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Sen. Bob Smith Escorts Miami Relatives to Andrews Air Force Base

Aired April 22, 2000 - 6:38 p.m. ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Daryn Kagan in Atlanta.

We've broken into RELIABLE SOURCES to bring you these live pictures from just outside of Andrews Air Force Base. This caravan of cars you see arriving contains Senator Bob Smith, Republican of New Hampshire. In another one of the cars, another one of the vans, are the uncles of Elian Gonzalez, Delfin and Lazaro Gonzalez.

Now, they have shown up at the Air Force base. This is where Elian Gonzalez was reunited earlier today with his father. Through his attorney, Greg Craig, Juan Miguel Gonzalez made it clear that he was not looking to have a visit from his uncles today or from any cousins with Elian Gonzalez. And so they went to Capitol Hill. They met up with Bob Smith, the senator, and now they've come to Andrews Air Force Base together.

As we understand it, the senator has permission to come onto the base. However, the family members do not. Where it goes from here, we will have to wait and see.

Let's bring in our Patty Davis. Patty, it's been a long day, no doubt. Have you had any word about what officials have done to get ready for this moment as the family members arrive looking for a visit with Elian?

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You have to repeat that question again. I didn't quite hear. Any word on what?

KAGAN: What officials have done to get ready for this moment for the family members to show up at Andrews Air Force Base looking to meet once again with Elian Gonzalez?

DAVIS: Well, the public information officer here at Andrews Air Force Base just told me that this family, that the relatives, the Miami relatives do not have any authorized access here to this air force base. So basically the officials here at Andrews Air Force Base say that they're not going to let them on the base right now.

As you said, Senator Bob Smith, however, could conceivably himself have some access to this base and potentially try to meet with Elian and his father. But Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, has said through his attorney, Greg Craig, today that he does not want to meet with those relatives. No indication yet whether or not he might meet with the senator.

Senator Bob Smith, in a press conference earlier this afternoon, said that he, indeed, had talked to Greg Craig and Craig had said that the father does not, at this time at least, wish to meet with those relatives. Daryn?

KAGAN: Patty, right now we're showing pictures across the street from that visitor's booth, from that entrance to the base, and we're seeing protesters and some members of the media. Describe the scene for us from someone who's standing there.

DAVIS: I am down the road about, a little ways, about half a mile at the next gate, the gate we think where Elian Gonzalez's father went in this morning when he arrived at the air force base. So I'm seeing exactly what you're seeing right now that CNN is putting on the air.

KAGAN: So you're seeing it right along with us.

DAVIS: The entourage there -- I'm seeing it, right, the entourage lining up there. That is the visitor's gate. That is the gate the visitors go in. We go in that when we are at Andrews Air Force Base attempting to cover the president taking off in Air Force One or the vice president on one of his presidential trips. But he is traveling all over the country for now, trying to win the nomination.

They're apparently meeting now, it looks like, with the guards there at the gate, trying to smooth their way in, see if there's somehow, some way that they can gain access -- Daryn.

KAGAN: It appears that they would be at an impasse at this time. While you were talking, we could see the guards leaning over into that first van, we think that's the van that's carrying Senator Smith with the uncles in the van perhaps behind him. Maybe they're waiting for an answer from somebody higher up to decide what exactly to do about the situation right now.

Patty, tell us a little bit more about Andrews Air Force Base. You were alluding to the fact that this is where Air Force One and Air Force Two live and are cared for when they're not flying the president and the vice president around. It's not a coincidence that this is the area that was picked for the reunion with Elian Gonzalez and his father.

DAVIS: Absolutely not a coincidence. This is a very secure air force base. As you said, Air Force One is housed here. Air Force Two is housed here. Official government travel goes in and out of this air force base. You are not allowed on this air force base unless you have permission to get on it and it's difficult, you have to present identification and they have to make sure that you have permission to get on this base.

As far as these relatives are concerned, according to the spokesman here at Andrews Air Force Base, that is something they do not have at this time. But, you know, that's something that could change. There's, the situation's been very fluid. It could change. Perhaps there's some way Juan Miguel Gonzalez will change his mind. We just don't know. We'll have to see how this unravels. But a very heavily patrolled air force base here right outside of Washington in Maryland that houses government planes and is very secure because the president often takes off here and arrives here in his airplane, as well as the vice president, Daryn?

KAGAN: All right, Patty Davis at Andrews Air Force Base. Thank you, Patty. We will continue to keep our eyes on the situation at that visitor's gate at Andrews Air Force Base as Senator Bob Smith and the two great uncles of Elian Gonzalez try to gain access to the base

Right now we'll go ahead and rejoin RELIABLE SOURCES in progress.



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