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Elian Gonzalez Case: Doctors from Cuban-American Community Hold News Conference Demanding Access for Miami Relatives

Aired April 26, 2000 - 1:59 p.m. ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to take you now live to Capitol Hill, the Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez, who have not been able to see him since they have been in Washington D.C. are holding a news conference before they go back to Florida.

We'll listen in for a few moments.


DR. JOSE CARRO, PRES., CUBAN-AMERICAN PEDIATRIC SOCIETY: We are very concerned about the development of the situation as it led up to and including the raid that violently removed Elian from his Miami home. And what we are here is, again, to present you more information on our feelings regarding this case.

We really appreciate your presence here since we feel that the press is the only one that can bring forth the truth and the truth shall always prevail.

We have also thanks for the Gonzalez family for having the perseverance and the faith to be able to continue the fight.

As Senator Bob Graham and Senator Connie Mack said yesterday on live TV, on many or all of these same stations, we know what has happened before the raid, we know what happened during the raid, and those issues are being dealt with, with the appropriate involvement, legally and otherwise. The importance now is to go forth for the sake of Elian. Elian as a child, Elian as an individual. He has suffered greatly, as you know, and he, in our view, continues to suffer and we must do everything that we can to move from this point forth in a positive and constructive manner for his sake, not the government's, not even the father, not the family in Miami, but Elian. Elian should come first in all of our minds.

Every American that has decency and feeling should understand that this child is essentially defenseless. He is at the mercy of everyone around him. And the only one that can protect him is a court of law where these issues can be reevaluated.

We are basically here today to make public a letter that we forwarded to President Bill Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno. We faxed this letter to them yesterday, with the intent of making it public. We were going to read the letter to you now so that you can understand our position. We also have some supporting documentation from our previous statements, as well as position statements from the American Academy of Pediatrics that you will find available in the room to support some of these statements.

Dated in Miami, April 23, year 2000. Addressed to the Honorable William Jefferson Clinton, president of the United States, and Janet Reno, esquire, attorney general.

"On the predawn hours of April 22, 2000. a dark day of infamy in American history, the entire world witnessed an attack of unnecessary cruelty. It consisted of the violent armed assault by officials of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service for the explicit purpose of carrying out the seizure and physical removal of Elian Gonzalez from what had become his only home after the tragic loss of his mother at sea.

"The act was perpetrated in violation of every norm in a civilized society. It was based on invalid and fictitious reports of, quote, 'psychological abuse and imminent danger,' end of quote, from a mental health team who never examined Elian or his environment, nor did they consult with the health professionals caring for the child.

"There is ample documented reliable testimony that Elian lived in a loving home. His physical, emotional and psychological needs were realized and well nurtured. Elian exhibited and expressed true happiness.

"With the abrupt removal from this stable environment, your administration has subjected this innocent boy to unnecessary harm. You neglected to consider the expert recommendations of Elian's own medical professionals who warned that such an act would be detrimental to his health and psychological well being.

"Opinions by medical professional not involved personally and directly with Elian in a doctor/patient relationship must not continue to prevail over those most qualified.

"The physical and mental abuse to which Elian subjected may forever scar his life. One already severely effect by all the events that brought him to U.S. shores. In addition, every moments that Elian remains forcibly separated from his adopted family in Miami represents further emotional abuse.

"Therefore, acting on behalf of Elian's own treating physicians and psychologists, we have the professional and moral obligation to demand the following..."

And I will have Dr. Jose Delagandara (ph), president of the Cuban-American Psychiatric Association, read to you these demands.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "First, that the medical professionals trusted by Elian who have intervened in his medical care since his arrival in the U.S. and have established a therapeutic relationship be immediately allowed to evaluate him and provide continuity of care in order to attempt to minimize further emotional harm. "Two, that notwithstanding Elian's obvious bonding with his father, he must be given immediate access to his family from Miami, especially Marisleysis, whom Elian himself identified as his surrogate mother. Family reunification is imperative. And we gladly offer our assistance and guidance to assure a gentle process and positive outcome.

"Third, that Elian's welfare, both physical and psychological, must be paramount in all future actions. Any and all political and governmental influences must be marginated (ph) in favor of the compassionate resolution of this crisis.

"Four, that any independent evaluations of the child should be carried out by sensitive professionals with a thorough understanding of Cuban culture and the socio-political intricacies of the case."

Thank you very much.

CARRO: We have among the physicians that are here present, Dr. Lydia Usategui, the name is spelled U-S-A-T-E-G-U-I. She is a child psychiatrist, who although not the psychiatrist on record as being the treating physician for Elian, she has evaluated him and has personal contact with Elian and the family.

We are all here to answer questions, concerns and to entertain comments that you may have regarding the statements we have just made or perhaps other issues pertaining to this very tragic story.

ALLEN: You've been listening to doctors from the Cuban-American community who support the Miami relatives and their plea to get access to Elian Gonzalez. One of the doctors just reading a letter the family faxed to the White House last Sunday after the INS moved in and took Elian from their home, demanding immediate access to Elian Gonzalez, saying that is in his best interest. They also request that medical professionals he has already seen be allowed access to him as well.

We want to check in with our correspondent on the story, Patty Davis with the latest information for us -- Patty.

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, a government-appointed psychiatrist who interviewed Elian and his father says that, quote, "Elian is doing very well." Cornell University psychiatrist Paulina Kurberg (ph), in her preliminary assessment, also recommends that he not be reunited with his Miami relatives right away, that is her preliminary assessment.

Now, first, she said they need, those families really need to work out their differences before Elian is reunited with that Miami family.

Now, Elian and his family are staying across the way here. I am right across the river, the Wye River, they are staying at the Carmichael Farm, and that is on the grounds of the Wye River Plantation. We have videotape of the actual complex there. It is privately owned, it is secluded, it is heavily guarded, heavily wooded. It is being guarded by U.S. marshals located on Maryland's Eastern Shore. The 1998 Middle East talks were held on the Wye River Plantation. The Late King Hussein stayed at the Carmichael farm.

Now, Elian's Miami relatives left their hotel in Washington today, headed to Capitol Hill to plead their case with lawmakers. You just heard part of that press conference. Taking their case to the press, taking their case to lawmakers. They are asking the courts to appoint a guardian for Elian. They also want access to the boy, and as you heard, they want him to be seen by their own psychiatrists and doctor.

A cousin and a former teacher of Elian from Cuba are on their way to the United States to see Elian. The State Department also says it will warrant visas on an expedited basis to four of Elian's playmates and their parents so they can come and see the boy here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Now, just a few moments ago, we had a Coast Guard boats behind me on the Wye River chasing away boaters. This is a very secluded spot, some extra security here. You can't get in the front gates, marshals there. We have Coast Guard here on the water side of Carmichael Farm, chasing boaters away and onlookers. So very secluded spot on the Eastern Shore of Maryland for Elian and his father, and his stepmother and half brother to get to know one another to have some more private time -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Patty Davis, thank you. And that news conference continues in Washington. We expect the family members to speak in a moment. And when they do, we will take you back there live.



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