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After Predawn Raid, Elian Gonzalez Reunited with His Father

Aired April 22, 2000 - 8:00 p.m. ET


ANNOUNCER: After months of litigation and negotiations, in the early hours of this day, confrontation.




ANNOUNCER: A predawn raid to seize 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez.


JANET RENO, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The Miami relatives rejected our efforts, leaving us no other option.



DONATO DALRYMPLE, FISHERMAN: I held his head next to my shoulder to try and protect him, and they busted the door down!


ANNOUNCER: Armed federal agents found the boy in a closet with one of the men who five months ago pulled him in from the Atlantic Ocean.


MARISLEYSIS GONZALEZ, COUSIN OF ELIAN GONZALEZ: How can he be OK when he had a gun at his head?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Officers are trying to back people off.


ANNOUNCER: As federal agents used pepper spray to disperse demonstrators, the crying boy was whisked away. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They took the boy. They're getting the boy .



MAYOR JOE CAROLLO, MIAMI: They came in with machine guns. They came in gassing people. This is America; this is not Cuba.


ANNOUNCER: As the boy flew north toward a rendezvous with his father, demonstrators set fires and attempted to block Miami streets and freeways. Police responded with a show of force.


JOSE GARCIA PEDROSA, ATTORNEY FOR ELIAN'S MIAMI RELATIVES: These people are angry. They are upset. They feel betrayed.



WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This was, in the end, about a little boy who lost his mother and has not seen his father in more than five months.


ANNOUNCER: Finally, a reunion between father an son.

Tonight, the complete story, from the moment he was first pulled from the waters off Florida through today's dramatic events. This is a CNN special report, with Wolf Blitzer in Washington and Daryn Kagan at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. We welcome our international viewers to our coverage of the Elian Gonzalez case.

From Miami to Washington and beyond, a day of contrasting emotions.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Tears and anger from a shocked community, a father's jubilation and a long-awaited reunion.

BLITZER: Tonight, for the first time in nearly five months, Elian Gonzalez is with his father. The two of them, along with Elian's stepmother and half brother, are getting reacquainted, their privacy assured, at Andrews Air Force base, outside Washington. CNN learned they will be moved in a couple days or so to another secluded site, the most likely location, the Wye River Plantation on Maryland's eastern shore. You may remember that was where the breakthrough in Middle East peace negotiations occurred in October 1998. Hundreds of miles away in Miami's Little Havana, the scene is a lot calmer than just a few hours ago. Cuban exile demonstrators were throwing rocks at police, setting fires. Police in riot gear subdued them with pepper spray and tear gas. As many as 150 people have been arrested. All of this in reaction to the dramatic events of early this morning, when federal agents forcibly removed the boy from the home of list great uncle Lazaro Gonzalez.

CNN's Brian Cabell was on the scene as "Operation Reunion," a lightning pre-dawn raid, took place.


BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At 5:15 a.m., shortly after a place barricade blocking the street was taken down, three vans raced in and stopped sharply outside the Gonzalez house. It took a few moments for demonstrators, who had been standing vigil, to realize what was happening. Agents poured out of the vehicle. Some pushed over the chainlink fence outside the Gonzalez home and knocked on the door before breaking it down with a battering ram.

M. GONZALEZ: They told me, "Give me the boy, or I'm going to shoot. I'm going to shoot! Give me the boy. Give the" -- and they said a bad word -- "Give me the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) boy. Give me the boy? I said, "Please, don't let the boy see this." I said, "Please, don't let the boy see this. Please, I will give you the boy. Don't let him see this, he's seen enough, seeing his mother's death. We don't want this. We're not going to do anything. We're not armed."

CABELL: Donata Dalrymple, one of the fisherman who had rescued Elian from the straits of Florida in November, fled with the boy to a bedroom closet when the agents burst in.

DALRYMPLE: I held his head next to my shoulder to try and protect him, and they busted the door down, and they came in with assault weapons, and I don't know what kind they were, but it's as if they were taking a terrorist hostage, and they grabbed the boy, and I said, "Please, don't hurt the child! Don't hurt the child."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They've got the boy. They've got the boy.

CABELL: Three minutes after entering the house, agents race out with Elian wrapped in a blanket, carried by a female officer. The government says she told him in Spanish "Don't be scared. You'll see your papa soon." The van carrying the boy backed quickly away from the house. Two other vans tried doing the same, but were pelted with debris from the crowd of about 50 people, which grew quickly as word of the raid spread.

Agents fired pepper spray several times to back protesters away from the vans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are now feeling the effects of the spray ourselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were gassed with no provocation. We were assaulted with no provocation! You saw it! You had the cameras! We did nothing! We were walking and were gassed!

CABELL: A few people collapsed at the scene, but one was seriously injured.

