidential election.

What the president did say is that he was open to some easing of those sanctions. He said he wanted to look at the fine print of legislation under way in Congress right now gaining momentum that would allow the sale of some food and medicine. The president said he might be able to support that. But he turned quite angry when asked if this was the time to normalize relations with Cuba, saying we were on the path toward such a step five or six years ago. But then those two planes were shot down in February, 1996. A Cuban-American group saying those planes were on a humanitarian mission.

Mr. Clinton called that murder today and said that ended any chance of normalizing relations with Fidel Castro. That issue now will be left to the next president of the United States. And in the current campaign, both the Democratic candidate, Vice President Al Gore, and the Texas governor George W. Bush say it's not time to do that. They want to continue the embargo. And they want to see what they say must be democratic steps in Cuba before they would consider any major change.

The minor change stemming not so much from the Elian Gonzalez case but from pressure from U.S. farmers who have watched the United States push a new trade bill with China. They say why shouldn't they be able to sell their products in Cuba as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: OK, John. I want to bring in our legal analyst Roger Cossack. He's here in Washington with me as we watch these live pictures of members of Juan Miguel's family, of Elian Gonzalez's family. We're told these are the grandmothers who had come to the United States to try to bring Elian Gonzalez back unsuccessfully several months ago.

As you take a look at these pictures, Roger Cossack, what are the legal obstacles right now standing in the way of Americans who want to visit Cuba?

ROGER COSSACK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well you know, Wolf, it's still not -- it's not you're not allowed to go to Cuba, although most people find a way by going to other countries. You can go through other countries and get to Cuba. But as it stands right now, you are not allowed to visit Cuba.

BLITZER: And as you see these pictures obviously a receiving line we're seeing. I think that's Ricardo Alarcon, he's president of the Cuban National Assembly who has joined the grandmothers, other family and friends of Elian Gonzalez, Juan Miguel Gonzalez as they prepare to land in Havana airport.

Do you sense that there is this moment right now, given the momentum on the Hill, to ease some of these sanctions, given the move by the Clinton administration to return Elian Gonzalez to Cuba, that there is a potential turning point in this U.S.-Cuban relationship?

COSSACK: Well, let me just say this: As a legal analyst, I'm not going to stray into the political world. But let me just say this: It's a very unusual situation where you have a legal situation like we've had here today in the Elian Gonzalez case where you have the government coming in on the side of one side, which in this particular case was the father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez. The government came in on his side and took the side when they went to the United States Supreme Court. So you know, here you have our government, our attorney general taking one side against the president's and the other family in South Florida. That is also significant and rarely happens.

BLITZER: OK. I want to go back to Lucia Newman in Havana. Lucia, is that the Lear jet that has now arrived, has touched down in Havana at the airport?

NEWMAN: Wolf, the plane has just touched down. I'm seeing it right now. And the little children on the Tarmac are beginning to wave their flags, their handkerchiefs which show that they're members of Cuba's youth organization, the Pioneers. And the grandparents are all walking forward as the plane approaches.

BLITZER: And tell us, Lucia...

NEWMAN: Still a distance away from us.

BLITZER: Lucia, tell us some of the people who have...

NEWMAN: Excuse me, I...

BLITZER: ... who have gathered there. I think we saw Ricardo Alarcon, the president of the Cuban national assembly, the grandmothers. Who else is there with them for this reception?

NEWMAN: The people here are as you mentioned, Ricardo Alarcon, the president of Cuba's national assembly, the grandmothers, the uncles, some of the cousins are here as well. As well as the head of Cuba's Young Communist League and the University Students Federation who have been at least on the formal sense heading the whole campaign for the return of Elian Gonzalez to Cuba. His whole school is here, of course, as well as his teachers. But no one else. This, by Cuban standards, as I said earlier, is a rather low-key reception for someone's whose cause has brought out -- up -- out on the streets of Cuba up to half a million people, Wolf.

BLITZER: And do we...

