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CNN Today

'People Went a Little Too Far' in Elian Gonzalez Protests, Says Miami Police; Cuba Begins to Respond; Congress Ponders Subpoena

Aired January 7, 2000 - 2:01 p.m. ET


LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: We begin again with Elian Gonzalez. The legal and political tussle over this little Cuban boy could spill into the streets of Miami for a third straight day. Cuban Americans call for new protests over the government's decision to send Elian back to his father in Cuba. That fight to keep him in the United States may reach the courts shortly, perhaps even the Congress.

Let's begin our coverage now in Miami with CNN's Susan Candiotti -- Susan.


We are waiting for word now that at any moment attorneys representing the boy's interests are expected to file a court challenge beginning in state court, then eventually in federal court. The filing in state court is meant to try to regain custody, or to gain custody, of the boy. The group here, the relatives here, and anti-Castro groups are trying to avoid the boy's return to Cuba, to his father in Cuba, which, of course, is the ruling of immigration authorities.

Now, they will also be filing challenges in federal court as well to try to demand a political asylum hearing for this boy.

A family spokesman for the relatives says they are opposed to any involvement as well by the National Council of Churches. You will recall that the father of Elian Gonzalez has asked the National Council of Churches to get involved in reuniting him with his son. They are opposed any involvement by that church group.

And here is what the family spokesman had to say.


ARMANDO GUTIERREZ, GONZALEZ FAMILY SPOKESMAN: The family has been getting a lot of rumors that Elian's father is sending the church of -- whatever church went to Cuba to see him to come over to here to pick up the little boy, and they feel that that's the worst thing that could ever happen to this little boy, to be -- knock on the door, to be picked up by people he never met. We psychiatrists feel that that would hurt this little boy for the rest of his life.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CANDIOTTI: The National Council of Churches has been invited by the father to help get the two of the together again by January the 14th.

Now, meantime, the streets have been calm for most of the day throughout Miami and various parts of Dade County following a day-long and night-long demonstrations in parts of both Miami and parts of the county during which at least 100 people arrested and police had to use tear gas to break up the crowds.

Joining us now to talk about what the police plan to do about all this is Lieutenant Bill Schwartz, a spokesperson for the Miami Police Department.

What about all the arrests? Did you have to use the tear gas, and what ultimately led to that decision?

LT. WILLIAM SCHWARTZ, MIAMI POLICE: This thing went from a demonstration to a civil disobedience, a civil disturbance very, very fast, and suddenly the streets seemed to collapse and everyone had a plan to want to disrupt the city of Miami. So, we were put in this very uncomfortable position to have to do something about it and it as quickly as possible. Now, we tried very, very hard to let people demonstrate on their own without compromising that demonstration, but people went a little too far.

CANDIOTTI: Well, Lieutenant Schwartz, it's not over. Earlier this day, the head of one of the exile groups has promised to create a major logjam a Miami International Airport come Monday. What's your plan?

SCHWARTZ: Well, you know, it seems to me that's the largest, you know, contradiction I've heard since this whole thing has started, because he says he wants people to be supportive of the issue on one hand and on the other hand they want to block the airport. This is one of the major airport of the country, of the world, in fact. I don't think he's going to make people here very happy if he does that. People trying to catch a plane are going to be pretty pissed off.

CANDIOTTI: Well, sorry about that choice of words. We appreciate you joining us. Thank you very much indeed.

SCHWARTZ: You're welcome.

CANDIOTTI: And of course it's not over and we are also expecting more demonstrations during this evening as well and throughout the weekend.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, reporting live in Miami.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: CNN's Lucia Newman talked today with top Cuban authorities about the Elian Gonzalez case. She joins us from Havana -- Lucia.

LUCIA NEWMAN, HAVANA BUREAU CHIEF: Good afternoon, Natalie. Indeed, after three days of silence following the INS decision to allow little Elian Gonzalez to be reunited with his father, Cuban officials are coming out to counter the growing attempts in the United States to prevent the child from returning to his country.

Now, we spoke to President Castro's point man on this dispute, Ricardo Alarcon, who's also president of Cuba National Assembly, just a short while ago, and he had this to say about the possibility that Elian Gonzalez may be subpoenaed before a congressional committee and also the plans to perhaps turn him into an American citizen or at least a permanent resident of the United States.


RICARDO ALARCON, PRES., CUBAN NATIONAL ASSEMBLY: I think those ideas are preposterous, really, clear, desperate maneuvers by those who refuse to accept the clear decision taken by INS and confirmed by the secretary of justice and the president and to prolong the suffering of a small boy and his family in Cuba.


NEWMAN: When we asked Mr. Alarcon repeatedly why the child's father wouldn't go to the United States to fetch his child, he said that he would if it were as simple as that, but the INS has not been able to guarantee that if he were to go to Miami he would be handed over the child.


ALARCON: Many, many lawyers have advised us -- American lawyers -- never to do that, because if he were to do that, he could be dragged into a legalistic process that would end nowhere and deprived from his most fundamental right, which is to recover his child.


NEWMAN: And speaking of demonstrations, on this side of the Florida Straits a rather large rally is planned a few hours from now in the boy's hometown of Cardines (ph), around three hours from Havana. The parents -- the grandparents and the father are expected to be there, a continuing push by Cuba, by the government and by the family to have the child return to this country.

This is Lucia Newman reporting live from Havana.

WATERS: And now the United States Congress appears ready to get into the Elian Gonzalez case.

CNN congressional correspondent Bob Franken is watching that element of the story up on Capitol Hill.

Bob, what's it all about?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what's it all about is is that the members of Congress don't know exactly what it is all about.

They have been requested, they being the House Government Reform Committee, to subpoena young Elian Gonzalez, the idea being that if they do that they can sort of put a freeze on him, keep him in the United States until Congress reconvenes in a couple of weeks, at which time several Republicans from Florida, members of the House from the Miami area and Senator Connie Mac, Republican senator from Florida, would introduce legislation, probably what's called private legislation, to grant either citizenship or permanent residence status to the young man in an effort to keep him in the United States.

It should be pointed out that getting such legislation passed is extremely difficult. It requires, in effect, everybody to go along. And as we know, this is really a contentious political issue, partisan political issue, in the Congress and in the United States, as well as its international implications. So, it would be very difficult to do that.

As for the committee subpoena, Congressman Dan Burton, who's the chairman, is no friend of Cube, to put it mildly. However, is really not saying a word right now. Why? Because his committee lawyers don't know if legally he any ability to do anything or whether it would do any effect -- have any effect.

So, this is all caught up as the family that's trying to keep the young man in the United States goes just about everywhere looking for ways to stall action as far as removing him from the country. One of the avenues they're exploring is the political avenue. Thus far, we don't know whether that will be a dead end -- Lou.

WATERS: These efforts by the family attorneys in Miami to file in state and federal court, is that also a factor in Dan Burton's consideration?

FRANKEN: Well, I suspect that his lawyers are exploring just exactly what possibilities lie in the court. For instance, either one of the courts, federal or the state court, could issue some sort of temporary injunction stopping the INS from acting. The question could come up, I could see, whether or not they have jurisdiction as opposed to turning this over to immigration. I don't want to practice law here, but Senator -- rather, Congressman Burton's lawyers do want to practice some law and then give him advice so he doesn't do something that looks futile and mike look foolish.

WATERS: Bob Franken up on Capitol Hill.


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