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CNN Today

Elian Gonzalez Case: Meeting with Florida Relatives Delayed

Aired April 10, 2000 - 2:00 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: A number of developments in the Elian Gonzalez case, there could be a resolution sometime this week, a meeting this afternoon between the Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez and a team of mental health professionals is still on, but it has been delayed.

For the latest and that other developments, CNN Miami bureau chief John Zarrella joins us from outside the medical center, where that meeting is supposed to take place.

They are a late, John.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: Lou, supposed to take place is the operative phase right now. We are still waiting for the arrival Elian Gonzalez's great uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez. He has not arrived yet. He is now about 45 minutes late. He is supposedly meeting with his daughter Marisleysis at another hospital. She took ill over the weekend, and was admitted for exhaustion.

Don't know when he will get here, if he will get here, how long the psychiatrists will wait for him to arrive. These psychiatrists, two of them and a psychologist, got here at about 1:00, accompanied by members of the INS, including regional district director, Mr. Wallis. And they immediately went inside to a conference room, where they are presumably waiting for the arrival of Lazaro Gonzalez.

One of the doctors who is hosting this event says that both sides need to work this out for the best interest of Elian.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON SHAW, DIRECTOR OF CHILD PSYCHOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI: A process is in motion, and we at the University of Miami and Jackson Memorial Hospital, like all Americans, would like to bring this issue to resolution as quickly as possible and do whatever is in Elian's best interest.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZARRELLA: Now, Doris Meissner, the INS commissioner, sent a letter to Lazaro Gonzalez today. And in that letter, she outlined the purpose of this meeting with the psychiatrist and psychologist, the purpose that being that they would decide what to do, how to transfer Elian Gonzalez, the best way to do it that would cause the least amount of harm to the boy. There would be, of course, no meeting of these psychiatrists and a psychologist with Elian himself, just with the family members, to work out the details of how best to do this -- Lou.

WATERS: Do you understand the crux of the questions that would be asked of Lazaro Gonzalez and the other family members in Miami to facilitate this process?

ZARRELLA: What we understand is that there wouldn't be a lot of questions asked of them, but this is what the psychiatrists and psychologist making recommendations to them as to how they want this done, how it should be carried out, where it should be carried out, be it Miami or some place else. And they would explain their rational, given their expertise on what will be the least harmful to the psychological well being of Elian.

We understand that they are recommending that there is continued interaction between the Miami relatives, Lazaro, Marisleysis, with the boy, even after the transfer is consummated.

Now, if Lazaro continues to balk and perhaps doesn't show up today, it is very difficult to say how long the goodwill of the administration and of the Justice Department and INS is going to carry on because they have repeatedly said, they are about at the end of their ropes -- Lou.

WATERS: Is it also your understanding, John, that the Justice Department would prefer to keep this out of the media glare, some sort of transfer that would happen without a row of protesters and INS officials and all of that business?

ZARRELLA: Absolutely, no question about it. But whether they can accomplish that, given the nature of the amount of media surrounding this and the attention it's getting would be very, very difficult -- Lou.

WATERS: OK, we will have to wait for development, and John Zarrella is waiting for them outside the University of Miami this afternoon.

Natalie, what's next?

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: All the while, a small group continues to hold vigil outside the Little Havana home, where Elian has been living with his great uncle and cousin for nearly five months.

For more on what's happening there, CNN's Mark Potter joins us -- Mark.

MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Natalie.

Well, all is quiet here at the house today. Everyone seems to be on hold awaiting developments. About the only movement we saw today was when Elian and his uncle left the house, heading to the hospital to see Marisleysis, Lazaro's daughter, the young women who has been caring for Elian. As John Zarrella said, it is believed she is suffering from exhaustion. She has had a number of health-related problems over the last few weeks.

Today, about three dozen protesters are standing outside the house as they have been for days, actually weeks, not doing very much, just standing around quietly holding signs, talking, a very uneventful event.

For the lawyers, however, they are a little busy. They are expected to file their appeal this afternoon with the 11th circuit court of appeals attacking the ruling by the federal district court that upheld the attorney general's power to decide this case. They are also asking for hearing in state family court, where they believe that Elian's custody case should be heard.

Now the question there still to be resolved is whether the state court has jurisdiction in this case. Paperwork on that question is due to be filed tomorrow.

Among those supporting the claim that Elian's case should be heard in a state, family court is the mayor of Miami, Joe Corollo.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR JOE COROLLO, MIAMI, FLORIDA: Right now, as we speak, there is a date set for May 8 before the 11th Appellate Court in Atlanta to hear this appeal. This is America, This is how we work, through the court system. And this boy has not been given his full due process rights that we even give to convicted murderers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

POTTER: Now, tomorrow, Mayor Carollo and the county mayor Alex Panellas will be going to Washington for a meeting that they have requested with Attorney General Janet Reno. And tonight, in this neighborhood, in Miami's Little Havana area, a large candlelight vigil is scheduled in support of Elian and his family.

Mark Potter, CNN, reporting live from Miami.

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