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Larry King Live

What Should Happen to Elian Gonzalez?

Aired April 4, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET

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

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, angry protesters break through barricades in the streets of Miami as word spreads that Elian Gonzalez's father may soon be coming to the United States to be reunited with his son. Is this diplomatic tug-of-war finally going to come to an end?

We'll ask the most famous Cuban-American in the world, Gloria Estefan. She'll join us from Miami. Fidel Castro's own daughter, Alina Fernandez: She's joining us from Madrid, Spain. Congresswoman Maxine Waters, she's at our studios in Washington. Here in Los Angeles, the general secretary of the National Council of Churches, Bob Edgar. And in Miami, the attorney for the Gonzalez family, Kendall Coffey. They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We'll start with Congresswoman Waters in Washington. Is this going -- is this going to end in a reasonable fashion, or do you fear the worst?

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I think that Elian will eventually be returned to his father. I think we probably have a little ways to go.

I still see resistance on the part of the Miami family. They have not yet said that they're willing to turn the child over to his father. They want to go into court. They want it as a custody battle. They have even come up with additional arguments claiming that the father may be unfit. So we've got a little ways to go yet.

KING: Gloria, when you were on with us last week, you said you wanted the father to come. What else do you want?

GLORIA ESTEFAN, MUSICIAN: Well, what I would love to see happen and what most of the people that really care about the best interests of Elian would want to see happen is definitely the father to come here. He has to be reunited with his son, but in the way that is least traumatic for this boy.

And I think any -- you don't have to be a psychologist, just a parent, to know that he has been through a traumatic situation, and the best way is for him to come to his home where he is. No one will harm this man. Everyone will welcome him as they welcomed the grandmothers. They were waiting with flowers at the door to welcome them to the home, and it all turned into a political tug-of-war.

I think that it has to be done slowly so that the boy once again reacquaints himself with his father.

Then when that happens, whether it's the court says he has to go back or he stays, at least he has a relationship re-established. And it would be the best thing for the boy, most definitely.

Now, Bob, you were shaking your head when she said the thing with grandmothers went well. You were there with the grandmothers, right?

BOB EDGAR, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF CHURCHES: Yes, I was there with the grandmothers, and I saw outside of the Miami family home surrounded with protesters, a scene that scared the grandmothers, and I'm sure scares Juan Miguel, Elian's father.

I think it's important, as has been said, to think about what's in the best interests of this boy. I have a grandson. I'm a father. I think the father should come. I think he should be able to have access to his son and custody of his son. And I think that ought to be done in a neutral space, not in a circus atmosphere around that family's home.

KING: Alina, you're in Madrid. You're the daughter of Fidel Castro. I know you're not very fond of your father. We have spoken before. What do you make of this whole story?

ALINA FERNANDEZ, FIDEL CASTRO'S DAUGHTER: I think I agree with everybody. But you know, among Americans, you use the word "custody" and parental care and stuff like that. It doesn't exist in Cuba. And then you're forgetting, too, that the American legal system is not sending back a boy to his father. The American legal system is sending back a boy to a dictator who leads a regime that four years ago sunk a tugboat, killing 11 children, in front of the Cuban harbor. That's the point.

KING: So you think the boy would not -- would be -- would be with -- under the auspices of Fidel and not with his father if he went back?

FERNANDEZ: Of course. I mean, if you deliver a child to that kind of regime -- would you give back a missing boy to Pinochet or would you give back a -- a boy to Milosevic?

KING: Well, a lot of children...

FERNANDEZ: An Albanian boy to Milosevic?

KING: Well, a lot of children have been sent back to a lot of despots, haven't they, Bob? I mean, this is order of the day. Didn't Haitians -- how many Haitians went back?

EDGAR: That's true. We send hundreds of Haitian children back all the time to conditions that are far worse than Elian will return to. When I went to Havana and visited with Juan Miguel, I realized that this is a loving father and a caring family that will care very well for this young boy.

KING: Gloria, you know that community better than anybody probably. Why -- why is this so -- this one child, one father, one story so volatile? I mean, a Gallup poll today, two-thirds of Americans out of the Cuban community thinks he should go back. Why is it so volatile?