NEWMAN: So the children are cheering and jumping up and down. But there are no people out on the streets.

BLITZER: Do we expect any of those huge rallies, any of those huge demonstrations in the next few days?

NEWMAN: No, we do not. In fact, President Fidel Castro hasn't tired of saying for the past few months that there will be no such rallies or no triumph marches, as he calls them. They do not want to make this a, sort of a triumph for their political cause. They say this is just the beginning of their political cause.

And so they will keep this very low-key and they say they do not want to subject little Elian to any more trauma, to any more public scrutiny. They want to take him out of the public eye. So we don't expect to see very, very much of this little boy after he lands here and after he gets out of the plane, Wolf. And you may be noticing that there are two planes, not just one. They had to hire two planes to bring back Elian and his family as well as the school children who had been accompanying him in the Washington area and the parents of those children as well.

BLITZER: Is all this spontaneous or just highly-orchestrated. Is this well-structured? Lucia, you know Havana. You've been there now for a few years. How coordinated is all of this by the government?

NEWMAN: Wolf, I'm sorry. You're going to have to ask me that again because I'm having trouble -- difficulty hearing you with the plane, with the noise here.

BLITZER: I know. I know there's a lot of noise going on over there, a lot of excitement. I'm wondering how...

NEWMAN: Yes. Go ahead. I'll try...

BLITZER: I'm wondering how spontaneous all of this is and how carefully choreographed is it?

NEWMAN: Well, certainly this demonstration was organized. There's no doubt about it. But it's a very, very, very small one. But I don't think that one could question the authenticity of the cheers because Cubans are, to say the very least, relieved and happy that this little boy is back. There is something from Elian- exhaustion, you have to -- it's been nothing but Elian for the last seven months.

So whether people agree with the Cuban government and its politics or not, almost everyone here does believe that this little boy should be with his father and should be in his home country where. That's where the family wants him to be, Wolf. And these children are -- have been hearing of nothing else but Elian. And I think they just are dying to see him. The plane is stopping right now. And he should be stepping down at any moment -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And when he does, of course, we're watching those pictures very closely. These are pictures that are being made available by Cuban Television.

How much of a surprise has it been, Lucia, that President Fidel Castro is not personally there to welcome home Elian Gonzalez?

NEWMAN: Well, you know, he said, and he told me this on one of the few occasions that we've had a chance to speak to him personally about it over the last seven months, he said he did not want to seem to gloat, so he has deciding, I think, to at least not appear to be gloating by not showing up at the airport. Many people here in Cuba certainly expected him to be here. He has shown up at almost every major rally, but curiously enough, on this occasion, he is staying away. Certainly, he's watching it. Perhaps he might be somewhere nearby, but he's not, at least, showing his face publicly. He's leaving this day to the family and to the people closest to little Elian.

BLITZER: And there they are. They've just touched down on Cuban soil.

NEWMAN: They are.

BLITZER: That's Juan Miguel Gonzalez, his wife, Elian's Gonzalez' stepmother, his half brother. Obviously receiving the grandmothers who had come unsuccessfully to the United States to try to bring Elian back a few months ago. Uncles. Aunts. Who else is there, Lucia?

NEWMAN: Excuse me, please repeat the question. I'm sorry.

BLITZER: We're seeing a lot of hugging and kissing going on, a lot of crying.


BLITZER: Tell us who some of these people are if you're seeing these pictures.

NEWMAN: Right now, we are seeing the grandmothers, the grandfathers, the great grandmothers, the aunts and the cousins all engulfing little Elian, and his father and stepmother, and they're sobbing, they're crying, they're hugging him. You know, the crying started even before the plane landed, the minute they knew that it had actually left the United States. But now the joy on their faces is intense.

And you see little Elian almost overwhelmed by all this. And you know, I understand he lost his two front teeth, and he's said to be very, very shy about smiling too much, because he doesn't have his two front teeth anymore. He lost during the seven months -- just recently actually before arriving back in Cuba, but his family is certainly overjoyed to see him again.

