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CNN Today

Massive Havana Protests Demonstrate Emotional Nature of Elian Gonzalez Case

Aired January 14, 2000 - 2:55 p.m. ET

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

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Few stories of individual struggle capture our attention like that of Elian Gonzalez. That massive march in Havana today demonstrates how emotional people are getting about his fate.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, that strong feeling is on both sides of the Florida Straits.

Here's CNN's John Zarrella.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When it comes to Elian Gonzalez, everyone has an opinion. In New York:

PROTESTERS: Send Elian home.

ZARRELLA: In Miami:

PROTESTERS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ZARRELLA: The very vocal majority are demanding he stay. For the Cuban Americans who live virtually a stone's throw from Havana, the passions run deep.

(on camera): In two separate polls, nearly 90 percent of Miami's Cuban Americans said they don't want the boy to go back. But a few, mostly younger Cubans, believe...

(voice-over): ... Elian's place is with his father.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He should go back with his father because, you know, like, his father and his mother made him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he has to go back to Cuba because I think he has to be with his father.

ZARRELLA: When it comes to issues involving Cuba or Castro, voices of dissent are a somewhat new phenomenon in Miami. In the past, it wasn't always healthy to utter an alternative opinion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Miami, unfortunately, and particularly Cuban Miami, is a society in deep paranoia, and fully justified in being paranoid. There is a cost in holding these different kinds of opinions in Miami.

ZARRELLA: But not in the coffee shops and cigar stores of Union City, New Jersey. Here, a woman and her daughter-in-law can agree to disagree.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the father needs him, and I think he should go back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he should stay, you know, because I think if his mother brought him here, she risked her life, she died for a better future for her son.

ZARRELLA: Here, as in Miami, Elian's picture is on light poles and in restaurant, and the sentiment leans heavily in one direction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not sending him back to his father, we're sending him back to Castro, and that's not fair to the boy.

ZARRELLA: But here, Cuban Americans say there is far less pressure to be politically correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Miami, they have politicized the situation; and here in Union City, we think about the situation in a different way.

ZARRELLA: In Union City, the sentiment is the same; how it's expressed is different.

John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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