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Elian Gonzalez Case: Attorney for Miami Relatives Addresses Media, Responds to Attorney General

Aired April 13, 2000 - 12:16 p.m. ET


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN ANCHOR: You've been listening to Attorney General Janet Reno speaking in Miami about the Elian Gonzalez case. She said repeatedly she wanted to deal with this in a fair and even- handed way; she wanted to be reasonable, she wanted to be measured. She said that the offers still stands for the Miami family, the family of Lazaro Gonzalez, to fly to the Washington, D.C. area free of charge to meet at a neutral site with Juan Miguel Gonzalez, who is, of course, the father of young Elian. She said this would be a private meeting, and if the family could work it out amongst itself, then the federal authorities would step back. However, if the family could not work it out, then the rule of law would be enforced.

As you know, a letter has been sent to the family of Lazaro Gonzalez saying that young Elian should be taken to Opa Locka Airport near Miami at 2:00 this afternoon. However, Janet Reno said you would not see Marshals at 2:01 going to the house if the boy has not been taken to the airport. When asked what she would do at 2:00, she said we will make that determination at that time.

She did, however, say that the department was prepared to enforce the rule of law, but would do it in a measured and reasonable way.

We're going to go back to Susan Candiotti who is outside the home of Lazaro Gonzalez in Miami.

Susan, I presume that people there were listening to what the attorney general had to say. Is there any reaction?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, unless they have radios or a little television sets, frankly, we did not see many of those in the crowd. I think it's fair to say we've been unable to see anyone listening to it.

However, right now, the family spokesperson Armando Gutierrez and attorney Manny Diaz are standing at microphones to address the media.


MANNY DIAZ, ATTORNEY FOR ELIAN'S MIAMI RELATIVES: ... that, number one, we certainly agree that there should be no precipitous action. We believe that that's very important and that we should keep talking. To that end, we have offered before, we offered last night and we offer again today that we want very much for the families to get together with no preconditions. Let the family speak to each other. Who knows what will come out of a family meeting. Perhaps they will leave that room and come out and tell the world that they have worked this out.

In the meantime, I think the family needs to understand why, and I think the American public needs to understand why, Mr. Craig refuses to let his client meet with his family. We want to know why. What's on the table today is not an offer. What's on the table today is a demand. This family does not want to react to demands, this family just simply wants to meet with their relatives. We need to let that happen.

Thank you.

CANDIOTTI: All right, so you've heard from attorney Manny Diaz who was saying that what U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno is talking about does not amount to an invitation, in his opinion, but a demand. And he said that this family is not willing to comply with such demands that they automatically turn over, surrender this youngster no matter what happens after a meeting with Juan Miguel Gonzalez.

So it would appear at this time that the family remains intransigent, and they are maintaining their position they will not surrender this youngster. So we appear to be at an impasse at this time unless, unbeknownst to us, there is talk going on behind the scenes.

I can tell you this, that the family spokesperson, Armando Gutierrez, spoke with one of the other attorneys, not Manny Diaz, just before Janet Reno began her news conference. And Armando Gutierrez instructed this attorney to listen to what the attorney general had to say before any final decision was made about going to the district court of appeals in Atlanta to file an injunction to try to prevent any action from U.S. Immigration from forcibly removing this boy from the home.

You have heard U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno say that authorities are not planning to take any action at 2:01 p.m., one minute past the threatened deadline for them to surrender this youngster at Opa Locka airport nearby. So at this point, we'll just find out what happens next. Well, it's anyone's guess at this point.

Elian's great-uncle Lazaro Gonzalez is addressing a crowd of demonstrators. He has continuing -- is thanking them for their support. And so the question is, what is Lazaro Gonzalez's next move? He has remained defiant throughout, that unless he gets what he wants, and that is much more time than has been offered to meet with Juan Miguel Gonzalez and be convinced in his own mind that he is speaking freely, then he, apparently at this time, is not to agree to anything about what U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno has to say.

But, if I may, we are joined now by Miami Police Lieutenant Bill Schwartz. Now, earlier this day, he told us that the U.S. Marshals had spoken to the police chief about requesting to move the news media from the streets. Now, Lieutenant Schwartz, you now have some new information, that apparently you were given bad information. You want to correct what you had to say to us.

LT. BILL SCHWARTZ, MIAMI POLICE: Yes, there's no question that was some misinformation -- misunderstood information. The federal government has not asked that the media leave. We don't know where that rumor started. We do know that the chief's position and apparently the federal government's position is that the media may stay here exactly where they are.

CANDIOTTI: So, initially when you said that the Fed's had addressed your police chief, asking us to move, you're saying that that's wrong.

SCHWARTZ: That was incorrect. It was my mistake.

CANDIOTTI: And so far, how has the crowd been acting so far?

SCHWARTZ: Fine. You know, it's a very passionate issue and people are here to express themselves, but so far it's been very peaceful; loud at times, but always peaceful. And I think most of the people want it to remain that way. Of course, there's always a wildcard in every crowd.

CANDIOTTI: Lt. Bill Schwartz, thanks for joining us.

And with that, we will turn it back to you.

MESERVE: Susan Candiotti, thank you.



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