ESTEFAN: Well, it's gone beyond a simple boy and his father story. This is a symbol. This boy is now an incredible symbol of the Cuban people to the American people. And I can understand completely, Larry, how the American people don't really understand the situation in Cuba. I mean, there are many, many problems in this country that we have to deal with, without them knowing about or worrying about the things that are happening in Cuba.

As a Cuban-American, to me that is crucial, and it is very important for people to realize what is going on in Cuba, and as well the fact that this boy had mitigating circumstances.

I mean, how many immigrants float tied to an innertube for more than two days alone in the ocean, watch 11 people die around him, and then go to the family that had seen him already in Cuba and knew him -- the father's family, I might add; it's not even his mother's family -- they take care of the boy, and in the entire time, the father is nowhere -- is missing in action. You know, he was invited from day one to be here. I think we really have to ask the question, why was he not here? Why is this man not here? And I think that at least he needs to be seen in court.

I would also be interested in asking Mr. Edgar -- because I was here watching him with the whole saga of the grandmothers -- he says he saw the protesters. What was outside the house were many people in support of the grandmothers coming, with flowers ready to give to these grandmothers. So I really don't understand where he saw protesters outside the door.

EDGAR: Gloria -- Gloria, the grandmothers when they landed at the airport in Miami burst into -- into tears. They wanted a visit with Elian in a supervised, neutral space, and they just couldn't believe the cynicism of that family to go to Elian and tell him that it was going to be a party, surround the house with flowers and with people.

These grandmothers had not been off of the island of Cuba. They had not been away from their husbands in 31 years. They simply wanted to visit with their grandson. And the Miami family made that impossible, and the anti-Cuban, anti-Castro forces in Cuba made it impossible.

These are frightened people. These are loving, caring family members who simply want their child back.

KING: You're not saying that the people in Miami are not caring?

EDGAR: No, I'm not. I think the people in Miami are very caring, but it has elevated this story to a political story. And that's unfortunate.

ESTEFAN: I've got two questions. KING: Let me get a break. We'll come back and we'll -- lots more. The panel will be with us the full way. We're going to talk with Kendall Coffey for a time. He's the attorney for the family, and we'll check in with Lucia Newman, who is our Havana bureau chief at our CNN bureau in Havana right after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARISLEYSIS GONZALEZ, ELIAN'S COUSIN: I don't want 300 martial people inside my house forcing this child to go back, because psychologically that's no good for the kid. Now, what people don't understand is that when I tell this little boy, let's go, I'm going to go take you where you're father's at, people don't know how he reacts about that. All he does is cry and tell me, please, don't take me because my father wants to take me back to Cuba. Nobody cares about that. Everybody cares about what me -- what I'm going to do, what Juan Miguel wants to do, how we're going to get -- solve the problem. But nobody cares that the problem is a 6-year-old that has feelings.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Before we go back to our panel and check in with Lucia, let's spend some moments with Kendall Coffey, the Gonzalez family attorney.

Where do we stand right now, Kendall, in this legal morass? Where are we right now on this Tuesday night?

KENDALL COFFEY, GONZALEZ FAMILY ATTORNEY: Negotiations resume Thursday. It's status quo until then. In the meantime, we're continuing to try to get some attention on the central question here, which is, what is in the best interests of this child?

I just heard basically all your panel saying that that ought to be the concern here, not what the grandmothers think, not whether there are people in Miami that have feelings about this child. Why has there never been an evaluation of what's best for the child? Why has the INS never met with the child, done any psychological evaluation of someone who has obviously suffered extreme traumas? That ought to be the question.

And yet while we all agree that's what ought to be decided here, no one seems to want to have a process where that happens. And I think one of the things that's most painful for the community and the family is that INS is ready to ship this kid out without even looking at his best interests or considering the serious psychological issues.

KING: And do they do psychological evaluations of all children shipped out? Do they psychologically evaluate the child shipped out last week back to Jordan? Do they do that with the Haitian children?

