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Fishermen Who Rescued Elian Gonzalez and Delfine Gonzalez Talk With Reporters After Being Rebuffed By Juan Miguel

Aired April 8, 2000 - 2:45 p.m. ET


GENE RANDALL, CNN ANCHOR: We're going out to Bethesda, Maryland now. That is where Juan Miguel Gonzalez, Elian Gonzalez' father has been staying in temporary quarters.

These are the two fishermen who rescued Elian Gonzalez on Thanksgiving Day in the waters off the coast of Florida.


DONATO DALRYMPLE, FISHERMAN WHO RESCUED ELIAN: I am just a man, or one of the men that had rescued his son's life. We want to come and share our heart. I want to pour my heart out to this man, and hopeful, that he will listen to what I have to say about the rescue and about how his son has bonded with me, an American, a "gringo." That's what they call us here down in Miami, and I am known as one of the gringos, the "Americanos" down there. But I want to let him know that how he has bonded with me and how he remembered the day that we saved his life, and I want to let him know how his mother was traumatized on that ocean, how Elian's mother -- excuse me, how he was traumatized to see his mother go and slip underneath the water. I just want to be able to explain to him the sensitivity of all of this.

And the main objective of all of this is to try to get the two families united. It's not about...

QUESTION: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. What is...

DALRYMPLE: Well, first I'd like to say, it's not about the Castro government. I'm not here to spit any nails at the Castro government. And again, I am an American American. I am not here to spit any nails at our wonderful government, our country of America. I love this country. I love this nation. I am not here to break any of the laws. We just want to come and convey a message of love, of peace, of family and of liberty -- excuse me -- and to put the Gonzalez family together in one place. If it can be in a third location, not here with the Cuban diplomats not maybe in Miami and that particular home, if that's what it's going to take for Juan for feel like he's in a safe area. We want a safe haven for this man, that he'll be able to reunite with his son, but with his uncle Lazaro that is taking care of him, his cousin, Marisleysis, which has been the surrogate mother, who he has bonded with. We want to see this peaceful. We just want to see peaceful.

QUESTION: You say that you want to talk with him, but when you came -- he knew you were coming -- he left. What are your plans now?

SAM CIANCIO, FISHERMAN WHO RESCUED ELIAN: We're going to keep trying. We're not giving up. We're not here just to get turned away and give up, we're not. This man owes us at least this, to meet with us. Now he owes us that. I mean, that's the bottom line. People say, you know, he does, he owes us that respect, to meet with us. I mean, we're here. We're not going. And Mr. Juan is going to meet with me and my cousin Donato.

QUESTION: Where is he going to find you?

DALRYMPLE: We're going to stay right here. We'll be back and forth. We'll do anything we can. If we have to walk the streets and wait for him to drive by, we will, but eventually, we will see him.

QUESTION: Gentlemen, what if he meets you, if he thanks you profusely for your efforts, and says, I really don't want to see these other Miami relatives, I just want my son? Then what?

DALRYMPLE: Well, we have no destiny over -- excuse me, we're not in control of his destiny. I can not force this man to do anything that he doesn't want to do. We're coming in love and in peace just to talk to this man. If he can't understand the sincerity and the sensitivity of his child -- that's what we're coming here to talk about.

QUESTION: Answer my question. What will you do if he says, thank you much, I just want my kid, I don't want to see anybody else?

DALRYMPLE: What can I do to the man? He's free. He's a free entity. This is a free country. And he's not free in his country, but he is free to be what he wants to be, and I can't change that.

QUESTION: Mr. Dalrymple, we've been told that the message you want to convey is, is that you would like him to, in fact, decide to stay in the United States with his boy. Is that accurate?

DALRYMPLE: No, I wouldn't like to say that at this time, because basically, what we've come to do is to be able to reunite the Gonzalez families together. Let them hash it out. It's not my problem. It not my cousin Sam's problem. We're here just at the mediators, because we've been called the saviors, the fishermen of this little boy, and we're no more than that. We just want to be able to put the two families together. And what greater way?

The little boy would have been dead on the ocean, I would like to say to Miguel. I would like for him to know that he is alive now, that he owes it to us, and he really owes it to his family members to sit down and let's hash this out.

Whatever he decides to do, I can't stand before that. I can't stand against it.

What's that?

I'll tell you the truth. I wouldn't want to speak about anything of this magnitude because that isn't why we're here. We are here to speak about the rescue and about how Elian has touched our lives, and how he has been loved, he has been nurtured and been well taken care of by his Miami family. And in fact, his Miami family has never spoken an ill word of him, regardless of what media might be saying down South in Miami or in Cuba. We're just here because we lived it.

QUESTION: You have been quite private about this. Now you're going public. Why have you decided to go public?

