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CNN Today

Elian Gonzalez Case: Final Preparations Under Way for Boy's Father to Travel to U.S.; Florida Relatives Continue Fight to Retain Custody

Aired April 4, 2000 - 1:01 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: The next act in the Elian Gonzalez drama may begin shortly. Final preparations are under way for Elian's father to travel to the USA, and U.S. government sources say, after he arrives, Elian's Florida relatives will have to surrender the boy. The relatives continue their fight to retain custody though.

CNN's Mark Potter has the latest now from Miami where he joins us now with a live report.

Mark, what's new?

MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good afternoon, Lou.

We're at least a couple of hours now into the fourth day of negotiations over the boy's fate. So far there has been no agreement over what to do with the boy, no agreement announced. With the prospect of Elian's father coming eventually to the United States, it is very clear now that the government's position has become very firm: if Juan Miguel Gonzalez comes to the U.S., he will get custody of his son.

Now, of course, this is upsetting news for the Miami relatives and for their supporters. Some political activists here are saying that if the government tries to take the boy without a voluntary agreement from the family there will be acts throughout the community of civil disobedience.

Sources familiar with the negotiations say the family wants a guarantee, that if the father comes here and gets the boy, that he will stay in the United States for the length of their appeals. They also want the transfer to take place in Miami and they want visitation rights. They also want a team of psychologists involved to determine if changing custody is good for the boy emotionally. The lawyers for the family argue that it is not good for the boy, and they say the family is very worried about his well being.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENDALL COFFEY, GONZALEZ FAMILY ATTORNEY: They will use, to the best of their ability, their legal rights to protect Elian. And that means no abrupt turnover custody. Because all the evidence that the psychologists have provided and everything they see with their own eyes, everything they hear with their own ears, everything they feel with their own heart confirms that this little boy does not want to be abruptly moved out of the house right now. And he is very much afraid of having to go back to Cuba.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

POTTER: Now, sources say the Justice Department will allow a team of psychologists to be involved to help determine how best to transfer the boy, not whether to do it. That decision has already been made by the Justice Department.

A little more news from the Justice Department today, a source there says there is no reason to believe that Juan Miguel Gonzalez will be coming to the United States today.

Lou, back to you.

WATERS: All right, Mark Potter keeping watch in Miami.

Now up to Washington, where the U.S. State Department has issued visas for Juan Miguel Gonzalez and several other Cubans who would accompany him if he comes to the United States.

CNN's Kathleen Koch is covering that aspect of the story.

Kathleen, what's new on that?

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, here at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, they're laying the groundwork for the possible visit of Juan Miguel Gonzalez. The head of the diplomatic mission here has offered up his home in suburban Maryland to Gonzalez and the five people who would accompany him if they come to Washington.

Now, as you said, visas have only been issued so far for Gonzalez, his wife, their 6-month-old son, a cousin of Elian's, his kindergarten teacher and also a pediatrician. Officials here continue to hint that Gonzalez's visit may hinge on the approval of visas for a larger 27-member entourage which would also include 12 of Elian's classmates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LUIS FERNANDEZ, CUBAN INTERESTS SECTION: Miguel is coming as soon as he receive the guarantee from the Justice Department and the INS that he's going to receive the custody of his boy. That kind of request had been asked by the Juan Miguel's attorney. It's important also to take into account the rest of the visas that have been requested in an effort to look for a smooth transition of this boy to his father.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOCH: If he comes to the United States, it is not 100 percent certain that Gonzalez would come to Washington. Justice Department officials say that a search is under way to find a suitable location somewhere in South Florida, that is another option.

Reporting live in Washington, I'm Kathleen Koch.

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