COFFEY: Well, it is always done if there is evidence of psychological harm. You've got a child that's gone through a trauma beyond human description. I don't think anybody looking at this situation can deny that there are issues, and we have done more than say there are issues. We have presented overwhelming evidence of serious psychological concerns.

Why won't the INS look at it? Why don't we once and for all really find a way to reach the answer to what is best for this child?

KING: And the answer will be accepted by all sides: You're willing to say that?

COFFEY: Absolutely. What we proposed today...

KING: What does the INS -- what does the INS say to you, Kendall? In the meetings, what do they say?

COFFEY: I'm waiting to hear what their answer is going to be, because what this family has said is that they are willing to have three independent psychologists evaluate it, get the courts out of the way, get the lawyers out of the way, get everybody out of the way, and they will abide by whatever is recommended as being best for the child, who is obviously in a fragile psychological condition. And no one can deny that.

We will abide by that if the INS will. So why can't we get all the politics and the lawyers out of the way and focus on what's best for this child?

KING: And the INS says what? It's the father, and he's the -- he has domain?

COFFEY: The father, and that's it. Forget whether or not the father can really control what happens to a child in Cuba. Does anybody think with Castro's nightly tirades about this boy that he's going to let 6-year-old Elian go back and tell others throughout Cuba, this child who's a preoccupied focus of Castro, that the Americans are good people or that his mother's dying wish that he come to a land of freedom was something of value? Castro will never allow the child to come back and say that. And he's already said he's going to put him in a hospital and start brainwashing.

That is something that with a child who is already traumatized that obviously could cause long-term, if not permanent, damage.

KING: Do you have any kind of hearings -- by the way, we have invited the attorney Gonzalez's father to appear. We understand he is on the way to accompany Elian's father back to the United States if he chooses to come. We'll get that report from Lucia.

But first, Kendall, do we have a date for any kind of a hearing anywhere?

COFFEY: Well, the INS, if they continue to refuse to look at the issues of the well-being of the child and the psychological issues of the child, we can't make them do that. There is a state court proceeding. And by the way, that is how for every other child on our soil issues of well-being and custody are determined, in the family courts, precisely because the INS has really no expertise or agency competence in dealing with well-being of children.

If the INS is not willing in some fashion to address the issues of what is best for the child, then we will proceed to the pending state court action. And by the father's lawyers, who are obviously very able Washington counsel, to represent the father's interests. That's the kind of hearing that should have happened a long time ago.

Lucia Newman, CNN Havana bureau chief in Havana, do you get -- has the attorney arrived yet, do you know?

LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Larry. No, he has not. He's expected here in roughly three hours, Larry. And I'd like to -- I'd like to clarify something. I'd like to ask Mr. Coffey where he heard that President Fidel Castro was planning to put Elian in a hospital and brainwash him. I have been covering this story on a daily basis for months and months now. And what I can tell you is that the Cuban government and President Castro personally have said repeatedly when, if and when Elian Gonzalez returns to this country, they will not submit him to the type of publicity, to the type of public scrutiny that he has right now, that they will take him out of the limelight, away from the cameras, and try to return him to as normal a life as possible, after, of course, he has had the attention of psychiatrists and psychologists, Larry.

KING: Kendall.

COFFEY: Well, we don't doubt that they're going to have state psychiatrists get ahold of this boy, and that's exactly what we're trying to avoid. And as far as thinking that the U.S. can ever make good on promises Castro has given, after 41 years they haven't been able to enforce any promise that he's ever given this country. Why do they think they can do that now, especially with a little boy that, frankly, Castro is obsessed with?

KING: Lucia, do you think -- is the father going to the United -- what's the latest on that?

NEWMAN: That is a big, big question at this moment, Larry. In the first place, Cuban authorities and the father, through the Cuban government, have insisted on one sticking point, and that is that the United States grant visas to a far larger delegation than what has been permitted up until now.