CIANCIO: Because, like I explained, I'm a father of two, OK. I have two very loving children. I'm a father. Donato is not a father. I have something really personal in my heart I need. I stayed out of it, because really, it was up to the families. But now it's something personal, and I really want to see. I want to shake this gentleman's hand. I want him to go to Miami. He needs to sit down with his son. He needs to see that the family loves that child, the family down there loves the child.

Whatever happens, I would like to say to everybody here in the United States, whatever decision that gets made -- and we don't want no force -- please don't -- we don't want nobody to come down here and just snatch that kid from that family. That would be another trauma to this kid, and this child does not need it. This kid's a loving, loving kid. Let's not put no more trauma on him.

I think everybody needs to get together right now and have one -- the family is inviting him down there. Why can't he come down there and sit down? And then if he -- if they say that he can take the child, then he takes the child. And then everybody here in the United States needs to live with that.

QUESTION: If Elian was your son, would you come and meet with two strangers who wanted to butt into your business?

CIANCIO: I have never -- sir, let me explain something to you, I have never butted into anybody's business at all. I have never been on a camera down there or nothing at all. Let me explain to you, if that was my son, I would walk through fire, I would walk through brick wall, I'd have been over here the very next day if that was my son, because I'd go to Hell for my kids; anywhere, I would be there. I would have been there the very next day. So that question is a loaded question right there.

QUESTION: What about the rescue, if you could? Tell us about the circumstances, please? What did he look like? Tell us what it seemed like?

CIANCIO: It was rough. We were in rough, rough waters, man. We were in really rough waters. We were fishing. We were out there, and it was just a, you know, one of those days, man, and we came across an inner tube in the water. We went by the inner tube. It looked like a doll was in there. We passed the inner tube. We were fishing for mahi-mahi. I know everybody keeps thinking a dolphin; we were fishing for mahi-mahi, fish you eat. As we went by there, we got -- both lines went off, we got two fish, right under the inner tube. We joked about it. We said what a sick joke. And we thought it was a joke that somebody tied a doll to an inner tube. That's what it looked like.

QUESTION: Was he crying, tell us?

CIANCIO: He was not crying at all.

QUESTION: Delfin Gozalez, you were rejected yesterday in your efforts.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's basically thanking the media for being out here, where they can speak freely in probably one of the few countries where you can actually speak freely.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He'd like to call on the American people for their assistance on helping Elian.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because if this boy is returned to Cuba, his father, Juan Miguel, will never again see him. He will be a possession of the state.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Juan Miguel is not thinking of his volition. He's been pressured and he's thinking on behalf of what the Cuban government wants him to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's appealing to the American public to request that this boy be given his day in court. If criminals, murderers have their day in court, why can't this boy have his day in court?

QUESTION: Can we ask a question?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He feels that they should be allowed to go through with the appellate process that's underway now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He says that this can't happen in Cuba, that this is what freedom is all about.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you feel about not being able to talk to Juan Miguel?

GONZALEZ: (SPEAKING IN SPANISH) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's sure that Juan Miguel wants to meet him, and it's just a repression that he's under that, unfortunately, he can't meet with him.


QUESTION: Mr. Ciancio, do you share these opinions? Can you come to the microphones?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He would like to invite Juan Miguel to have dinner with him just on their own, like a family, to see if he's capable of doing that.

CIANCIO: I agree with that.

QUESTION: OK, but let me ask you if you share the opinions about the comments about the government's...

GONZALEZ: Muchos gracias.

CIANCIO: I definitely agree 100 percent that his child should definitely have his day in court. I mean, this should already been in court already. This should have been in court already. If they go to court, Juan Miguel should be here, too. He needs to get his side of the story. Everybody needs to get their side of the story together. They need to get their's together. I don't know what would happen in a court. But I think before it even goes that far, first things first, get this child back so he can see his father. Let's see the reaction of this child's face when he sees his father. I'd like to let the whole world see that, the first reaction when this child steps in and sees his father for the first time after four months. It will tell something right then and there.

I'm not from Cuba, so I really couldn't tell that.

QUESTION: A question for Delfin. Will Marisleysis and Lazaro be coming up to Washington?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very possible that they may come to Washington.

QUESTION: When do you think they would come?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He says he's not interested in publicity. He's more concerned about Elian's welfare.


DALRYMPLE: I think those are only questions that the family in Miami could answer. Would you like to direct that question?


