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Elian Gonzalez Case: Miami Relatives Look to Meet With Elian and His Father at Andrews Air Force Base; Miami Mayors Hold Press Conference

Aired April 22, 2000 - 6:00 p.m. ET



JANET RENO, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Elian Gonzalez is a child who needs to be cherished, who needs to have quiet time, private time, and to be with his father.


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Joy, bitterness, sorrow, bewilderment and relief. A day of extreme emotion for Elian Gonzalez, his family and many others.

BRIAN NELSON, CNN ANCHOR: U.S. immigration officials reunite the boy with his father after a predawn raid.

KAGAN: From CNN in Atlanta, this is "WORLDVIEW."

I'm Daryn Kagan.

NELSON: And I'm Brian Nelson.

We begin with a look at the events that are unfolding in the Elian Gonzalez case. An attorney for Elian's father said that now is not the time for a meeting between the boy and his Miami relatives. The family last saw Elian around 5:00 Saturday morning when federal agents took Elian from the home where he has been staying for almost five months. Attorney General Janet Reno says, in her words, time had run out.

By 9:30, Elian was at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, where he was reunited with his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, his stepmother and half-brother. Federal officials with him on the flight from Miami describe Elian as calm and they say he smiled and hugged his father when they were reunited. But there was anger in Miami as word of the seizure of Elian spread throughout the Little Havana neighborhood. Clouds of smoked filled the air as crowds burned tires in the streets. Police there report making at least 80 arrests.

KAGAN: Elian and his father are expected to stay at Andrews Air Force Base for several days now.

CNN's Patty Davis is at Andrews and she is joining us with the latest -- Patty.

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, Elian Gonzalez's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, refused to meet on Saturday with his Miami relatives who came up here to the Washington, D.C. area. They we're seeking a meeting with Elian. They arrived about two hours ago at Washington Reagan National Airport seeking a meeting. They had thought about coming out here to Andrews Air Force Base where Elian is to try to meet the boy who was taken from them during the dawn hours of this morning.

But as you said, Juan Miguel Gonzalez's attorney says it is just too early for a meeting with the family at this time. The relatives, however, now are meeting on Capitol Hill. They are said to be in the office of Senator Bob Smith. We do not know, however, who those relatives are meeting with on Capitol Hill.

Now, Elian was reunited with his father here at Andrews Air Force Base around 9:20 a.m. on Saturday morning. The two had not seen one another in about five months. U.S. marshals took these still photographs of father and son as they were reunited, those photographs were released to the press. Both grinning ear to ear. Elian also reunited with his father's wife and their new baby.

And we are told that father and son will stay here for a couple of days and then, Daryn, they will go on to an undisclosed location somewhere here in the Washington, D.C. area. We were told -- are told that it will most likely not be the home that Elian Gonzalez's father has been staying in and that has been in Bethesda at the home of a Cuban diplomat.

I'm Patty Davis, CNN, live at Andrews Air Force Base.

NELSON: Thank you, Patty.

Tensions remain high in Miami's Little Havana community over Saturday's custody transfer of Elian Gonzalez.

And CNN's Mark Potter has been there all day monitoring developments and he joins us now with an update.

Good evening, Mark. It has been a long day for you.

MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It has been. But fortunately, it is a lot quieter now than it was earlier. The situation has really gotten quieter all along this street, Flagler Street, where there were a number of confrontations today. If you look behind me, you can see that there are only a couple of police cars and an officer there directing traffic. Earlier today, there were -- there was a field force there, riot police fighting with the crowd with tear gas, making arrests, dealing with a very critical situation.

But right now, it is quieter all along this area. We're told that there are a few pockets of problems at intersections still, but the main concern that officers have now is not about the current situation, but what might happen later when darkness falls, and said they are going to be watching carefully there. And they have a large contingent of officers out on the street just in case something happens.

Now, the numbers so far are 126 arrests officially, that number is about an hour or so old, however. I think there -- it is up considerably from that. We have seen other arrests being made since then. We are also told that three officers have been hurt. About six blocks from here this afternoon, there were, according to the Miami police spokesman, attempting to make an arrest when a man in a car drove through a barricade, jumped out with a baseball bat and attacked three officers. One suffered shoulder trauma, two had back injuries, they were taken to an area hospital where we are told they are now listed in stable condition. A fourth officer was hit in the head with a rock near the Gonzalez home about five blocks from here early this morning. For what it's worth, our camera at CNN was hit with a rock also, but it's still operating, it's the one we are using now.

This was a dicier situation here this morning. We saw a number of arrests being made. As I said before, the police came in a number of times trying to back the crowd out using tear gas and pepper gas. The crowd in several areas also set fires to trash cans -- to trash dumpsters, rather, to tires, and the police had to go in and clear out the area so that the fire department could come in to put those fires out.