So far as we know, the State Department has granted visas to the father, the mother, the baby brother, a pediatrician, a schoolteacher and a cousin, but Juan Miguel Gonzalez is insisting that if he's going to stay in the United States for several months while an Atlanta federal court decides on the appeal, then he wants the support of a much larger team, including 12 of Elian's classmates so that they can, as it were, transfer a bit of Cuba to the United States, Larry.

KING: And that is up in the air at this minute?

NEWMAN: That's up in the air. And another point that's up in the air is when and how -- will the father get the custody of his son? He's indicated that he's not willing to go there and wait indefinitely while this issue is decided by the Justice Department.

KING: I thank you both. Thank you, Lucia, and thank you, Kendall. We're going to stay on top of this, and again during the week hopefully calling on you again as events develop.

We're going to take a break. Maria Trozzi will join us. She's director of the Good Grief Program at the Boston Medical Center. She's author of the book "Talking With Children About Loss." Our panel will remain as well.

And as we go to break, here's a scene of a human chain barricade occurring today in Miami. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(PROTESTERS CHANTING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Our panel remains. They'll be with us the rest of the program. They're the famed Gloria Estefan, one of the great talents in this country no matter where she was born. She's the famed Cuban- American musician born in Havana. In Madrid is Alina Fernandez. She is Fidel Castro's daughter and a strong critic of the Castro regime. In Washington is Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Democrat of California. And here in Los Angeles is Bob Edgar. He is general secretary of the National Council of Churches, former congressman, Democrat from Pennsylvania. And joining us now from Boston is Maria Trozzi, director of the Good Grief Program at the Boston Medical Center, author of "Talking With Children About Loss." And then Maria will join us, and then the panel will assume -- we'll all be part of it for the rest of the way.

What's the biggest worry you have about dealing with Elian psychologically, Maria?

MARIA TROZZI, AUTHOR, "TALKING WITH CHILDREN ABOUT LOSS": Well, of course, Larry, I can't comment about what has taken place with this young child, since I've had no firsthand experience in the case. But certainly with a child this young, we worry a lot about the concerns that a 6-year-old would have about the number of losses that he's had to face over the past four months, and they certainly are significant.

KING: What does a 6-year-old at this point -- how do you gauge this, like feelings toward a father? What...

TROZZI: Well, I think that as a child is mourning the death of his mother, how he remembers his father, and all the events -- the lack of familiarity, being alone on the ocean and so on, the most important aspect of his ability to grieve is, first of all, how he makes sense of it and how he understands what has happened.

And one of the questions that I always ask, "Is what have the familiar caring adults in his life talked with him about?" What is his understanding? Who has talked with him? And how has anybody helped him sort this -- sort this out?

And that's a concern for any young child, particularly a 6-year- old.

KING: And how long -- how long does the talk last? In other words, can it last for an hour? And then if someone says, there's a new bike outside, he goes with whoever has the bike?

TROZZI: Yes, of course, kids ask questions in spurts. They grieve in spurts. That's absolutely true that he has -- he probably has many questions. And by the time children are 6 or 7 years old, they're very curious and they do need a lot of details about whatever loss they face, because what they're really trying to assess is how safe is their world, what has changed about their world, and what can they count on. And in this case, it's very hard to tell what he's been told and who has told him and how many people have told him. And the events keep changing, of course.

KING: How do you think he's affected by crowds and attention and cameras? You have to guess at this. How...

TROZZI: Absolutely. And I can't begin to guess with this particular child. But certainly, think of the number of changes that have occurred for him since Thanksgiving and what he's been through. And what we know about children who are grieving any kind of a loss, but particularly the death of his parent, his caregiver, we know that they need two things in order to have a successful outcome. We always say that kids are resilient, and of course, kids are resilient, but their resilient if they have two factors. And one is a familiar safe person who can help this child as he sorts out the losses, and not just at six, but he will constantly regrieve as he makes new meaning of this as he grows and develops. And he needs one caring person who's familiar to him in order to really help him sort it out. Children keep understanding their world in different ways as they grow and develop.

The other thing he needs, of course, is a safe place to do the grief work. And it has to be safe from future changers and further changes and more grief.