Less than 15 minutes after Elian and federal agents had left the neighborhood, some Cuban American protesters turned their anger toward reporters, cameramen and sound technicians.

Few Miami police patrolled the block where the raid occurred, but they did set up a perimeter a few blocks away to contain any possible violence.

Elian, meantime, was driven to a helicopter pad less than 10 miles away, and flown from there to Homestead Air Reserve Base. Within an hour of his being seized, the 6-year-old boy was on board a plane, headed for Andrews Air Force Base, where his father, Juan Miguel, would be waiting.

Brian Cabell, CNN, Miami.


KAGAN: He was going to see his father -- that's what the Spanish-speaking female agent who carried Elian out of the house kept telling him, that he was not going to Cuba, he was not going on a boat. Attorney General Janet Reno says the move to get the boy was carefully considered and orchestrated.

How she reached her decision, from CNN Justice correspondent Pierre Thomas.


PIERRE THOMAS, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The wee hours of the morning at the Justice Department, as Attorney General Janet Reno and top aides enter into a critical phase in the fight over Elian Gonzalez, simultaneously hoping last-minute negotiations would lead to a peaceful transfer of the boy, but also positioning to snatch Elian if all else failed.

ERIC HOLDER, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: It was a long evening. No one had had any sleep. We were in constant conversation with the representative are the family in Miami, talking to Greg Craig, and the representative of Juan Miguel, and trying to figure out a way in which we could reach some kind of voluntary agreement.

THOMAS: At midnight, Justice officials offered a deal, involving giving custody of the boy to the father, but provided a week of transition, with each family living adjacent to one another. The hours passed, and a crucial cutoff time was fast approaching.

DORIS MEISSNER, INS COMMISSIONER: We had set a deadline of 3:00 in the morning. That was when we believed -- and that's the time that we had agreed with our law-enforcement people on the ground would be the last moment for the decision, whether to go or not to go. THOMAS: Meanwhile 130 agents had begun positioning themselves to retrieve themselves at the Miami home. They had studied the ebb and flow of the crowd, traffic patterns -- no detail was left uncovered.

MEISSNER: There is a rotweiler dog that lives in an adjoining home, and so the perimeter team that went first, one of the agents had a tranquilizer gun just in case the dog jumped or became a problem.

THOMAS: The plan was in place, but nothing would happen unless Reno decided to go ahead. At 3:00 a.m., officials still had hope. Reno decided to give it one more hour. At 4:00 a.m., still no deal. Reno came to a defining moment.

HOLDER: She went around the room, as she customarily does when she makes very important decisions, and asked all of us that were present, what did we think, should we go with the enforcement action? And there was unanimity in the room.

THOMAS: For Reno, there were no options left.

RENO: Time had run out. At that moment, I gave the go-ahead for the operation.

THOMAS: It was over in roughly three minutes, no injuries, but searing images left behind and questions about whether it was overkill.

RENO: We had received information that there were guns, perhaps in the crowd, perhaps in the house. It was unclear, but the safety of all involve was paramount, and when law enforcement goes into a situation like that, it must go in prepared for the unexpected.

THOMAS: They watched in silence as the scene unfolded on TV.

HOLDER: We watched with a certain amount of pride, in the sense that we saw our agents performing in a way we wanted them to, but I think the predominant feeling that we all had was one of very deep sadness and regret that it had came to this.

THOMAS: Reno summed up the whole ordeal.

RENO: The community is hurting. I'm hurting.

THOMAS: Pierre Thomas, CNN, Washington.


BLITZER: Next, four hours after INS agents carry Elian Gonzalez out of the Miami house, he's in his father's arms. A bewildering day for anyone, especially a child. How Elian is coping and the legal battle ahead. Plus, was the predawn raid too heavyhanded? And the hours after in the streets of Miami.


KAGAN: And we're looking at a live picture from the streets of Miami, Florida. Authorities there tell us things are relatively quiet tonight in the wake of the day's events.

For the first time in five months, Elian Gonzalez is back with his father. After the boy was taken from the home of his Miami relatives early this morning, he was flown to Andrews Air Force Base, as we told you earlier, outside of Washington, for the long-awaited reunion.

CNN's Kate Snow tells us the plan is now for the father and son to spend the next few days in seclusion.


KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A private reunion between Elian, his father, Juan Miguel, stepmother and baby brother, the moment captured on a disposable camera the smiling father brought with him, and released by his attorney to the media. The images were a sharp contrast to photos taken inside the Miami home of Lazaro Gonzalez hours earlier.

With news helicopters hovering overhead, the plane delivering Elian Gonzalez touched down early Saturday morning. On board, the government provided a Spanish-speaking counselor, a watch given to Elian to count the minutes until he would see his father, Play-Doh to squeeze if he felt stressed.

