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CNN Today

Elian Gonzalez Case: Cuban-Americans Strike in Miami; Florida Relatives Rebuffed in Washington

Aired April 25, 2000 - 1:01 p.m. ET

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

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Gloria Estefan's Miami recording studio is closed today and if you go to the Florida Marlins baseball game tonight, don't expect to find Alex Fernandez on the pitcher's mound.

Miami's Cuban-American community has staged a general strike to protest the weekend seizure of Elian Gonzalez.

CNN's Susan Candiotti is in Miami.

Susan, how extensive is this strike, and what kind of effect is it having?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, for one thing, 5,000 county workers did not report today. Bosses giving them paid leave so that they could follow their conscience in protest against the seizure of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez.

This neighborhood shopping center with mom and pop operations, all closed down to join in the work stoppage. Outside Miami's Orange Bowl, entrepreneurs are selling small Cuban flags to protesters at $10 a pop, T-shirts also for sale. The Miami-Dade school district is still assessing how it is being affected. At Kinloch Park Elementary, where 90 percent -- 98 percent of the student population is Hispanic, only about 70 of 950 students showed up for classes, two-thirds of the teachers are absent, the cafeteria and office staff; no shows, the youngsters are eating bagged lunches prepared yesterday. The principal says she knew Elian would eventually be reunited with his father, but not the way he was.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANA CASAS, PRINCIPAL, KINLOCH PARK ELEMENTARY: We all knew this would happen one way or another, sooner or later. But the violence is what strikes the dissonant chord.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CANDIOTTI: From time to time you will see an impromptu caravan rolling down the street, people honking their horns, waving the Cuban flag, and flying the American flag upside down. However, the county is not paralyzed by any means, city and county services are said not to be effected. Police are operating at full staff and at Miami International Airport, normal operations.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, reporting live in Miami.

ALLEN: Overshadowed by police actions and public protests, the court battle over Elian Gonzalez continues. Justice Department lawyers have filed an 83-page legal brief opposing political asylum applications filed on the boy's behalf by his Florida relatives.

One of the applications carries Elian's signature. The Justice Department brief argues that Elian is too young to file for asylum himself and that only Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, can speak on his behalf.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Elian and his father, Juan Miguel, remain at that military base outside Washington.

CNN's Patty Davis is at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland where some folks from Miami came calling just a few minutes ago -- Patty.

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They did, Lou.

About 10 minutes ago, the Miami relatives showed up here once again in a three-car caravan, they went up to the visitors entrance, the main gates here at Andrews Air Force Base, attempting once again, to get in to see Elian and his father, and they were denied once again, entrance to Andrews Air Force Base. So police turned them around, they stopped traffic and they showed the van its way out onto the main street here. The relatives denied now, four times in as many days, trying to get into see Elian here at Andrews Air Force Base.

Afterwards, the relatives came over here, we're across the street, held an impromptu press conference. Cousin Georgia Cid told the press that, once again, they were denied access. She said: "We are American citizens" and she said -- she referred to Elian as being kept in -- at Andrews Air Force Base in an arrested state, suggesting perhaps that he's being held without his -- against his will here at Andrews Air Force Base.

Now we've also just had word that the State Department says that it will expedite visa requests for four of Elian's playmates and they can bring along with them one parent apiece. Jamie Rubin saying that the request came from Elian Gonzalez's father here at Andrews Air Force Base, requested the expedited requests here for those people to be able to travel to the United States to be with Elian; Jamie Rubin saying -- the State Department spokesman saying that they could be here for as long as two weeks.

Now the U.S. officials in Havana have not received those visa requests, but Jamie Rubin saying that indeed, once those requests are received, those visas could be processed within the span of 24 hours -- Lou.

WATERS: Any idea, Patty, why those folks from Miami keep coming to the base when they know they're not going to get in there?

DAVIS: Probably to make a point. They realize -- you're right, they realize they're not going to get in here. There are a lot of media here and a lot of this is being played out in the press and they feel that perhaps if they can make their case well enough in the media and make enough noise about it, that they will get into Andrews Air Force Base.

And we don't know what the negotiations are at this point with Elian's father, with the lawyer of Elian's father, they could be -- they could have had permission to get in here today. We're not really being kept up to date on that at this point, Lou.

WATERS: Were you able to see be behind those smoky windows in that van to see if any lawmaker from Capitol Hill accompanied the group to the gate today?

DAVIS: I wasn't able to see that very closely, no. I don't know.

WATERS: OK, Patty Davis, keeping watch out at Andrews.

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