Over the course of the day, we noticed that the make-up of the crowd changed from those who are very much interested in the Elian Gonzalez situation. That was this morning. Later this afternoon, it was young people who were out here as almost taking on a rather carnival atmosphere, much different than this morning.

Mark Potter, CNN, reporting live from Miami.

KAGAN: Mark, thank you very much.

Right now we want to take you live to a rally that's taking place in Cuba. This is a rally in Jaguey Grande. Speaking right now at the podium is Mariellis Cincana (ph), she is one of the grandmothers of Elian Gonzalez. As you can see, there are thousands of people there. This, though, is a rally that takes place every day. This is not a rally that was set up specially for the news that Elian Gonzalez was back with his father. This is his other grandmother.

We are going to go ahead and listen in to what the grandmothers have to say.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I really express my thanks to the Cuban people who have been with us and will continue to be with us. I express my appreciation to the American people, the congressmen, senators, all who accompanied us in our struggle and helped us to have our child turned over, and I express to Miss Reno and Miss Meissner, all who met with us while we were there, we are truly, truly grateful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): In the name of the neighbors of Elian's block, we want to express our appreciation to everyone who has supported us during five months of struggle. To the American authorities and all those who have supported the family and all of us to bring Elian back to his family to his father, thank you.

KAGAN: And there you have it, we've heard from both of Elian Gonzalez's grandmothers in Cuba. This is a rally that has been planned daily, demanding his return to his home country. As you might have seen in that cut away crowd there, Fidel Castro, President Fidel Castro is present at that rally.

Let's bring in our Martin Savidge, who is about two hours away from that rally in Havana. Martin, as we mentioned, this is not a rally that was set up specially because of the news of today. They plan that rally on a daily basis.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they do. They usually either have it in the evening hours, starting at 5:00, protest meetings. Some times it's a roundtable out of the Cuban television station here in Havana. Other times it is a street demonstration or a rally that takes place often on the weekends. They hold these demonstrations outside of the city of Havana, usually outdoors, and they tend to draw very large crowds. Of course, they are organized by the government.

But the reason the government likes to move away from Havana is to show to the rest of the world that support for Elian Gonzalez is not just limited here to the capital, that it is extending throughout the rest of the country. I am sure that some of perhaps the make-up of how this rally was composed and the words that you are hearing are a good bit different than what may have been suggested before events in Miami. There is some reaction.

There had also been some talk that perhaps Cuban President Fidel Castro himself may get up and speak. You never really know for certain until he steps before the microphone. It is also possible that the government doesn't necessarily feel it has to make some sort of formal statement, believing that the images coming out of Miami, especially in the aftermath of the operation this morning, and also that very telling photograph of young Elian Gonzalez with his father and the big smile may send the most powerful message of all and that their words are not needed. But of course, we will probably find out as this program moves on.

KAGAN: Martin, people across the U.S. have watched these pictures all day long -- not these pictures, but the picture of Elian Gonzalez being seized and then reunited with his father. How much have people in Cuba been able to see?

SAVIDGE: Well, they have seen quite a bit of the video, much of the video actually coming from CNN that Cuban television has been then turning around and rebroadcasting. The speed at which the news broke here in Havana and actually through the rest of the country was quite quick depending -- actually judging it by Cuban standards. I mean, the first bulletin came across I would say at about 6:30 this morning on Cuban radio and it was shortly thereafter followed by a communique that was read on Cuban television. Sometimes, news of events pertaining from the United States, or coming from the United States pertaining to Elian Gonzalez can take a long time before they are reported here. That was not the case this morning. But of course, the Cuban government looks upon the acts there as a very positive thing.

KAGAN: Well, Martin, why is that? Why would there be the delay and then today not the delay?

SAVIDGE: Well, you have to keep in mind that all of the media within Cuba is a government-controlled media, it is basically a branch of the Cuban government. The government can decide what they believe they want to transmit and what they don't want to transmit. The images today they felt obviously the story that came out of there was something that the people wanted to know and should know right away. So, I think I'll leave up to your audience to make a decision as to why or why not. It is almost self explanatory actually.

KAGAN: Tell us a little bit more about the location of this rally. As I understand, it is in the same province of Elian Gonzalez's hometown?

SAVIDGE: Right. It is in Matansas (ph) province, which is -- it is very close to Cardenas, which is the town where Elian Gonzalez grew up. It's also the area from where the ill-fated journey began. This is an area that has been strongly supportive of having the young boy returned. Now, whether it was simply ironic that it falls on this particular day, that was probably just the case of scheduling -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Martin Savidge, live in Havana, thank you for helping us to understand the rally today, we appreciate it.

Now over to Brian.

NELSON: And we have just received word that Elian's family members who flew from Miami to Washington and spent sometime around Capitol Hill late this afternoon are now on their way to Andrews Air Force Base. In their company is Senator Bob Smith, and of course, along on this trip is Marisleysis Gonzalez, Elian's cousin, and Lazaro, his great-uncle.