RENO: It is time to help this little boy heal from the tragedies that he has experienced. Let us give him and his father the space, the calm, the moral support they need to reconnect and reaffirm their bonds between father and son.

SNOW: The family was whisked away to a building on Andrews Air Force Base. Stressing the need for privacy, Immigration officials said the family would not return to the Bethesda home, where Juan Miguel Gonzalez has been living since his arrival in the United States.

The father's attorney, Greg Craig, says the Gonzalez family will remain at the base for a couple of days. He says Elian is comfortable with his father and his new surroundings, unfazed by the day's events.

GREGORY CRAIG, ATTORNEY FOR JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ: I saw absolutely no evidence of that kind of trauma, or that kind of fear or that kind of uncertainty, or you know, being scared of where he was or who he was with. He was totally at ease. He was laughing with his little brother, Yani. He was hugging his father. I saw no evidence that this person had gone through a traumatic experience.

SNOW: A team of mental health specialists that has been working with the Justice Department has been asked to counsel the family if they request help. Craig says the Cuban diplomatic mission may also help provide clothing and food for the Gonzalez family, but Cuban diplomats say the U.S. Justice Department is now responsible for the Gonzalez family. That raises the question, could Juan Miguel Gonzalez choose to stay in the United States for good?

CRAIG: I think he should have the right to choose where he wants to live. And if he wants to live in the United States with his family, I would work very hard to make that possible for him. If he wants to leave the country and return to his home in Cardenas, I think he has that right as well.

SNOW: But Gonzalez has always insisted he wants to return to the town in which he grew up, and Craig says that hasn't changed, neither has his promise to remain in the U.S. to wait out the legal process.

CRAIG: Juan Gonzalez has made a commitment to remain in the United States during this appeal, and he will live up to that commitment.

SNOW (on camera): That means staying at least until the next scheduled court hearing on May 11, and possibly even longer, especially if the case makes it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kate Snow, CNN, Washington.


KAGAN: And this story continues to evolve throughout the day. After Elian was taken from their home, the Miami relatives got on a plane and flew to Washington, hoping to see the boy. So far, they've been unable to do that. After they arrived in Washington, the relatives met with Republican Senator Bob Smith of New Hampshire. They later tried to gain abscess to Andrews Air Force Base, but were turned away. The family does not have authorization to be on the base. Smith described the relatives as distraught and besides themselves with grief.

The images of Elian Gonzalez that we've seen today provide just a glimpse of the emotional turmoil that this 6-year-old has been through during the past 15 hours. Joining us to talk about the psychological effects of today's events and the last five months is Dr. Paula Kernberg. She is director of child psychologists at New York's Presbyterian Hospital, and she was a member of the team that was assembled by the Justice Department to counsel Juan Miguel Gonzalez and the Miami relatives.

Doctor Kernberg, thanks for joining us.


KAGAN: You've met many of the players in this drama. The Miami relatives, as we've mentioned, have gone to Washington. They want to see Elian Gonzalez. Do you think they should be allowed to have that visitation?

KERNBERG: I think that eventually, when they can adjust to the reality that the child has been now settled with his parents, he should be -- have access to them, perhaps on the phone to begin with, and making sure that the Gonzalez family from Miami is wishing him well and that they are with him, and that this is their family, that he has not lost them.

KAGAN: When you say eventually, what kind of timeframe are you talking about with that?

KERNBERG: Well, I think that it will be the time when the father already feels comfortable, that the child has reconnected with him, which is already happening, and I think that when the relatives feel settled down enough to say, we are here, we are with you, and we are going to continue being in touch with you, and I think that would be easy enough and very reassuring for the child.

KAGAN: Do you have any plans to meet with any of the family members yet again, either Juan Miguel Gonzalez or the Miami relatives?

KERNBERG: We have been available and are available to them if they should request that. I think that it has been very important to see how the child who reacted so well with his parents, and I think he could have reacted equally well with the Miami family if they had told him that he was going to go back to his father and that they will be with him, they will be in contact, but they couldn't, because they were so upset.

KAGAN: But so far, you've had no requests, so, so far, there's no more plans for you to meet with the family?

KERNBERG: Not at this point, no.

KAGAN: If you did have a chance to talk with Juan Miguel Gonzalez, seeing everything that has happened today, what would be your advice on counseling his son to get over the trauma?

KERNBERG: Well, I think this situation today was a frightening moment. It was not what I would consider a trauma.

KAGAN: That wasn't a trauma, to be yanked from the place where you're living with relatives for five months with guns and men in uniform?

KERNBERG: I think that it was a scary thing. If any of the relatives or the fishermen would have said to him, look, you are being picked up by the to go to your daddy, and this...

