Elian Gonzalez's Grandmothers Headed for Cuba; Miami Family Hopes for a VisitAired January 21, 2000 - 2:01 p.m. ET
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LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: He arrived in this country Thanksgiving Day, rescued at sea, his mother dead. Six-year-old Elian Gonzalez could not have envisioned his life in America. His family in Cuba still cannot. About 90 minutes from now, a plane is due to land in New York. On it: the boy's grandmothers. They're coming to appeal for their grandson's return to Cuba.
We're following this fast-breaking story from several vantage points. First, CNN's Martin Savidge is on the live with us from Havana.
What's the latest, Marty?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, the white charter jet took off from the Havana International Airport about an hour and a half ago. On board were Elian Gonzalez' two grandmothers, as well as a delegation from the National Council of Churches. That plane is expected to arrive in New York at about 3:15, this afternoon.
It brings to an end about 20 hours of tumultuous changes here in Havana. The delegation arrived last night in their aircraft. The airplane remained on the ground for about four hours and then took off with no one on board with the exception of the pilot; the delegation remained behind. Late last night, they held a meeting with Elian Gonzalez's grandparents, as well as his father. That meeting lasted for about two hours, and when it ended, faces looked very grim as they came out of that meeting, and apparently no agreement had been struck for the grandmothers to travel to the United States.
Then, this morning, another turn of events. There was a meeting of the delegation taking place inside of the hotel when suddenly Elian Gonzalez' father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, showed up. A short time later, it was announced that the grandmothers had agreed to travel to the United States. Apparently the grandmothers had made this decision at 6:00 this morning, according to sources to CNN.
So they had begun their journey to New York, and it appears that some compromise must have been struck. Originally, the family and the grandparents had maintained that they would not travel to the United States unless it was for the specific purpose of picking up the boy. Now, the National Council of Churches in a statement said that the reason for the trip was for the grandparents to be able to state their case to the American people. Once again, the plane has left and is expected in New York at 3:15.
Martin Savidge, CNN, Havana.
WATERS: And officials with the National Council of Churches say the grandmothers are expected to hold a news conference upon their arrival in New York. We understand now that the news conference is scheduled for 4:15 Eastern Time. CNN will bring that to you live -- Andria.
ANDRIA HALL, CNN ANCHOR: Also caught up in this international custody fight: Elian's Miami family. What emotions must they have now that the boy's grandmothers are on their way to this country, and what of their legal push to keep Elian?
CNN's Susan Candiotti joins us from Miami with some insight on all of that now -- Susan.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Andria.
Just a little while ago, little Elian Gonzalez returned from his day at school. This family has said from the very beginning that they will fight for Elian Gonzalez to stay in Florida with them. As they put it, that would have been his mother's wish. They've also said the only way they would believe anything coming from the boy's father and grandparents in Cuba is if they would all come to Miami and talk directly with this family. Otherwise, they claim, anything that the father and grandparents would say would be, they claim, force-fed from Cuban President Fidel Castro.
Now, after learning the grand -- that the grandmothers are airborne and apparently heading for New York, one of the boy's cousins told me this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGINA CID CRUZ, ELIAN'S COUSIN: I wish I could see them, that's all.
CANDIOTTI: And if so, what would you say to them?
CID CRUZ: Talk to them and whatever. Excuse me.
CANDIOTTI: Talk to them about? Talk to them about?
CID CRUZ: Try to make them understand that he's going to be better off here. I'm sure that they know that already.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CANDIOTTI: The Florida relatives are continuing to pursue a lawsuit against the federal government demanding a political asylum hearing and a day in court for Elian Gonzalez. The question, who will the judge be: We expect to learn later today whether U.S. District Court Judge James Lawrence King will recuse himself from this case. The reason is, he disclosed that one of his sons has a political connection to the spokesperson for the Gonzalez family. Susan Candiotti, CNN, reporting live in Miami.
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