KING: Is a puzzlement. Maria will stay with us. We'll come back. The whole panel will chime in. We'll get what they think of her thoughts. And we'll do all of that right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Gloria, is this boy really coming first, as you see it, or are other things taking precedence?

ESTEFAN: Right now, I don't think he is coming first. I mean, even in our panel here -- and by the way, the comment that Lucia made. I saw Fidel Castro on television saying he would put Elian in a hospital first to detox him, that we were capable of having -- of killing him or of infecting him, the exiles here, of some disease. It scared me a lot, because that may very well happen there, as well, once again, the concern of Mr. Edgar for the grandmothers' fear. And they should be used the it. Protests go on in Cuba every single day. That's the most common occurrence in Cuba. So I don't think the grandmothers should be surprised at that.

And quite honestly, once again, the best thing for the boy would have been in his natural environment, as the psychologist has so astutely said. Changes are bad for this child. Why take him out to make the grandmothers more comfortable to a neutral location? They did it anyway, and he was still filled with fear from all the people who were there and spoke later and said that the boy was very fearful. Even the grandmothers on Cuban television said that he had been very fearful.

So I don't see it happening. I think we really have to think of what's best for this boy. And very little changes is the best thing for him, and have his father work back into his life and earn his trust once again and be able to give him the love.

But then we see the father who simply is not interested in coming unless they bring 20 Cuban school children. What does a dog and pony show have to do with him being reunited with his son?

Whatever happens, if it was my son, I have been here, first of all, and if not, I'd definitely be here now to at least show my presence.

KING: Alina, what's your worst fear for the boy, assuming that the boy comes first? All of us are talking about the boy. He matters more than Castro, Clinton or Gore or you or I. He matters. What's your worst fear for him?

FERNANDEZ: I totally agree with what Gloria had said before. Little changes for this boy, and at least we have to accomplish -- we have to be respectful of your law that Fidel has been manipulating so preciously. We would like to see this boy to be allowed to come back to America any time he wants to spend time with his -- sharing family that took care of him for this -- months.

KING: Bob, do you agree that he should be allowed, since he knows them, that even if he does go back to his father, he should be allowed some sort of transportation back and forth?

EDGAR: Well, I think that might be a great compromise.

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) agreement?

EDGAR: Yes. I think it might be a great compromise. Give him a permanent visa. Let him come back and forth.

But I think what is important with this story is that for six years his father did care for him. He had co-responsibility over this child. And the father wants to have the child in an environment that the child is useful -- or used to.

And every day that he's away from that father's environment stresses and strains this child. And I think if we're going to put the child's interests first, we need to focus that on his father, on his family, and place it there rather than with an extended family.

KING: And Maxine, a logical question...

ESTEFAN: Congratulations, sir.

KING: If Florida were a smaller state with three electoral votes, would this be on tonight?

WATERS: I don't know. All I know is that there's a father who wants his son. And I keep hearing all of these distorted arguments about what's in the best interests described and defined by people who have decided that somehow the father should not have control and custody of this child.

I always thought it was conclusive presumption in law that children should be with their parents. They're best-off with their parents.

They have not proven that this father has been cruel, unfit, even though they have tried to come up with that argument in the last few days. And they talk about psychologists and psychiatrists as if my psychologist, my psychiatrist is better than Fidel's psychologist or psychiatrist.

I think it's all self-serving. And in the final analysis, this boy should be with his father. His father loves him.

I met Juan Gonzalez. I talked with him. I talked with a lot of other people. He had a fabulous relationship. He didn't fall out of love with his father all of a sudden. His father didn't fall out of love with him.

All they need now is to be reunited, and every American who cares about family values, who cares about parental rights will agree with me, no matter what the concerns are.

KING: Hold it right there, Maxine. We've got a long way to go, and all of our panelists will be heard. This is LARRY KING LIVE.

Here's what Fidel had to say this past weekend about the father. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FIDEL CASTRO, PRESIDENT OF CUBA (through translator): ... father he is, a father devoted to his child. He was obsessed about his child.

For many years, they were waiting to have a child. If a father doesn't care about the child that sees him once a month, well, nothing could have been done. But when speaking with him, I realized that he had all of these photographs and I knew who he was.