KAGAN: But Dr. Kernberg, they weren't, and the reality is that this little boy was taken from this boy in a very scary situation. So how do you counsel a family, and how do you counsel a parent like Juan Miguel Gonzalez, to help a child in recovering from that?

KERNBERG: I think that they were advised. And the first moments with the father have been very productive, very rewarding. The child has been playing, as if he has played all the time there. Those who need counseling I think are the family in Miami who, as you said, were very invested in him, and have nurtured him back to health, and they need counseling and the counseling we were not able to provide, because they were not accessible to us in that connection.

KAGAN: No doubt there are a lot of people that love this little boy a lot of broken hearts through the past five months.

KERNBERG: Certainly. KAGAN: Dr. Kernberg, thanks for joining us. I'm sorry, we're out of time.

KERNBERG: You are most welcome.

KAGAN: Thank you -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Daryn, the predawn raid that led to the reunion between Elian Gonzalez and his father lasted just a few minutes. Resolving the legal issues surrounding the case could take weeks, perhaps even months. The next step is a federal appeals court hearing scheduled for May 11.

Here to walk us through the process is CNN legal analyst Roger Cossack.

Roger, walk us through? What will happen May 11 and beyond?

ROGER COSSACK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: May 11 is a hearing date. What we've heard recently was the decision of the 11th Circuit, where they made the order, stopping the young boy from leaving the country until the issues are decided. But one of the main issue that going to be heard on the 11th is whether on not a 6-year-old can apply personally for political asylum, whether or not he has the ability to do that, or you need the father's consent, which is what the conflict is here. Now that decision isn't going to come on May 11. That hopefully will come within a few weeks, or as soon as possible. And then of course, there's the possibility of an appeal to the United States Supreme Court. They don't have to take every case appealed. The Supreme Court goes on vacation for the summer, so we could see the possibility that this thing could stretch out for a while.

The other side of it is, is that if in fact they said that Elian could apply for political asylum, he then goes to the INS and presents his case, to say, look, if I go back to Cuba -- it sounds ludicrous, the 6-year-old boy talking to the INS agent, saying look, if I go back to Cuba, I'm going to be persecuted, either politically or in some other way, you've got to keep me here, and I think that Elian would have a difficult time -- and I don't mean to sound foolish, but he would have a difficult time, if you had to look upon him as an adult, in making out that case.

BLITZER: You know, a lot of Cuban Americans and others are looking at the father right now, looking at Elian. What they say is, yes, we have assurances from Janet Reno, yes, from Greg Craig, the lawyer for Juan Miguel Gonzalez and directly from Juan Miguel Gonzalez that he will remain with his son in the United States as this lengthy judicial process works its way up. But is there some legal avenue available to him, if he decides, you know, I'm sick of this, I want to go back to Cardenas in Cuba, I want out? Is there some way he can go back with his son?

COSSACK: Well, as it stands right now, as we sit here now, the answer is no. There are two things that are keeping him in the country. First of all, the 11th Circuit decision keeps Elian in the country, but mind you, there's nothing that keeps Juan Miguel in the country. The adjoiners are against Elian leaving the country, and the other issue is that Janet Reno, the attorney general, has issued an order that keeps Elian here until his process is decided.

But if you want to say, what could happen? Well, I guess, theoretically, someone could make a petition in the future to the court that says, can this thing be decided without young Elian here? And I suppose the court could decide, yes that could happen, but the practicalities is something that, in some ways, render the case moot.

Look, let not kid ourselves, if Elian returns to Cuba and the court says he shouldn't of, while he's still in Cuba, there's no chance he's going to come back to honor that court decision. So I think the problem is, once he leaves this country, we effectively lose jurisdiction of him.

BLITZER: OK, Roger Cossack, our legal analyst and co-host of "BURDEN OF PROOF," thanks for joining us.

Attorney General Janet Reno says there were no other options, but those in the House see it differently. The views from inside and out next. Miami's mayors asks those in the streets to think with their heads, not their hearts. And in Cuba, thousands celebrate the news of Operation Reunion.


KAGAN: Showing you live pictures once again from the streets of Miami. It does not look like things are all that tense from the look of those police officers, although plenty of police on the streets, keeping a tight reign on any civil disobedience, where it might look like it has a threat of breaking out.

Why did the negotiations break down between the Justice Department and Elian Gonzalez' Miami relatives. The answers vary, depending on whom you ask.

CNN's mike Boettcher now reports that each side has its own version of what took place immediately before and during the predawn raid.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Again, we believe Elian Gonzalez was taken out of here...

MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The pepper spray had barely dissipated, when conflicting versions of what happened and why it happened emerged.

RENO: The Miami relatives rejected our efforts, leaving us no other option but the enforcement action.

M. GONZALEZ: There was no need to have a gun at his head.

BOETTCHER: Before battering rams knocked down the Gonzalez front door, the family was given one last chance to surrender Elian, according to the attorney general.