You can see his great grandmother, Ramona, is hugging him right now, the woman with the white hair. She told me she would die if she didn't see him again, that she was only living for the day where she could hold him again in had her arms, and today we are seeing that happening.

BLITZER: We're told, Lucia, the flight lasted three hours and eight minutes from Washington's Dulles Airport to Jose Marti Airport in Havana. A lot of joy, celebration. Obviously, people have not seen Elian Gonzalez in Cuban for more than seven months, and there's a sense of relief, I am sure, as this goes on. Is there any program that you know of where schoolchildren are going owe to be singing or saying anything as this reception continues?

I think Lucia is having trouble hearing me. Obviously, a lot of noise.

NEWMAN: No, I am here, Wolf. I can hear you. I'm just -- think I heard you say -- and I'm very sorry, I apologize to our viewers, but we have a very bad audio reception here. But I think you were asking me if there was to be any kind of a reception or speech here. And we understand that there's going to be none at all. It's just his family reunion, a chance for the people closest to Elian and his family to see him here at the time airport, and then they will be whisked away. In fact, we are seeing cars approaching the group right now, and small little buses approaching the immediate family at this very moment, and we believe they will not be here much longer. No Cuban official is expected to make any statement either throughout this reception -- Wolf .

BLITZER: The grandmothers, obviously, want to touch their little grandson and stay as close to him as they had possibly can. Neither one of them anxious to leave his sight. He's being held up by other friends right now. I assume that must be either a friend, or an uncle or someone, but we see those grandmothers who have been to the United States, not that long ago tried to bring him back to Cuba.

Was there any ever sense, Lucia, as far as you could see that Juan Miguel Gonzalez, the boy's father, would make a decision to stay in the United States, rather than to return? Of course that was the hope of so many Cuban-Americans in South Florida.

NEWMAN: Well, the only person who knows whether he ever, ever had entertained that idea is Juan Miguel Gonzalez himself. But if we can believe what he said, he said he never had entertained that idea, and in fact the Cuban government is going out of its way to underline the fact that he -- and I'm quoting government officials -- that he couldn't be bought, that he couldn't or persuaded or dissuaded to stay in the land of milk and honey, and that he, in fact, had gone to the United States, he had seen what it was like, and despite all that, he was a patriotic Cuban, and he wanted to return to Cuba, and certainly that is what Juan Miguel Gonzalez had said all along, that that was his intention, and he seems at least from what you can see, he seems happy to be back here again -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, we've seen that...

NEWMAN: Now we are seeing the families slowly. The family is dispersing, and they're getting into the different cars, where they will be taken away on a route in fact that hasn't even been disclosed so that the Cuban people can't be out on the highways, on the nearby streets, to form any kind of a caravan, to even wave at the small procession. And what we don't know is where they're going to go from here. We know they're going to an undisclosed location for about an hour. Perhaps President Fidel Castro may be there to finally meet little Elian Gonzalez in person for himself. We don't know that. That's speculation at this time, but many people are wondering if that's what will happen. After that, they will go to a house that has been designated for them in an upper-scale neighborhood here in Havana -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lucia, is it a foregone conclusion that the Gonzalez family eventually will go back to the small town of Cardenas, where they're from?

NEWMAN: It appears to be, Wolf. That's what everybody is saying, that's what the government is saying, and that's certainly what they have said over and over again that they want to do. They want to go back to their normal life, to their modest, but fairly comfortable, certainly by Cuban standards, home in Cardenas, and try to improve their normal life.

But of course nobody knows whether that will ever really be possible again after all that has transpired. There isn't anybody in this country, or in fact in the United States or any parts of the world that don't know the face of little Elian Gonzalez and his father right now. They are personalities that would be very difficult to resume the kind of life they had before, but they that's at least what they're going to try to do.