He works. He's a good worker. I have a good concept about Juan Miguel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Alina Fernandez in Madrid, you don't question whether the father loves this boy, do you?

FERNANDEZ: I don't question that. I don't think I have the right or the information to do so. But you American people keep speaking about parental rights and childhood and stuff like that.

Let me tell you something: When this little boy will be 11, he will be separated from his family, he will be sent to a school, and he will have the right to visit them three days a month.

KING: Wait a minute. Are you saying every 11-year-old in Cuba -- every 11-year-old in Cuba is separated from his family?

FERNANDEZ: Every 11-year-old -- yes, sir. Yes, sir.

KING: And only sees them three days a month?

FERNANDEZ: Three days a month. They are sent back to their families.

KING: For how long?

FERNANDEZ: For four months. That's the high school. And three other -- four years. I'm sorry. And then three other years. That's the system there. You see, so...

KING: Gloria, have you heard of that?

ESTEFAN: I certainly have. As a matter of fact, the reason that we went back, my husband and I in 1979, was to get his brother and their two children out, because his daughter, who is a television personality now here in Miami, Lily (ph) Estefan, was about to be sent off to these fields.

He had nothing he could do to stop it. They throw females and males together during puberty without supervision, living together in the fields, cutting cane and doing things of this nature.

And I also don't know if the rest of the panel is aware that Elian lived with his mother and stepfather for the past three years of his life. He visited his father in that house, but they were divorced before Elian was born. And the last three years, he lived with his mother and the man who also died.

So whatever household he goes back to in Cuba is not the one that he was used to.

KING: Maria, do you have a position in this squabble?

TROZZI: I wouldn't be so crazy to come up with a position about this at all. I think that -- I can certainly speak to the issues of young children and grief. KING: Well, how about the point of the child being taken away and only with the parents three days a month from age 11?

TROZZI: You know, I think when we look at children who are grieving, we look at children that have been traumatized, we look at what's normal for them. And it sounds to me as though what's normal, what happens to every 11-year-old child would have happened to him had he stayed in the country.

So what we know about grief is how isolating it is. And so what we want to re-establish for any young child who has already suffered the death of his parent, his mother, is that he needs to be in an environment that feels normal to him and that feels that it's a safe place to be able to hold on to his mother: that is, the memory of his mother, to be able to find a way to hold her as he grows, and makes meaning of what has happened to him.

You know, a child who is three would understand this very differently, and a child who is 11, if this had happened to him at 11, would understand it differently.

So we have to understand this is a very young child with a long way to go.

KING: I am told, Bob -- I am told, Bob, that children don't understand death until they're nine. They think someone went away.

EDGAR: Right.

KING: Now he saw a traumatized death, though, right. That's very different here, correct?

EDGAR: That's very different. And there's been mixed reports about what he believes about his mother passing.

What is interesting, though, is that Raquel, the grandmother of Elizabeth, who died, says: I have lost my daughter; now I'm going to lose my grandson. And she is the one that I think bears a great deal of responsibility and weight here. She believes that the father or the stepfather that took him out to sea was the irresponsible father. She believes that he put her daughter at risk and this child at risk.

And I think it may be helpful to us to not only think about the child returning, but maybe we should move to lifting the embargo so that more exchanges can take place.

It seems strange to me that we are wanting to have open relations with China after Tiananmen Square, but because of Bay of Pigs, we continue this pressure, focus on Cuba.

KING: Alina, were you close to your father as a child?

FERNANDEZ: No, no, not that much. I mean, he used to visit whenever he considered or whenever he had time.

KING: But you did not... FERNANDEZ: No, he...

KING: ... feel loving toward him?

FERNANDEZ: ... was a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) father. No. He's been never loving with anybody.

KING: You don't give him points in any area, right?

FERNANDEZ: Not in this one, really. It seems so hypocrite to me the whole thing. I mean, it's a circus.

You know, (UNINTELLIGIBLE). It's just that I want to stand up and go away.

KING: And Gloria, you don't either, right?