RENO: After negotiating through the night, I informed the parties that time had run out. At that moment, I gave the go-ahead for the operation.

BOETTCHER: But Elian's cousin, Marisleysis Gonzalez, says there was no warning.

M. GONZALEZ: We heard noises, people banging on the door, breaking the door down. Elian was awake in the living room, and we didn't know what was going on because they never told us that U.S. marshals were going to come in and pick up the boy.

BOETTCHER: The attorney general contends that all avenues of negotiation had failed.

RENO: Time had run out. I waited until the final moments to try a voluntarily solution.

BOETTCHER: The Gonzalez family attorney insists they were still negotiating when the raid took place.

KENDALL COFFEY, ATTY. FOR ELIAN'S MIAMI RELATIVES: I was sitting in that room. The door was smashed. And while we were on the phone talking to the mediator dealing with the attorney general, the house was tear gassed.

BOETTCHER: Why were heavily armed federal agents used to remove Elian? The federal government says it had intelligence that weapons might be present.

HOLDER: The American people will understand that we had information that there were weapons in the house.

BOETTCHER: Miami Mayor Joe Carollo says that is preposterous.

CAROLLO: It's just another major proof of how much our government has been lying to Americans.

BOETTCHER: Were those agents prepared to use those weapons? Donato Dalrymple, one of the fishermen who rescued Elian from the sea Thanksgiving Day and who was holding the boy when the agents entered the house, says yes.

DALRYMPLE: The gun was pointed right to me -- "Give me the boy! Give me the boy."

BOETTCHER: But the INS agents finger is off the trigger as he enters where Elian was being kept.

And perhaps the hardest question, why did it have to go this far at all? Here, the finger points in all directions.

RENO: We have been to great lengths to resolve this case in the least disruptive planner possible.

M. GONZALEZ: And I cried and I begged, "We're not going to do anything. We'll give you the boy. Don't let this happen like this."

BOETTCHER: But it did happen like this, the worst case scenario, and caught between both sides calling each other guilty, a loan innocent -- Elian Gonzalez.

Mike Boettcher, CNN, Atlanta.


BLITZER: As word of the raids spread, people gathered in the streets of Miami.

Next, things turn loud, and in some cases. fiery as the public was in.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If the child was being reunited with his father in Canada, we would not be out here. This is about returning this child to the father in Castro's communist Cuba.


BLITZER: And across the waters, a call for calm and dignity. We'll take you live to Havana.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KAGAN: Welcome back to our CNN special report on today's dramatic developments in the Elian Gonzalez case. I'm Daryn Kagan, at CNN Center in Atlanta.

BLITZER: And I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Similar tensions in Miami reached at times the boiling point today, following the Justice Department decision to take Elian Gonzalez by force and reunite him with his father. City officials are appealing for calm, and right now, the situation is relatively quiet. But earlier this evening. several demonstrators knocked over a tent CNN was using to broadcast outside the home where Elian Gonzalez had been staying.

CNN's Mark Potter has more on the Miami reaction to today's developments.


MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As word spread that Elian Gonzalez had been whisked out of Miami, emotion that had been built for five months poured into the streets of Little Havana. Early in the morning, crowds began to form at major intersections, mostly along Flagler Street. Anger was targeted at the Justice Department and the Clinton administration for what many here saw as a betrayal of Elian and this community.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was born in this country, and I cannot believe that this country has walked in and stolen a little child in the middle of the night.

POTTER: As frustration built, some in the crowd set fires to tires and trash dumpsters. Others threw rocks and taunted the police. In several instances, the crowd briefly had the upper hand, taking control of intersections and blocking traffic, until police in riot gear moved in force, using tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the crowds.

Police made scores of arrests. Most of the disturbances were confined to the Little Havana area and did not spread to the rest of Miami and the surrounding county. The Miami police department says four of its officers were injured, three hit by a man with a baseball bat, one hit in the head with a rock. None was injured seriously.

Earlier in the day, many of the protesters were older and were clearly upset about the transfer of Elian Gonzalez. By afternoon, the makeup of the crowd changed, a rowdier, younger group, which upset many of the original protesters, who feared their political message would be lost.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unfortunately now, a small group of school- age punks and thugs have come out here, who probably have no idea what the Elian case is about and are really wreaking havoc in the community, and I just don't want that to be the picture of our community.

POTTER: As events unfolded, political leaders expressed their concerns. Florida's Republican governor, Jeb Bush, criticized the Clinton administration.

GOV. JEB BUSH, FLORIDA: To treat this as though it was a hostage situation, which it appears that it was created as, I think is a disrespect for people who truly love this child.

