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Father of Elian, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, Makes Statement

Aired April 20, 2000 - 4:08 p.m. ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Rhonda, the father of Elian Gonzalez, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, is walking toward some cameras at this moment. Bethesda, Maryland, the home where he's been staying for the last two weeks, he's just come out of the house -- you can see some police officers are with him. We've been told just within the hour that he would come out and make a statement. Let's listen.

JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ, ELIAN GONZALEZ'S FATHER (through translator): I would like to speak to you and send a message to the American people. I wanted to say that at this moment, I've been here in the United States for two weeks, I've traveled here to the United States, together with my wife and my other 6-month-old baby.

I've come here because I was promised, I was told that I would be able to get together with my son, Elian. Two weeks have gone by and this has not happened. I've always understood and always thought that the United States is a country of laws. These laws have not been fulfilled because I still don't have my child with me.

For me, this has been very painful for my whole family to see during these last five months, my son Elian being used, and seeing the abuses that have been committed with regard to him. So, here I would like -- since I'm the only one who can speak for him, I'm his father -- I would like to say that I very much wish to be with him, he's my son, he belongs to me, he should be next to me, next to his family. I would like to ask the American people, to those who truly feel parents, that just as they have supported me up to now, both the American people and Latins and the Cubans who have been next to me, with me, who have truly wanted my son to be with me, I would like to ask them to help me, to send messages to write to the president of the United States to the attorney general of this country, to act immediately to bring my child together with me, to unite him with me, not to let others abuse the situation. I love my child very much. I need him to be with me, to be with me. Please, I ask you to help me, to make this a reality.

I've come here, I've traveled here to be with my son, and two weeks have gone by, and I still am not with my son. It hurts me a lot to see what they're doing with me, and the abuse, what they're doing with him, I ask you please to call him on the phone to write letters to do everything that you can.

My son is only a 6-year-old child. He's a son like any other son or child that the Americans may have. He's no different. So anyone who has any feelings and who truly knows what the love of a parent for a child is, please help me. Don't let people put politics before all of this. It's simply a father and his child. I just simply want help.

Thank you.

WOODRUFF: The words of Juan Miguel Gonzalez, who has been, as he said, waiting for two weeks in the United States to be reunited with his son Elian, you heard him say, I am asking the American people to write letters, to call the president of the United States, the attorney general, to say I am a father, he is my son, we should be together. He referred to what he called "abuses." He said others have abused the situation. He said my son is only a 6-year-old child, like any other child his age. He said, very plaintively, anyone with feelings, don't let politics be put ahead of this child.

Juan Miguel Gonzalez, speaking outside the home in Bethesda, Maryland where he spent the last two weeks speaking on his own. We have been told that he might talk -- might come out with an attorney or with a church leader. He did decide ultimately to come out and speak on his own.

CNN's Mark Potter joins us now from Miami, where he's been keeping watch outside the home of the Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez.

Mark, I know you haven't had time to glean any reaction there, but how might this go down among those relatives in Miami?

MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're clearly not going to like it. And as I look over my shoulder at the house, Judy, there is no indication at all that they even saw the message. I was watching the house while he was speaking, and we don't know if they even had the television set on. Nobody has come out from the house. I'm told right now that Elian is outside, but again, we've had no reaction. The crowd here I don't think saw the message, because there was no response whatever. And whenever they do hear news, there usually is one.

The one thing he did not talk about that the family wanted to hear about was anything about a meeting. The family has been asking for some sort of family meeting at a location, the family's preference, within driving distance of this house, where they can talk, without government official, without lawyers present and without preconditions, in other words, without them having to guarantee that they would have to give the boy up at either the start or the end of that meeting.

Now Juan Miguel Gonzalez and his lawyer have always said that a guarantee must be given before they would agree to such a meeting, that the boy would be handed over, and he didn't discuss that at all. I'm sure that's something that the family will react to, and of course, the allegations of abuse, as he described the situation here, is I'm sure also will be something they will be talking about relatively soon once word filters to them what he said if they did not, indeed, see it on television. WOODRUFF: Mark, your point about the family wanting a meeting, of course, that's the very stick point for Juan Miguel Gonzalez, the father. He and his attorneys have said what they don't want is a meeting from which Juan Miguel Gonzalez might come out and not have his son, that for him that would be more painful even than what he's going through now.

POTTER: Exactly right. That is the sticking point, what happens at the end of the meeting. That critical issue has always been what has prevented the meeting from occurring. The family wants to go into the meeting to discuss whether and when the transfer should occur. The father, on the other hand, through his attorney, has always said that he must have a guarantee that he will get his son at time of the meeting and there has never been any agreement on that. And again, as I said earlier, he didn't even talk about it in his message to the American people just now.

WOODRUFF: All right, Mark Potter, outside the Gonzalez family home there in Miami.

We've just been listening to Juan Miguel Gonzalez, father of Elian Gonzalez, asking the American people to write letters, even to call the president of the United States, the attorney general, Janet Reno, people in a position to make a decision to bring him together with his son.

Our legal correspondent -- legal analyst, Greta Van Susteren joins me now.

Greta all this, of course, is in the aftermath of that 11th Circuit ruling that came down yesterday, a ruling which really granted at least a temporary victory to these relatives in Miami and was a setback for the father?

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely, because what the government asked for on Friday was they asked that the United States Court of Appeals order that while the child remains in the country that he at least be in the custody of father, and the court specifically said we're not going to get into it, that's not our problem. This is still the problem of the attorney general of the United States. You know, these battles aren't fought just in the courtroom. Legal battles are also fought in the court of public opinion. And what this does is, sort of, ratchet it up and send a message to the attorney general of the United States, look, I came here to get my child. The law of the United States says I'm entitled to my child. No one is disputing that am entitled to my child, and yet you don't deliver my child, so it ratchets up the pressure.

WOODRUFF: All right, Greta Van Susteren.

Again, a very pained-looking father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, coming out to talk just for a matter of a couple of minutes with news media, urging Americans to write, to call the president, the attorney general, saying that he should be reunited with son, Elian.



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