BLITZER: And on this evening, when he is now in Havana going to an undisclosed location in this motorcade that we see leaving the Jose Marti Airport in Havana, the sense will be what happens tomorrow on the first full day that he's back in Cuba. Is the government, are officials, friends, relatives, is anyone saying about what happens tomorrow?

NEWMAN: Well, what we've been told is after they go to this home, or huge house, actually, that's been designated for Elian and his classmates they will be out of the public eye, no one will see them again, and the government will presumably take all the measures necessary, all the security precautions to keep the media and any other curiosity seekers away from this child. They say he will then resume his classes. He's still far behind. They want him to be able to graduate from first grade. School is almost over here in Cuba now, as it is in the United States, so they want him to completely be up to speed, as it were, with his studies so that he can then go onto second grade when school resumes again in September, and they say that will take about two or three weeks. After that, they will go someplace for a holiday, just the family, somewhere near their hometown of Cardenas, which we presume could be the summer resort of Bovararo (ph). It's a very large beach. It's a tourist area. In fact, it's where Juan Miguel Gonzalez works.

After they have that rest, that holiday, they will then, we are told, return to their hometown of Cardenas and try to get back to life as normal, and certainly Elian is to resume his studies in the same school that he left when he left the country months ago with his mother -- Wolf.

BLITZER: During these past few months, he did have his school teacher come to Washington, join him with some class mates, and he was getting schooling regularly earlier in Maryland, outside of Washington, and more recently when the entire entourage moved back into the District of Columbia. So he shouldn't be too far behind in his schooling, isn't that your sense, Lucia.

NEWMAN: Well, he's only been with his schoolteacher for a couple of months, but he's been away from Cuba for seven months, so he missed out on a lot of school. And he did go to school briefly in Miami, as you may recall, but that didn't last for very long, and it was a different sort of schooling from what he was receiving here. So while they're saying that he's not too far behind, he still needs a little bit more help.

They say he now knows how to read and write, but it's believed that he still is not up to par, that he needs to study a little bit more so that he can be up to the same level as his other classmates, Wolf.

But they say that he's a very bright child. Everyone who has met him says so, the psychiatrists, the psychologists in the United States and certainly people here. He seems to be a very bright little boy and no one here seems to be too concerned that he will be able to learn whatever is missing, whatever else he needs to know so that he can go back to school, back to the school he left with his classmates, with his friends. And they have there -- the people of his town are also being prepared for his return, Wolf. They're being told that they...

BLITZER: Well, we've just lost our satellite in Havana. That was Lucia Newman, our Havana bureau chief on the scene. The arrival of Elian Gonzalez, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, the entire family from the United States back now on Cuban soil.

CNN's Mark Potter is standing by in Little Havana in Miami where the Cuban-American community for the most part, Mark, I take it, is not very happy right now.

POTTER: Not at all. It can be expressed that the feeling here is one of sadness and of anger. They fought against this for seven months. The family here supported by the Cuban-American community went to court and they lost every time. And today was the final blow and Elian went back to Cuba.

This is very bad news, and it is reflected somewhat by the group that gathered here today outside the home in Miami's Little Havana where Elian stayed with relatives for several months. This group is relatively small. It in no way reflects the size of the Cuban- American community, most of which did not come out on the streets today. The leader said they did not advocate people coming out into large gatherings. And that's exactly the situation that we saw here today. There was no violence. Very few people came out.

But it is safe to say, very clearly, that there is widespread concern. Widespread sadness and anger and we're seeing a little bit of it expressed here in these few people, maybe a dozen people who are here tonight. This is the smallest group that we have ever seen outside the home. But it is safe to say that there is widespread concern here tonight. Wolf, back to you. BLITZER: OK. Mark Potter in Little Havana in Miami, thanks.

So there it is. Elian Gonzalez, his family back in Cuba on this historic day, this momentous day for Cuba, of course for Cuban- American relations.

We're are going to continue our coverage. For now, though, the "WORLD TODAY" is next.



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