POTTER: This evening, the mayor's of Miami and Miami-Dade County, along with other local leaders, weighed in with their displeasure and urged the community to calm down.

CAROLLO: Think with your heads. Don't react with your hearts. Follow our laws.

SISTER JEANNE O'LAUGHLIN, PRESIDENT OF BARRY UNIVERSITY: We must transcend that pain and turn it to good and bring reconciliation and peace to this community that we love so much.


POTTER: Tonight, the situation in Miami's Little Havana is much quieter than early today. There are still little pockets of trouble, though, and police keep responding. We've seen them coming up and down this street with police cars and fire trucks. We're told the problem is mostly people blocking intersections, and the police are responding periodically. The Miami Police Department says that it made 184 arrests today. The county police said they made 16, for a total of 200 arrests in the events today. The three officers mentioned earlier hurt by the man with the baseball bat are still in the hospital. Two are suffering back injuries. The police tonight remain on high alert. The situation is quieter, but it is certainly not back to normal.

Mark Potter, CNN, reporting live from Miami.

KAGAN: Mark, thank you.

Now for more reaction on the events of the day, we turn to Jorge Mas Santos. He is chairman of the Cuban American National Foundation and is joining us from Miami.

JORGE MAS SANTOS, CUBAN AMERICAN NATIONAL FOUNDATION: Mr. Mas Santos, thanks for joining us tonight.

KAGAN: I'm doing OK.

But clearly, many members of the Cuban American community are hurting over this transfer of Elian Gonzalez to his father's custody today.

What could you think the Cuban American community need to do in order to heal?

SANTOS: I think today has been a sense of outrage at seeing that young boy taken at gunpoint with assault rifles, something which was not necessary. Throughout the course, over the last 24 to 48 hours, there had been negotiations, and agreement had been reached last night. I heard the attorney general's recollection of the facts this morning. They're incorrect. They're wrong. This family did everything in their power to have a family reunion. to be together with Juan Miguel, so this could be done peacefully so the raid this morning would not be necessary.

And I think it's a sad day of those of us who respect liberty, who respect justice and respect the rule of law that that boy had to be taken by force, and we've seen the face of terror that he had leaving that home. I think that this community has acted responsibly. Obviously, there are some instigators in that crowd, which is a small minority, which have nothing to do with the expressions of this community. We need to continue, I think, to defend Elian's rights, top also defend his family's right, to get together, to have a reunion, so they can heal as a family. I think that's extremely important.

The Miami family has flown to Washington. They're hoping to have that reunion with Juan Miguel, which the Justice Department and Greg Craig have denied them so far. I hope that can become a reality, because only that way can the outcome of this case be one which is acceptable I think to this community, and to America and to the family values that we want and that we should represent.

KAGAN: This story became so much bigger than just the Gonzalez family. As it spread and the passion spread into the Cuban American community, you just heard sister O'Laughlin in that last piece say you need to transcend the pain and put that it in a more positive place. Help us tonight explain a more positive way the Cuban American community could put that -- and excuse our graphics right there -- go ahead.

SANTOS: Well, I think a positive way to do this is continue to show the world what this community represents, which are the ideals of freedom and democracy, which is what we want for Cuba, what we want for our brothers and sisters on the island who continue to suffer under the tyrannical rule of Fidel Castro, and until there is no longer a Fidel Castro in Cuba, until there is not democracy in Cuba, we may have the case of other Elians. The desperation of families to get on a raft and come to liberty is something that we still here in the year 2000 should not seen. And many Americans -- you know, we take our freedom for granted, but ours is a community, is a struggle for freedom for Cuba, is a struggle for freedom, to defend the rights of those who arrive on the shores of liberty and are separated because of a loss of family.

And I think that this community has always wanted the reunification with the father, but we've also said that Juan Miguel has to be a free man, that he cannot be surrounded by Cuban security agents, under the influence of the Cuban government. I would hope that this government allows him the opportunity to be free, and hopefully together with his son, but also with his family.

KAGAN: Jorge Mas Santos, from the Cuban American National Foundation, thanks for joining us tonight.

SANTOS: Thank you.

KAGAN: Wolf.

BLITZER: To Cuba now, where a government-organized rally is still going on. There have been rallies like this every day for the past several months, always with the same message: Return Elian to Cuba.

Our Havana bureau chief Lucia Newman with more on today's events near the boy's hometown.


LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was one of so many government-organized rallies to demand the return of Elian Gonzalez to Cuba, but on this day, there was more joy than outrage, and few were more overjoyed than Elian's grandmothers.

RAQUEL RODRIGUEZ, ELIAN'S MATERNAL GRANDMOTHER (through translator): Apart from feeling so happy and thrilled that the boy is with his father, I'm even more happy, because now I know my daughter will be able rest in peace.

