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Elian Gonzalez Returns to Cuba: Family Settles Into Government- Designated Guest House

Aired June 29, 2000 - 1:06 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: The curtain has fallen on a long- running melodrama. Elian Gonzalez and his father are back in Cuba seven months after Elian's rescue off the Florida coast touched off an international custody dispute, pitting the bond between father and son against questions of dictatorship and democracy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JANET RENO, ATTORNEY GENERAL: It's the story of families that have disagreements. It is a story of so much of human life, and yet, in the end, he is with his father and I am glad of that. I just wish he were with his father in a democratic, free country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: Elian arrived in Cuba just hours after the expiration of a court order keeping him in the United States.

CNN's Havana bureau chief, Lucia Newman, joins us with reaction from Cuba about the end to all of this -- Lucia.

LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN HAVANA BUREAU CHIEF: Good afternoon, Natalie.

Well, the little boy whose face has certainly dominated attention, the attention of millions of Cubans on both sides of the Florida Straits, is back in this country, but it's a face that we won't be seeing very, very much of in the next few weeks, or perhaps even months.

Little Elian is, at this moment, staying in a house, a government-designated guest house in an upper-scale neighborhood in Havana, and it is surrounded, cordoned off by police, at least three blocks away from either side, and only the neighbors are being allowed to pass. The police explain that this is to protect Elian from the limelight, and especially from the attention of the press, attention he has had so much of, as we know, over the last seven months.

We do know what the house looks like inside, though, thanks to pictures provided by Cuban television. It shows where Elian, his father, his stepmother and stepbrother will be staying for the next two or three weeks along with schoolchildren that accompanied him in Washington. There they're going to set up a kind of classroom for a few more weeks so that Elian can catch up on his schoolwork, we're told. After that, he will leave on a holiday with his family and return to the city of Cardenas.

But even while Elian is being kept out of the limelight, the big, huge public demonstrations that we saw so much of that were started in his name will continue, we are told. In fact, a spokeswomen for Cuba's Foreign Ministry made it very clear today that the demonstrations that will bring out tens of thousands of Cubans will continue all over the country, but now to complain about U.S. policy towards Cuba in general, and particularly the Cuban Adjustment Act, which allows Cubans who leave here on boats and who touch soil in the United States to remain in the United States.

And that, in fact, is not all they're going to complain about.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AYMEE HERNANDEZ, CUBA FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESWOMAN (through translator): Our country will not only fight for the elimination of the Cuban Adjustment Act, but also for the return of the U.S. naval base that is on Guantanimo. We will keep fighting so that U.S. public opinion can know the true nature of our people, and we will keep fighting so that we can continue living and developing our revolution without any outside interference.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NEWMAN: The government spokeswoman also would not confirm or deny reports that President Fidel Castro might have met with Elian for the very first time when he arrived here in Havana last night.

This is Lucia Newman reporting live from Havana.

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