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CNN Today

Elian Gonzalez Case: Reno Huddles with Advisers; Cuban Government Accuses Miami Dissidents of Stockpiling Weapons Near Boy's Home

Aired April 20, 2000 - 1:32 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDRIA HALL, CNN ANCHOR: The White House said today that it still supports Attorney General Janet Reno's efforts to reunite Elian Gonzalez with his father. Elian's Florida relatives say, they are willing to take the boy to a meeting with his father, but they're not willing to turn him over.

A spokesman for Juan Miguel Gonzalez says: That's no good. Lawyer Gregory Craig is demanding assurances the elder Gonzalez will be able to take custody of his son.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY CRAIG, ATTY. FOR JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ: We could go down to Little Havana, we could go to Miami, we could knock on the door, and we could come out without the boy. That's unacceptable to us.

The key thing here, the central issue is whether this boy is going to be restored to his father. And Lazaro Gonzalez and those lawyers have no legal or moral right to retain custody, and they have not agreed to transfer custody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Attorney General Janet Reno has been huddling with her advisers today to discuss the government's next move in the Gonzalez case.

Our CNN Justice correspondent Pierre Thomas joins us now.

And Pierre, what are the options for the attorney general?

PIERRE THOMAS, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, the primary option is to going to get the boy, and they are trying to figure out the best way to do that. There's a meeting going on right now between the attorney general, INS commissioner, Immigration and Naturalization Service commissioner, Doris Meissner is attending. They are discussing their options, they are reviewing the court's filing yesterday. The Justice Department, again, is trying to figure out a way of how to get the boy without causing further trauma to him, and also not inciting people down in Miami to, you know, impede their operation.

WATERS: Put yourselves in that room for a minute for us. What are the obstacles they are talking about?

THOMAS: Well, the primary obstacle, Lou, is getting too and from the home if they chose to try to get the boy at the house in Miami. What happens if the crowd spills over into the street, how do you get in and out? Those are the very critical issues that are being discussed. I had a conversation with a source last night, and the source said: Look, this is a very, very serious matter. You know, we are talking about the welfare of a boy, we are talking about trauma to the boy, so we have got to be very, very careful in how we go about pursuing this option. And ultimately, it will be the attorney general that will make the final call.

WATERS: OK, Pierre Thomas, keeping watch at the Justice Department in Washington.

The Cuban government accuses dissidents in Miami of stockpiling weapons near the home where Elian is staying. The accusation, in the form of a letter, was read last night on Cuban state television. In a segment of the letter obtained by CNN, Cuba says, "The men plan to block the North American authorities from taking Elian from his uncle's home," end of quote. The U.S.-Cuban Interests Section reportedly forwarded that letter to the State Department.

HALL: Meanwhile, Cuban-American groups have yet to comment on that report, supporters of Elian's caretaker family spent the night celebrating the court ruling they see as a victory.

CNN's Susan Candiotti joins us now live from Miami's Little Havana neighborhood.

Susan, what's the mood there today?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the mood is a jubilant one. However, people here are somewhat cautious because they do not know whether U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, indeed, will take any enforcement action to forcibly remove the child from this home. As you know, she is still discussing that as an option.

But first, let's talk about that alleged weapon stockpile. A Miami Police Department spokesman says that none of its officers have gone inside the house to look for themselves, that house located just down the street from here. And police say that the Cuban government report could be a ploy to make Miami look dangerous, too danger for Elian's father to come here. Police are investigating the matter.

In the meantime, the youngster has apparently been receiving more gifts today. Earlier we saw him receive apparently a second wading pool, as well as a scooter. And we have seen in the front yard, a man identified as a media consultant from Orlando, Florida.

Now, while all that is going on, attorneys for the Florida relatives are refloating an idea of a meeting among the relatives here, the child and his father. However, there are strings attached. Elian would not be turned over at that meeting.

Now because they say they point to allegations of abuse, allegations that so far have been unproven.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSE GARCIA-PEDROSA, ATTORNEY FOR ELIAN'S MIAMI FAMILY: There are serious allegations and evidence presented of abuse that need to be examined, not by a bunch of lawyers and government officials, but by a child psychologist, as we do routinely when these things come up. So until and unless that happens, any physical turnover would be inappropriate, and that is not the way we handle those situations in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CANDIOTTI: So far. U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno has called those allegations unfounded and baseless.

Now, if you take a look at this right now you will see that not everyone agrees that Elian should not be reunited with father. A banner flew over this home yesterday, reading "Send Elian home," signed "The Taxpayers." We don't know who paid for that.

WATERS: Susan Candiotti, CNN, reporting live in Miami.

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