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Special Event

State Department Comments on Gonzalez Visas

Aired April 3, 2000 - 12:41 p.m. ET

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

ROGER COSSACK, CNN ANCHOR: We have to go now to the State Department to Jamie Rubin, who is discussing Elian Gonzalez.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

JAMES RUBIN, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: ... is probably well- known to many of you because in an unusual situation the names have been published already in the Cuban media. It's not our practice to give out the names of each one of those visa applicants. The immediate family is obviously part of that list, as well as classmates of Elian Gonzalez, teachers, medical personnel and the president of the National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon.

That is the list that we've received. We received those earlier today. We do expect to be making decisions on these visa applications fairly quickly. It has been our policy for many, many days now that we have indicated that we will stand ready to expedite the processing of visa applications for the immediate family of Elian Gonzalez.

QUESTION: What about the applicants who are not members of the immediate family?

RUBIN: Well, that is obviously what is being reviewed right now. That review is ongoing. I can't predict the outcome of that review other than to say that obviously we stated our policy in the past for very good reason in trying to make sure that whatever happens in this case is consistent with the American national interest.

Yes?

QUESTION: And are there any individuals on that list who would be excluded by the regulations of the...

RUBIN: I'm not aware of any presumptive exclusions, other than to say that the presumptive acceptances are the immediate family, and the rest will be reviewed on a cast-by-case basis, based on what we regard to be the national interest. That process will be ongoing during the course of the day.

QUESTION: Mr. Alarcon, is he not -- there's no -- is there anything that would keep him from getting a visa...

(CROSSTALK) RUBIN: I think he's traveled to the United States before in conjunction with his duties as part of discussions at the United Nations. So he's not not been to the United States.

On the other hand, what we have said is that we would expedite the processing of visas for immediate family members.

RUBIN: And we did that because of the nature of the case, and what we regard the nature of the case to be. And to the best of my knowledge, Ricardo Alarcon is not a member of Elian's immediate family.

QUESTION: Does that mean that basically for the immediate family it's pretty much a done deal?

RUBIN: Well, I'm trying to be as candid and forward-leaning as I can prior to decisions being made. There have been no visas yet proferred at this time. They're going to be processed as quickly as possible.

And the presumption is that those visas for immediate family members is something we will process favorably and quickly. Beyond that, we're going to have to review each of the individual requests.

QUESTION: Could you put a time frame on that? Could we expect the family visas to come out as early as today? And how about the time frame on the others? Today, tomorrow, next week?

RUBIN: Yes. The U.S. government officials -- and let me be very frank here, the State Department's role is to meet with the Cubans, receive the visa requests, consult with other agencies of the U.S. government, try to make a government-wide decision that we're all comfortable with, and then get back to the Cuban government through our Interests Section to provide the visas.

There are a number of agencies, obviously, that have an equity in a case as complex and politically sensitive as this has become. And we're trying to do this by the book, do it based on the national interest. So there may be some time elapsing between the arrival of a request and the proferring of a visa.

I think it's fair to say that those visas that fall in the category where we've already indicated our presumption should be able to move quite quickly.

RUBIN: But whether we deal with each and every one in a matter of hours, I doubt it. But we're going to be moving as quickly as we can.

QUESTION: No, that was my question.

RUBIN: Yes?

QUESTION: Are there group visas given for Cuban citizens? Is it possible that...

RUBIN: Group visas?

QUESTION: ... they would be considered as a group? For example, a head of a group of people who may have been waiting in line for visas? All that...

RUBIN: Well, obviously when we say we're going to expedite the processing of visas in this case -- and we said that last week we would expedite the processing of visas for Elian Gonzalez's immediate family -- that does involve expediting it. Beyond saying that, there are separate passports that have been offered to us to be stamped with visas, each separately. So there aren't any group requests. Might we come back and say, we'll do these today and these tomorrow, I just don't want to prejudge the way this going unfold in the coming days.

Obviously, there's been intense discussion all morning, interagency deliberations have already begun. And we're going to review the other categories, the categories of classmates, teachers, medical personnel, as well as the president of the national assembly, Ricardo Alarcon.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what kinds of visas these would be and how long they would be good for?

RUBIN: Well, I think once the decision is made, as to processing, making a decision that it's this kind of visa for this amount of time, we'll be trying to communicate that information to you, as quickly as we can as the day unfolds.

But I don't want to prejudge that before we've made any decisions.

COSSACK: All right, we've been listening to Jamie Rubin discussing the Elian Gonzalez case. He has indicated that the State Department will act to expedite the visas for the immediate family of Elian Gonzalez, and will review other applications for visas on a case-by-case basis.

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