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CNN Today

INS Decides 6-Year-Old Elian Gonzalez Belongs With Father in Cuba

Aired January 5, 2000 - 1:01 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Barring a last-minute action by a federal judge, Elian Gonzalez is going home to Cuba. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service today decided that the 6-year- old Cuban immigrant belongs with his father in Cuba, as the father has insisted all along.

You'll recall Elian was rescued from an inner tube off the Florida coast Thanksgiving Day. His mother and nine other Cuban exiles drowned when their boat flipped over. In the weeks since, Elian has been cared for by relatives in Miami who are planning to go to court later today to try and block the INS decision. In addition, anti-Castro activists are calling for civil disobedience to keep Elian from being taken away.

But in a news conference just a short while ago, immigration officials said they are convinced Juan Miguel Gonzalez loves his son and truly wants him back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DORIS MEISSNER, INS COMMISSIONER: This little boy, who has been through so much, belongs with his father. We urge everyone involved to understand, respect and uphold the bond between parent and child and the laws of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATERS: Officials say they're hoping Elian will be back in Cuba by the 14th of this month, a week from Friday.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Today's announcement is a victory not only for Elian's family in Cuba, but for Cuba itself, not to mention Cuba's president, Fidel Castro, who adopted the custody fight as a personal cause.

CNN Havana bureau chief Lucia Newman joins us now with reaction there -- Lucia.

LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN HAVANA BUREAU CHIEF: Good afternoon, Natalie.

Well, so far, authorities here are remaining mute about the decision, although a short while ago, state-run television did issue a statement cautioning the public to use prudence, to be discrete and not to be over-optimistic, it said, to wait and see whether or not the United States government could truly confront what it calls the Cuban- American Mafia in Miami and the U.S. political right wing.

So, so far, there are no celebrations on the streets here. In ,fact the statement reiterated the call for another demonstration later on this afternoon. There've been daily ones almost since the child was taken to the United States, and the one this afternoon has not been canceled.

Now, the child's father, we understand, has been notified of the decision. So far, he has -- at least as of 20 minutes ago, he had not applied for a visa to go to the United States to fetch the child, to bring him back home. So he remains adamant, and he has until now, at least, that he will not go to Miami, that the onus is on the INS to return the child to him here in this country, Natalie.

ALLEN: So what are the prospects, Lucia, that he may go to the U.S. or that -- does it look like Elian may be brought to Cuba?

NEWMAN: Well, unless he's had a sudden change of heart, he says he won't go because he feels his life could be in danger, that he could be kidnapped or that -- or other harm could come to him if he went to Miami because of the highly politically charged climate in that part of the United States. He has insisted all along, as has the Cuban government, that it is -- that they have no legal obligation to go and pick up the child. However, as we know, the U.S. National Council of Churches has offered its services to bring the boy here and turn the child over to the Cuban Council of Churches who would in turn hand the child over to his father -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Well, we'll wait for the next step in this saga.

Lucia Newman, live from Havana, thank you.

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