|Editions | myCNN | Video | Audio | Headline News Brief | Feedback||
Elian Returns to CubaAired June 28, 2000 - 8:03 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The legal battle over Elian Gonzalez is over: 217 days after his Thanksgiving day rescue off the Florida coast, the 6-year-old boy is back in Cuba. An injunction barring Elian from leaving the United States expired four hours ago, clearing the way for him and his family to return home. While his return to Havana is certainly a victory for Cuba, the Cuban-American community considers it nothing short of a tragedy. We have extensive coverage tonight from Havana, Miami, and Washington, which is where we begin with CNN national correspondent Bob Franken.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The celebration at the last home for the Gonzalez family in the United States could be seen from the news helicopters hovering overhead. After a seven-month legal battle, the Supreme Court refused to take up the case. And the Gonzalez family, inside their ever-present security bubble, could head for Washington's Dulles Airport.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ, FATHER OF ELIAN GONZALEZ: We are happy to go home. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKEN: By coincidence, President Clinton had just finished a news conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We upheld here what I think is a quite important principle, as well as what is clearly the law of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKEN: Even as the Gonzalez group contended with the last- minute immigration and customs paperwork, those who had fought so hard to keep him here were dealing with a defeat they knew was inevitable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R), FLORIDA: We knew that once the Clinton administration was hell-bent on sending him back, it was just a matter of time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKEN: When it was time to go, an eager Elian ran onto the aircraft only to be called back to the door by his father for a last wave. Then from his father, a clenched fist, as he stepped inside the plane.
(on camera): The international drama seems to be over. Elian Gonzalez, his family and entourage return to Cuba, and they hope a normal life.
(voice-over): While Elian Gonzalez is gone from the United States, he will not necessarily be forgotten. His departure leaves behind bitter feelings in the Cuban-American community that will likely reverberate at least through election day in November.
Bob Franken, CNN, Washington.
BLITZER: Elian and his family were greeted at the Havana airport by relatives and classmates. The Cuban government is urging people to keep their celebrations low-key.
Joining us now with the latest, CNN Havana bureau chief Lucia Newman.
Take us through, Lucia, what has just happened at that airport.
LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN HAVANA BUREAU CHIEF: Good evening, Wolf.
About 15 minutes ago, the small private jet bringing Elian Gonzalez finally back to Cuba after seven months and a huge, huge unprecedented campaign in this country for his return, touched down here. He was greeted by hundreds of his schoolmates. The whole school from little Cardenas, a small town about two hours away from here was brought onto the Tarmac, brought here with little flags waving to greet Elian Gonzalez.
Also present was the president of Cuba's national assembly, Ricardo Alarcon, and of course, his closest relatives. His grandparents, his great grandmother, his cousins and uncles who had all been desperately waiting for his return hoping to see him, sometimes thinking they would never see him again, actually. But they were here, They hugged him as he got off plane. People were crying. But it was all very, very short.
... are leaving the Tarmac, returning on to the 14 or 15 buses that brought them here from Cardenas. Little Elian and his family and his relatives were whisked away on -- to an unknown location where we are told they will stay for about an hour and then they will go to a house that's been designated for them here in Havana -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And the fact that Fidel Castro, Lucia, was not there. What should we read into that?
NEWMAN: I guess we should read into this that he wants to keep his word because he had said some time ago that he was not going to be like the people in the United States, that he wasn't going to gloat when Elian eventually returned to this country, that he wasn't going to start singing the praises of own political system or call -- "crying victory" to quote the president himself. He said he wouldn't be here, and he wasn't. Although many people here were surprised. They expected him.
There was an announcement here at the airport. We're still here at the airport as you can hear.
But as I was saying earlier, President Fidel Castro has taken a very, very personal interest in this and he's been really managing the whole campaign for the return of Elian Gonzalez. So for many Cubans, it was surprising that he didn't change his mind and actually show up at the airport. Perhaps he's meeting Elian Gonzalez somewhere else in the Cuban capitol this evening, Wolf. But we don't know that for sure.
BLITZER: OK. Our Havana bureau chief Lucia Newman, thanks -- Joie.
JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Miami's Cuban-American community fought to keep Elian from returning to Cuba.
CNN's Mark Potter is in the Little Havana neighborhood where Elian lived for five months.
MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Outside the home of Elian's Miami relatives, news of the Supreme Court decision was met with sadness and anger. Among the several dozen protesters, there was even a brief scuffle.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm an American. And if -- I'm crying for this country. And if Lady Liberty could cry, she'd be weeping.
POTTER: But the strongest emotions flowed as the protesters settled down to watch Elian's departure on TV, the moment they hoped would never come. In pained silence they saw him walk along the Tarmac, the aircraft taxiing down the runway, and finally taking off. Some of the supporters wept openly along the fence outside the Gonzalez home where for months Elian had played in the yard.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a family tragedy for this community, a family tragedy because it hurts each and every one of us.
POTTER: Even for Lazaro Gonzalez, Elian's great uncle, emotions ran high. As he left a church, where the family had gone to pray, he confronted a photographer and was calmed by his daughter, Marisleysis.
At a news conference, a Gonzalez family spokesman urged the community to accept the court decision and to remain calm. ARMANDO GUTIERREZ, MIAMI FAMILY SPOKESMAN: Now we are devastated that at this very moment Elian is going back to live a country where he will never be free.
POTTER: The family's attorneys also spoke, and praised the Gonzalezes' courage and lashed out at the court's decision which sent Elian home.
KENDALL COFFEY, ATTORNEY FOR ELIAN'S MIAMI RELATIVES: We are truly heartbroken at this moment with a sense of sadness that an injustice has occurred and especially a sense of sadness in our concern for this child.
POTTER: The Supreme Court ruling was no surprise to the Cuban- American community, which has witnessed nothing but losses in the courts. Still, the finality of this moment hit very hard seven months after Elian Gonzalez brought such hope to this community.
Joie, back to you.
CHEN: Mark, before you go here, you've talked to many of the people in this community. I wonder if there's a sense among them, among the hard-line anti-Castro people in Little Havana there, in Miami, if there is a sense that they are misunderstood by much of the United States for their passion about this particular case and this little boy.
POTTER: That's all that the political activists here have been talking about today, that their message never got out. They are concerned that the rest of the community sees them as rabid, right wing. And they claim that they have a very important message that should be heard, that this child should not go back to Cuba. And they are upset that the rest of the company -- the rest of the country, I'm sorry, never got their message.
It's clear that that did not happen, according to the polls. And they are concerned about that. They say they didn't do anything wrong. It's just that the country did not understand them.
CHEN: CNN's Mark Potter reporting to us from Miami.
You can examine the Elian Gonzalez case file and weigh in with your opinions at our Web site at cnn.com -- Wolf.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.