NEWMAN: Many people say they were moved to tears by the news that Elian had been seized, or rescued, as they call it here, from the home of his Miami relatives, an operation Cuban State Television retransmitted in full.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): That made me very happy to wake up to such good news after so many months of anguish and not knowing what was going to happen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): This option was the only choice, and had to be done a long time ago.

NEWMAN: Elian's paternal grandmothers thanked the people of the United States for what she called their support. But addressing the rally, President Fidel Castro had nothing but scorn for a federal appeals court, which refused to rule out the possibility of Elian applying for political asylum in the United States.

FIDEL CASTRO, CUBA'S PRESIDENT (through translator): They're telling parents from the third world that they have no rights over their children. A child at 6 years and 4 months old in that inferno can ask for asylum against the expressed will of his parents.

NEWMAN: In fact, this rally was the only public demonstration in response to the reunification of Elian with his father.


NEWMAN: The government has specifically called ton Cubans, in fact, to use restraint. The real victory, say officials and many ordinary Cubans, will be when Elian is back in his homeland. Still, President Castro praised the INS and the Justice Department, calling this a day to have a truce with the United States.

This is Lucia Newman, reporting live from Havana.

KAGAN: Lucia, thank you.

Still ahead, how this day has played out in the eyes of the American public.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A bit too much force for what was needed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What else were they going to do? They weren't cooperating.


KAGAN: And later, we take you to the beginning, when the world first learned of a little boy named Elian Gonzalez.


BLITZER: You're looking at a live picture of Miami. The streets of Miami are relatively quiet tonight on this day when federal agents went in and reunited Elian Gonzalez with his father.

The tactics used to reunite Elian with his father are fueling the nations bipartisan divide. Many Republicans are expressing outrage about Operation Reunion, though most Democrats are offering praise.

CNN White House correspondent Kelly Wallace has more on the political fallout.


KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shortly after this photo, captured by a freelance journalist, was broadcast, Republicans fired away at the president and Attorney General Janet Reno, comparing the early-morning raid to tactics used by Cuba's dictator.

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said, "My first thought was that this could only happen in Castro's Cuba. President Clinton should not have allowed this to happen."

Utah Senator Orrin Hatch Agreed.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT), JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN; When you see those photographs of those INS agents in combat gear with automatic weapons entering that house just bursting into it, storming it, in essence, pointing guns at people and snatching the kid away, that's not America. That's not America. I don't care which side of this you're on.

WALLACE: As Cuban Americans demonstrated in the streets in Miami, lawmakers protested the government's actions on the airwaves.

REP. LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART, FLORIDA: They never intended to have a deal. They intended to create a farce of a negotiations so they could go in there under the dead of night.

WALLACE: But Democrats backed the administration.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: I'm sorry they had to go in after him this way, but I don't know what choice the attorney general had. You know, the father actually had custody, legal custody of this child for the last nine days. The relatives in Miami would not give him up.

WALLACE: The two presidential candidates reacted on the campaign trail, with George W. Bush saying, "The chilling picture of a little boy being removed from his home at gunpoint defies the values of America and is not an image a freedom-loving nation wants to show the world."

Vice President Al Gore said nothing about Saturday's raid, saying he believes this issue should have been handled through the family courts.

(on camera): Gore's statement didn't seem to ruffle any feathers at the White House, but comments from Republicans certainly did, with the White House press secretary excusing the GOP of making the a political issue, something the administration says it tried not to do from the beginning.

Kelly Wallace, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KAGAN: Politicians aren't the only ones with differing opinions on the situation. Our Frank Buckley has been out and gives us an opinion from across America.


FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the way in which Elian Gonzalez was removed from his relatives home that was disturbing to many, critics ranging from a man on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A bit too much force for what was needed.

BUCKLEY: To the mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani.

MYR. RUDY GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK: The United States government trampled the wishes of his mother this morning. They trampled it with guns and with storm troopers. I couldn't imagine something like that could happen in America.

BUCKLEY: In New Jersey a small group of protesters from the second-largest Cuban American community in the U.S., Union City, briefly blocked traffic in front of the Lincoln Tunnel and briefly scuffled with New York police outside Cuba's mission to the U.N.

But there are also those who believe the action to the return the boy to his father was overdue, some of them parents, like Jill and Steve Barry (ph) of Boulder, Colorado.

JILL BARRY: What else were they going to do? They weren't cooperating.

BUCKLEY: Peter Weiner of New York is the father of two.

PETER WIENER: Yes, I empathize with the Cuban community, but clearly, it was a father and son had to be reunited.

BUCKLEY: Llado Hluska (ph) escaped the former Czecheslovokia nearly 20 years ago.

LLADO HLUSKA: So I can understand where they're coming from, this community, what they went through, and I can understand they were dragging somebody's parental rights into it. I think it's overboard.