DALRYMPLE: Can you translate that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's basically said that if a court of law determines that that's what needs to happen, then that will be the decision, but that that hasn't been given the appropriate process to play itself out in a court of law.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He says, basically, that this administration is basically Hell bent on sending this child back and returning him to his father without taking into consideration what might be in the child's best interests. But the Cuban government has already said that this boy would be reprogrammed and be sent back to Cuba.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basically, he says that they're not going to violate any laws and they're not going to break any laws, that the Justice Department knows where he resides; if they need to go pick him up, they need to do that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We made the attempt the call. We've communicated with local law enforcement. They've made the attempt to call in the house, and the people inside the house flatly rejected the visit, and they left about 20 minutes before we got here. They weren't interested in seeing anyone.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He says his reaction to the fact that they won't let him meet with his own flesh and blood is basically that the state security apparatus doesn't want him to meet with his family the same way that they prevented him from meeting with the grandmothers when they came to the United States.

DALRYMPLE: And why is it that Juan Miguel is not free -- this is what I would like to know from the very beginning -- why isn't he free to travel to Miami? There are many other Cubans that are given visas and they can travel back and forth. I'm not saying everybody, but many Cubans do. And they go back and live in the Havana or the places that -- where they reside.

QUESTION: Are you so certain that he's being kept against his will?

DALRYMPLE: No, what I would like to say -- I'm not saying he's being kept against his will. Why is there such a controlling factor -- I would never say he's held against his will. I don't want to say that. But I would like to say, why is there such a controlling factor that he can't meet with people that he wants to meet? I mean, even with an escort, why does he have to be followed around? I'm here free. I'm here. I know, this is a free country. He's in a free country. And to meet the gentleman that rescued his little boy. I think it's...

QUESTION: Why does it have to be in Miami. You're saying...

DALRYMPLE: It doesn't have to be in Miami...

QUESTION: No, no, no....

DALRYMPLE: ... we want to meet him here first.

QUESTION: But as far as you say that you want him to go back and meet family.

DALRYMPLE: Well you know what? It would be nice. But you know what? I think if we all went back to the drawing table, if we can get Juan Miguel outside of any Cuban diplomat, any of them, to meet with family members only in a third location, a disclosed location, why not let it be? The thing is the control of the government.

Nobody's controlling Lazaro down there. He went to go meet the grandmothers at the airport. He showed his free will. This man is showing his freedom to be able to come and meet his -- excuse me -- his nephew wouldn't come to Miami, but yet he's coming to his nephew, but his nephew's rejecting him. Why?

QUESTION: Will all three of you stay here until he returns?

DALRYMPLE: You know something, I don't want to make it sound like I'm going to be here for a month, because you know something, we're here on our own. We're just working-class people. We're looking to see it resolved. And I can tell you right now, if I'm able to stay on this street I want to stay here until I can at least see that man and look into his face in a humble way.

If I have to get on my knees, I will get on my knees for this man because I want to get on my knees for Elian. I love this boy. I'm not his father. I have just grown a bound with him. If I have get on my knees and plead with this man -- I shouldn't have to -- but I would humble myself that Elian might be exalted in all this and all the suffering would end.

QUESTION: So you admit that there's a...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) with his son?

DALRYMPLE: What's that?

QUESTION: Will you be waiting for him to (OFF-MIKE) with his son?

DALRYMPLE: No, what I'm pleading for is for him to have conversations with us, pleading for him to be with his family. Let them hash it out amongst themselves. This is a family matter. QUESTION: What about a (OFF-MIKE)

QUESTION: If he did go back to Cuba, would you be sad to see the kid go back?

DALRYMPLE: Absolutely.


DALRYMPLE: Well, at this moment I can tell you from a personal point of view -- I'm not speaking from a family member -- I have grown attached to this little boy. You know something, I see him on a daily basis. And to know that there wouldn't be an Elian there and maybe I won't be welcome back to Cuba, I don't know, it would be heartbreaking for me because I know there is a -- there is a bond between us. Again, I am not his father. I would put my role as an elder brother, a bigger brother to him.

QUESTION: Sam, could you address the same question? Would you be sad to see the kid go back to Cuba? And if so, why?

CIANCIO: If this child leaves -- if he does go back to Cuba, I will be devastated. I would be heartbroken. It would be just like losing one of my own children now. This has gone on for four months. This should have been hashed out, down right away. This -- every day this thing goes on more and more and more. And we see this down in Miami, we grow more and more attached to him. It's like taking one of your own childs away from you. I mean, yes, I would be heartbroken. I will be. You know what? I hope that God -- that somebody will let us -- at least let me -- I can speak for myself on this one -- is that they will pave the way. If the child does have to go back to Cuba, will they please let me see this child. I will pay for myself and make trips back and forth once or twice a year.

QUESTION: Let me just use the words you used. What about Juan Miguel Gonzalez's feeling that his child has been taken away from him?

CIANCIO: You know what? Juan -- the child wasn't taken away from him, the child -- has wife took him away. She gave her life to have some freedom here. Once that happened -- I mean, we did not take this child. The family in Miami did not go to Cuba and grab this child.