Now we want to take you to Miami, where there is a news conference underway at the Metro-Dade Government Center and it is being held by the mayor of Miami-Dade County, Alex Penelas, in the company of Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin and some other local officials.

Let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One minute, ladies and gentlemen.

NELSON: We are just waiting for that new conference to get under. Just as we were saying earlier, Senator Bob Smith, Marisleysis Gonzalez and Lazaro Gonzalez are on their way to Andrews Air Force base and we will keep following that element to the story.

But now, here is that news conference.

MAYOR ALEX PENELAS, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY: Each of us are here today in a spirit of community, in a spirit of peace and in a spirit of healing. Early this morning, we as a community witnessed what I can only describe as a tragic event, federal agents raiding the home of young Elian Gonzalez's Miami family and snatching the boy.

Everyone knows how personally disappointed I am and how personally angered I am that the federal government did not give respected members of this community who came together as mediators from various sectors of our community the time, the precious time that they needed to finalize negotiations between the family and the Justice Department for a peaceful, orderly and fair resolution to this matter. I know that this sentiment is shared by many of those here tonight and throughout this community.

There is no doubt that this is indeed an emotional time for each and every one of us irrespective of our personal beliefs regarding young Elian Gonzalez. People have already begun taking to the streets to express their anger and frustrations at the federal government's actions. Fortunately, many of those actions have come in the form of sporadic and isolated incidents. I call on the people of this community as mayor to express themselves peacefully and within the realm of the law. I also want to emphasize that we will not tolerate violence or demonstrations that infringe upon the rights of others.

The community leaders and elected officials who have joined me this evening represent various sectors of our community. They have joined me in a show of solidarity and mutual concern over today's developments. And at the same time, they have joined me in a united call for calm. A lot of questions will be raised in the coming days regarding where do we go...

KAGAN: We are going to interrupt the news conference in Miami to listen to Fidel Castro, who is speaking at the rally in Cuba.


PRESIDENT FIDEL CASTRO, CUBA (through translator): ... and then on the following day, on April the 19th, April the 19th, looking like a way to get even, revenge, or pretending to be historical revenge against victory at Hedon (ph). The sentence of the ruling of the court in Atlanta was published. Two things. Two blows, one right after the other. And I thought -- and on top of that, all during Holy Week, what a way to honor the precepts of Christianity. Here in this place, this is -- the command center was started here, but the one for the Hedon battle was everywhere. We were tricked. We were tricked that day at dawn when they prepared an attack with tanks.

Fernandez (ph) probably remembers, because he had arrived with militia officers at a set time. I don't remember at what time, but I know that it was important. What was important was to be on the beach on the other side. You all know that down that road first you run into a deep swamp and I didn't really have a map. I -- in some places, the swamp is wider than in others, but down that road, around eight, 10 kilometers, I may be wrong, but there will be time to rectify my mistake if I am wrong as to those figures. And at dawn, they...

KAGAN: We have been listening to Cuban President Fidel Castro at Jaguey Grande, at a rally that was already planned ahead of the news that Elian Gonzalez has been reunited with his father. President Castro making an analogy between the situation with Elian Gonzalez and the Bay of Pigs.

Now we go back to Miami, where we are going to listen to Miami Mayor Joe Carollo.


MAYOR JOE CAROLLO, MIAMI: That no matter how much he hurt inside, no matter how much our hearts ache, and I know that we are hurting terribly, we cannot think with our hearts. We have to think with our heads and by thinking with our heads, within the law, that is the best way that we could help Elian Gonzalez, help Miami, and put less shame on America today. I plead with this community that has been a good community, a patriotic community, a loving family, the great family of Miamians, proud Americans, I plead that we react within the law.

Use the power of the law, the rule of law that was not used here today, use that to speak to America and to defend the liberty and freedom and principles of fair play and justice that our founding fathers fought for when this great country of ours was founded. I plead with all Miamians to please observe our laws. The only winner if that is not done would be the tyrant, the criminal, the murderer, Fidel Castro. As mayor of Miami, I am again asking all of you to please think with your heads. Don't react with your hearts and follow our laws, because that would be the best way that we could respond to what's happened today, within the law.

KAGAN: Just hearing from Miami Mayor Joe Carollo, also, Miami- Dade Mayor Alex Penelas. Both men obviously very disturbed by the actions that they saw take place in Little Havana earlier today and yet begging the community of Miami and especially Little Havana to remain civil and to have no civil disobedience.

CNN's coverage of Elian Gonzalez and this case will continue at 8:00 p.m. Eastern tonight. I will be joined by Wolf Blitzer for a special report, including more live reports from Washington, Miami, and Havana, and an in-depth look back at the day's developments.

Then at 9:00 Eastern, a special edition of "LARRY KING LIVE." One of the topics, the impact of today's developments on young Elian Gonzalez.

And with that, we'll take a quick break. We'll be back right after this.



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