BUCKLEY (on camera): Polls have shown that a majority of Americans believe Elian Gonzalez should return to Cuba with his father. Most recent polling from the Gallup organization indicated that 60 percent of Americans hold that view, compared to 31 percent who believe the boy should remain here.

(voice-over): When asked if the government should physically remove the boy, 59 percent said yes, 29 percent said no, 12 percent either had no opinion or believed in some other way of resolving the situation.

Today, some said they didn't expect the dramatic confrontation. Dylan Pass (ph) in San Francisco worries the boy will be traumatized.

DYLAN PASS: I'm not sympathetic with his father, and I'm not sympathetic with his uncle; I'm sympathetic with him.

BUCKLEY: A sympathy shared by many in the United States, who feel they've come to know a boy named Elian.

Frank Buckley, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Elian Gonzalez became the subject of a struggle between two families and two countries.

CNN Miami bureau chief John Zarrella has put together a timeline of the boy's saga. He begins when then-5-year-old Elian was found at sea.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): On Thanksgiving Day, it was simply a heartwrenching tale, a little Cuban boy found by fisherman, alive and floating in an innertube.


SAM CIANCIO, FISHERMAN: We just dove in the water, and went after it, and when we got there, it was human being, who was alive. The kid was alive.


ZARRELLA: Only Elian Gonzalez and two others survived the trip from Cuba. More than 10 others died, among them, the boy's mother. Within days, Elian had become a heroic figure in Miami's Cuban community.


LAZARO GONZALEZ, ELIAN'S GREAT UNCLE: It's definitely a miracle.


ZARRELLA: A symbol of the 40-year plight of Cubans seeking freedom from Castro, and within days, the battle lines were being drawn across the Florida straits.

M. GONZALEZ: I asked him, "Do you want to go back, or you want to stay here? And he said I don't want to go back.


JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ, ELIAN'S GONZALEZ'S FATHER: Even if I have to go over there to get him myself, I'll go get him. If the question is will he be with me again? The answer is yes, he belongs with his family. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ZARRELLA: While the ins tried to decide how to handle the situation, temporary custody was given to the boy's great uncle Lazaro Gonzalez, who lives in Miami, and in the weeks that followed, Elian celebrated his 6th birthday in Miami, went to Disney World. Elian got plenty. What he didn't have was his father.

In early January, the federal government ruled.


MEISSNER: We have determined that Elian should be reunited with his father. Mr. Juan Gonzalez.


ZARRELLA: That determination set a series of events in motion. Civil disobedience broke out on the streets of Miami, as Cuban Americans protested the decision. Through it all, the attorney general stood her ground.

RENO: I think it's important that we recognize that what is at stake here is a bond between a parent and his child.

ZARRELLA: Elian's Miami relatives moved quickly, asking the federal court to require INS grant the boy a political asylum hearing. As the legal maneuvering began, Elian's two grandmothers flew in from Havana. It was now the end of January. Visiting their grandson wasn't easy. Neither side could agree on a meeting place. After one failed attempt, Elian and his grandmothers at the home of a president of a local university.

O'LAUGHLIN: Today, was about the future of a child.

ZARRELLA: But the visit did nothing to pry Elian loose from his Miami relatives. That didn't change until federal Judge Michael Moore moved that granting asylum is within the discretion of the attorney general.

Within a week, the attorneys for the Miami relatives filed a motion with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, seeking a swift hearing. But the family refused to give the INS written guarantee that the boy would be turned over if the appeals failed.

SPENCER EIG, ATTY. FOR MIAMI RELATIVES: INS asked last Lazaro Gonzalez to sign a piece of paper guaranteeing that he'll do whatever they tell him to do.

ZARRELLA: It was now the end of March. By the end of the first week in April, pressure on the Miami relatives increased immensely. Elian's father, Juan Miguel, arrived in Washington, expecting, and insisting, to be reunited with his boy. But negotiations for a voluntary transfer of the boy to his father went nowhere. Attorney General Janet Reno came to Miami to personally work out an acceptable arrangement. It didn't happen. And the family was ordered to turn Elian over the next day. They refused.

On an April 19, the Miami relatives and their supporters won a short-lived victory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: American people, thank you!

ZARRELLA: In Little Havana, there was jubilation. The appeals court ordered Elian Gonzalez must remain in the United States while the appeals process is under way. But the court would take no sides over Elian's custody. Three days later, armed federal officers took Elian before the sun came up.

ZARRELLA: Four hours later, the boy and his father were reunited at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington.

John Zarrella, CNN Miami.


KAGAN: Thanks for joining us on this special report on the Elian Gonzalez case.

I'm Daryn Kagan in Atlanta.

BLITZER: And I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Just after the break, "LARRY KING LIVE."



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