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CNN Today

Elian Gonzalez's Father, Support Team Apply for U.S. Visas

Aired April 3, 2000 - 1:05 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: New developments today in the international tug-of-war that is the Elian Gonzalez custody battle. CNN has learned Cuban officials applied for visas today to allow Elian's father and a support team to travel to the United States. Also today, Elian's Miami relatives are again meeting with U.S. Immigration officials.

Details now from CNN's Mark Potter who joins us from Miami -- Mark.

MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Lou. We're in the third day of negotiations in this case. We're outside the U.S. attorney's office in downtown Miami. Negotiations have been under way for about three hours. We have no word yet on how things are going. The government wants an agreement from Elian's Miami relatives that they will give the boy to his father if Juan Miguel Gonzalez comes to the United States or if the relatives lose their case in federal appeals court.

Now, looming large over those talks is what you mentioned just a moment ago, the news from Havana that could have a dramatic effect on this case. This morning, the Cuban government filed applications for 28 visas to come to the United States: for Juan Miguel Gonzalez, Elian's father, his immediate family, some teachers, a group of schoolchildren, and other people, including medical personnel, who would come meet with Elian.

A spokesman for the U.S. State Department said the visa applications were received and will be expedited with the applications of Juan Miguel and his immediate family being the ones they concentrate on first.

Last night on Cuban television, President Fidel Castro read a letter publicly from Juan Miguel Gonzalez explaining why he wants so many people to come with him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. FIDEL CASTRO, CUBA (through translator): It should be understood that it is my right to create the minimum conditions required and to receive the support of Elian's classmates and teachers and highly qualified people of my full confidence to help me in this task and my whole mission in America. Otherwise, such a trip would be senseless. (END VIDEO CLIP)

POTTER: Now, before the father agrees to come to the United States, he wants a guarantee from the U.S. government that he will be able to take custody of his son. The Immigration service and the Justice Department favor that. They have always said the boy belongs with his father. But the lawyers for the family here oppose it, saying that it could harm Elian psychologically. They have said that they will obey the law if they are ordered to give the child up, but their preference would be for an independent psychologist to examine the boy and determine what is best for him in terms of custody.

The lawyer for the father says he has no problem talking about how best to affect some sort of transfer in a humane, sensitive way, but he wants it known that, ultimately, the child should be turned over to his custody.

Meanwhile, some Cuban exile activists have said that if the talks break down today, tonight they will practice forming a human chain around the house where the boy is staying with his relatives. They have said that they will engage in acts of peaceful disobedience if the government tries to move the child from the family before the courts have finished their work.

The U.S. government has said if the talks break down, the -- they will begin efforts to revoke Elian's parole, his permission to stay in the United States. Those efforts would begin at 9:00 tomorrow morning.

Lou, back to you.

WATERS: Mark, we had a little trouble hearing you. A rather large commercial jetliner was going over when you were talking about this support group...

POTTER: Two of them.

WATERS: ... yes -- for Elian's father. I believe you said it includes schoolmates and teachers and medical personnel, and I was interested in what the medical personnel was all about.

POTTER: A physician, psychologist, psychiatrist. The Cubans as well as the attorneys here in Miami are all concerned about Elian's psychological state. The attorneys here have described it as fragile and so they are sending -- they are proposing to send, if the applications are accepted, these people to make sure that Elian is OK emotionally.

WATERS: All right, Mark Potter down there in Miami keeping watch over the Elian Gonzalez story.

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