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Sadness Pervades Little Havana as Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Elian Gonzalez Family Appeal

Aired June 28, 2000 - 1:37 p.m. ET


LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: To bring you up to speed, in case you're just joining us, the United States Supreme Court has cleared the way, denying a couple of petitions from the Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez, one to extend the stay to prevent Elian from leaving the country, the one for a hearing on asylum for Elian. And both petitions have been denied. That clears the way for Elian and his family to leave for Cuba sometime today. They will do that, presumably, after 4:00 p.m. Eastern time, a little over two hours from now, when the stay expires, the current stay expires. A charter flight is scheduled out of Dulles Airport just a short while after that.

Meantime, we're covering the story from many angles. One, from Little Havana where the crowds are growing little by little, folks who are upset about the ruling and passionate about their belief that it was the wrong decision.

Mark Potter is down in Little Havana outside the house where Elian stayed when he was with his Miami relatives down there -- Mark.

MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Lou, the news from the Supreme Court here in Miami's Little Havana is seen as bad news. It was anticipated, but when the news came there was an expression of anger, some sadness here in front of the house where, as you said, Elian spent so many months with relatives here in Little Havana.

There's not a huge crowd here. In fact, it's relatively small -- a few dozen people. Probably as many journalists here as there are protesters. But they're quite loud, they are very concerned. And I can tell you that, throughout the Cuban-American community, even though they're not here showing it, there is great concern about this ruling because all polls for months showed that a clear majority of Cuban-Americans felt that Elian should have a hearing in family court, that he should stay in the United States, that he should not go back to Cuba, as we will see happening today.

I'm joined by Ramon Saul Sanchez of the Democracy Movement, who, for so many months, fought the battle for Elian Gonzalez, for him staying in the United States, for him having a hearing.

And I just wanted to ask you your personal reaction to the news from Washington. RAMON SAUL SANCHEZ, CUBA DEMOCRACY MOVEMENT: Something that I expected, unfortunately, because I didn't see the Supreme Court going against the panel of judges in Atlanta. And what is unfortunate about all this is that the substance of the case has not been investigated by the courts. It has never been considered by the court because of the maneuvering of the government. We only dealt with technical issues, such as whether he should have, or not, a hearing on political asylum.

POTTER: And you were in the crowd. What was the reaction that you saw, and what are you hearing from the people that you've been talking to?

SANCHEZ: A lot of sadness, a lot of frustration on the side of the people. We're trying to give the people a sense of purpose beyond Elian Gonzalez, that we must continue to struggle for Elian Gonzalez and the rest of the Cuban children, and this is why we are organizing activities towards Cuba.

POTTER: What are you organizing?

SANCHEZ: We are organizing a flotilla that will depart from here, from Miami, on the 13th of July, towards Key West and then to Cuba, to bring about international awareness about the issue that Castro has divided our families and is destroying our nation; and that we claim that those barriers should be brought down; and to appeal to the American people and the rest of the world to support us so that we don't have any more cases like Elian Gonzalez.

POTTER: We are here in front of the house, and we've seen the small demonstration here. What do you know is happening, or believe is happening, in the surrounding Cuban-American community?

SANCHEZ: There are places -- and I was just talking a little bit ago to people on the point -- there are place in Miami at this point where there is a lot of tears in the eyes of the people. I work with the elderly, and I tell you -- that built one of the buildings -- they told me everybody is in shock. Everybody is very sad. I know that this has caused a lot of health problems to people. I can tell you that we lost a person that we love very dearly, Ophelia Hernandez (ph), from a depression and a heart attack eventually from the case.

So there are many, many different reactions, but all sadness and frustration in Miami.

POTTER: Now, I saw you talking to the crowd a while ago. It almost looked like a confrontation. You were speaking in a heated way to members of the crowd. What was that about? What was going on?

SANCHEZ: Well, actually, there was one gentleman that wanted to depart with the flotilla right now instead of on the 14th. But everybody else, I think, is supportive of the project and that gives them a sense of purpose after the Elian case -- Elian is sent back to Cuba.

POTTER: Now, you're not expecting any big demonstrations today? SANCHEZ: We're not calling for a big demonstration, but people will probably express themselves peacefully like they have done in the past.

POTTER: No violence, you're not expecting?

SANCHEZ: We hope not. Well, it hasn't been like that in 41 yeas, with just one unfortunate incidence of a group of people when they took Elian Gonzalez from here. We hope that doesn't happen again.

POTTER: Well, thank you very much for your time.

SANCHEZ: Thank you.

POTTER: I appreciate your thoughts. Thank you, Ramon Saul Sanchez, of the Democracy Movement.

We have not yet heard officially from the family, Elian Gonzalez's Miami relatives. They left here about an hour and a half ago. They went to church. Only Delfin Gonzalez, Elian's great uncle, spoke briefly. He said, at that time, he actually thought the court might rule in their favor. He said it was in the hands of God. That, of course, did not happen. And when the family left the church, it seemed they were quite upset.

This is Mark Potter, CNN, reporting live from Miami.



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