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Elian Gonzalez Case: Government Pediatrician Advocates Immediate Removal from Great Uncle's Home; Protesters, Miami Relatives DisagreeAired April 18, 2000 - 1:03 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN: In the Elian Gonzalez story, we are still waiting for an appeals court ruling on the boy's future. But in the meantime, the medical community is debating what should be done. A pediatrician who has been advising the Justice Department went public today declaring that Elian should be removed from the home of Lazaro Gonzalez immediately.
Dr. Irwin Redlener, who has not interviewed the boy, says he's basing his opinion on that videotape the Florida family released last week.
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DR. IRWIN REDLENER, PRES., THE CHILDREN'S HEALTH FUND: There were obvious signs of a very distressed, angry and coached young boy being exploited in a videotape, much the same as we'd see in a hostage situation when such videotapes are being made. And that, coupled with an increasing sense that this boy is, A, not in school; he is surrounded by a violent and chaotic potential environment around his house; he's paraded as an object on the shoulders of Lazaro et cetera. And I think what we are dealing with now is a circumstance that is -- that, as I termed it in the letter to Janet Reno, psychologically abusive to this child.
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ALLEN: Not surprisingly, Elian's Florida relatives are taking sharp exception to Dr. Redlener's remarks.
Susan Candiotti joins us from the Little Havana district of Miami -- Susan.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Natalie.
A family spokesperson for the Miami relatives of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez, indeed, is rebuffing the doctor's comments. Because, the spokesman says, after all, the doctor hasn't even examined this child. A family attorney calls the doctor's comments, quote, "absurd" and nothing more than political cover for U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno's attempt to force the boy to go back to Cuba against his will.
Now 6-year-old Elian has spent much of today playing outside, at one point kissing a little girl who lives in the neighborhood. He continues to draw loud cheers and chants of "freedom, freedom," from demonstrators when the youngster comes into view, an example of the kind of attention Dr. Redlener says he worries about.
However, demonstrators, which you see now gathered behind police barricades, challenged the doctor's opinion. They were joined by a group of doctors called the Cuban Pediatric Society in Exile who indirectly lambasted the government's psychologist.
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DR. JOSE CARRO, PRES., CUBAN PEDIATRIC SOCIETY IN EXILE: We denounce and strongly oppose statements made by individuals who have been expressing medical or psychological judgments without following the most basic rules of medical ethics and care.
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CANDIOTTI: A U.S. government official tells CNN that the government's team of psychologists does not feel it would be advantageous at this time to examine Elian because, according to the official: The last thing the child needs is to meet with one more group of strangers.
Now despite the doctor debate, what realistically is most critical to the Florida relatives here, as well as to the demonstrators, is that pending ruling from the federal appeals court in Atlanta, which is deciding whether Elian must remain the U.S. until all his appeals are exhausted. Now, once a decision, is made one way or the other, the U.S. government says it remains in enforcement mode to reunite father and son -- Natalie.
ALLEN: Susan Candiotti in Little Havana.
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