DALRYMPLE: They found him in Joe DiMaggio Hospital. We found him on the ocean floating.

CIANCIO: We found him on the ocean. Nobody's -- they keep saying that. We keep hearing that, that he's been tooken from his father. He has not been tooken from his father. He was found here in -- three miles off Fort Lauderdale Beach.

QUESTION: Can I ask...

QUESTION: Can I ask a question?

QUESTION: ... how were you able to fly up here? Who sponsored your trip?

CIANCIO: We paid with our own money.

DALRYMPLE: We paid for our own tickets, yes. We paid with our own money.

QUESTION: How about the uncle?

CIANCIO: I have no idea, but I'm telling you about us. We paid with our own money. We spent -- we got a lot of time, a lot of money into this trip right now.

QUESTION: The Justice Department has said that Elian must be turned over next week. Don't you think your trip here makes you look like a desperate. last-minute attempt?

DALRYMPLE: No, you know something?

CIANCIO: No, not at all. This is the first time he's been here. How could you say desperate?

QUESTION: You desperate by coming here (OFF-MIKE)

DALRYMPLE: No, we're not desperate. I wanted to meet this father from day one.

CIANCIO: From day one.

DALRYMPLE: We wanted -- from day one. You know something? I'll tell you why...

QUESTION: And why do you think that at all the father would meet with you, given your comments that you said Elian is tearing up pictures of him? Why would you even have an inkling, a thought that he would meet you?

DALRYMPLE: You know something? Because I want to come to the conclusion, why is his son feeling the way he is? Why is it? I am amazed. I am appalled at Elian's reaction to be honest with you. I grew up with a loving father. Why is his son this way? Is it because of the fact that his father's actions, what he sees? I'm not against the father. I'm not -- we're just trying to figure this all out and put it together. You know something, and it can be done. Let the government stay away is from, let the families do that. I wasn't by saying that...

QUESTION: But he knows your motive and he knows what you've said about him.

DALRYMPLE: No, there are no motives.

QUESTION: Why do you think that he would meet with you?

DALRYMPLE: No. you know something, there are no motives. No, there's no motives at all. You know something? The motive is for us to come here to let him know that we are the ones -- listen, let me tell you something. Dogs that are found in street get thank-yous and they get welcomed to a front door. If I am dog in the sight of this man because of the things that I have seen, then I am sorry about that. I really am.

QUESTION: Gentlemen, it has been suggested that the family down in Miami has poisoned his mind, telling him things. Could you address that, both of you?

CIANCIO: That's a far-fetched lie. Man, that family in Miami is -- that's so far-fetched, you know? I mean...

QUESTION: A question for the uncle please.

CIANCIO: ... that's not -- no way.





QUESTION: They haven't been threatened or anything? They don't fear for their safety?







FRANKEN: ... news conference here outside the residence of the Cuban Interest Section, where the fishermen came, as you heard...

RANDALL: The scene was Bethesda, Maryland, outside Washington, D.C. You've been hearing from the two fishermen, two cousins who traveled today to the Washington area from Florida. These are the two men who rescued Elian Gonzalez from the waters off the coast of Florida on Thanksgiving Day. With them was Delfin Gonzalez, another great-uncle of Elian Gonzalez, and Bob Franken is standing by. He was listening to all this -- Bob.

FRANKEN: Well, quite -- kind of chaotic, where at one point the translator was translating Spanish into Spanish. But, of course, the main message here was that the two fishermen have come here. They feel that they have a right, they argue, to meet with the father, at least to receive his thanks. They said they had bonded with young Elian Gonzalez, and while they were reluctant at first to say what it is that they would tell the father, it sort of developed during the news conference that, A, they want him to go to Miami and meet with the family, if not a neutral place. And then they say that they want to tell him that for the best interests of the child he should stay in the United States, something, of course, that Juan Miguel Gonzalez has made clear he does not expect to happen.

Now as for their meeting with Gonzalez, that didn't happen because about a half an hour beforehand, John -- Juan Miguel Gonzalez and the head of Cuban Interest Section went down to the interest section in downtown Washington because apparently they wanted to avoid this meeting.

Now the group that came says it's going to hang around here, is going to stick around and try to conduct that meeting. Gene, one problem may be that the area where we are right now is really authorized for people -- not authorized for people who don't have press credentials or other official business. So they may be kept back a way, but anyway they want to stick around for a while to see if, in effect, they can shame Juan Gonzalez into having the meeting -- Gene.

RANDALL: Bob Franken in Bethesda, Maryland. And we are told perhaps in a short time we'll hear from Gregory Craig, Juan Miguel Gonzalez's U.S. attorney, in downtown Washington.

We will keep you up to date on this story all day long as developments warrant, and right now we join MONEYWEEK in progress.



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