ESTEFAN: I don't either -- what? -- Larry? I'm sorry?

KING: Give him any quarter in this?

ESTEFAN: I'm still -- I'm still kind of surprised at Mr. Edgar's comment about not politicizing the issue and talking about lifting the embargo. I'm still kind of in shock from that. I don't -- I don't know.

KING: Well, do you favor...

ESTEFAN: It kind of surprised me.

KING: Well, do you favor the embargo?

ESTEFAN: Let me tell you, the embargo that exists is with Fidel Castro against his people. He can buy anything he wants anywhere in the world from any other country. We're not the only country that makes goods. And it's great -- I know the American farmers sometimes thinks that they're getting the short end of the stick by not being able to sell to Cuba, but they couldn't get paid if they sold to Cuba, so I don't know why they would want to anyway.

The man doesn't pay anyone anything. It's kind of surprising, because the America -- America always gets blamed for everything by Fidel, and Americans are actually buying into his argument. It's kind of funny to me.

KING: We'll be back with more. We'll include your phone calls right after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't trust the Cubans to let this man make an informed decision. I hope that's -- I hope they do, but I don't -- I don't -- I believe that -- I don't trust the Cuban government.

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AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I said more than four months ago he should be given a visa along with his wife and new baby, and come here and stand on free soil and say what he really believes about this case.

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Let's include some phone calls. Orlando, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Thank you, Larry. If the family says that the child wants to stay rather than go with his father, I want to ask if anybody believes that the child has already been brainwashed by the family in Miami, since it's not normal for a child to say that.

KING: Bob, do you believe that?

EDGAR: Well, I think there's been. It's been, you know, unintended. I think...

KING: You don't think they're intentionally...

EDGAR: I don't think they're intentionally doing this. I think they want to do what's in the best interests of the child. I think the Cuban community in Miami is responding in what they think is best.

KING: Maria, do you explain to a 6-year-old what's going on fully?

TROZZI: Well, I think you need to give the child an explanation as it -- as he sorts it out and as he asks questions. I have a lot of curiosity about what this child has been told. And it's been four months' worth of events, and the events keep changing. And so, yes, you do explain, and you use very concrete language to a child this age. And then you wait and you listen to what his concerns are.

And again, he's probably worried about some of the details that he doesn't understand, that he needs to sort out, and also wondering if he's safe and what's next and how will he change.

KING: Well said. Alina, do you think that -- when you discuss with the boy, you should be fair about it, or do you -- should you express things against the government?

FERNANDEZ: Repeat it please.

KING: In other words, should -- should his -- should the family in Miami explain the situation to him, or should they preach against Fidel?

FERNANDEZ: No...

KING: To a 6-year-old? FERNANDEZ: ... I don't think they're preaching -- no, I -- I hear Marisleysis, which is the young woman, so young, which is taking care of the boy, in a hearing, and I really trust her, and I think she's been very careful about this. I think they're trying to give him all the love they can.

KING: Do you want to see the father come to Miami, Alina?

FERNANDEZ: Of course, of course, to expose his -- his position in freedom.

KING: And how should that meeting take place, in your opinion? Should he go to the house? Should they bring the child to him? How do we handle this?

FERNANDEZ: He should go to the house. I mean, this should be a normal situation. It's not normal not because of the American position. It's not normal because of the Cuban position. You see?

So this should be happening -- I mean, this little boy has been dehydrated in a hospital for four nights and the father never showed up. It's not normal. And it's not his fault.

KING: Gloria, it's your position -- you agree with Alina that the father should have come immediately even if he feared coming?

FERNANDEZ: Well, all I can say is that in my position there is no government or no human being or anything that could stop me from being with my child in that traumatic situation. And the only thing I can imagine is (a) that it's true what the family said at the beginning, that he felt that he was safe with him and that he would be joining him later, and then Castro got involved, and this whole thing went, you know, to where it is, or (b) he's communist. And being a communist does not make him a bad father. However, if he is a good father, he's going to want what's best for the child. And what's best is not to disrupt his life as much as he can and to show him support.

And he should not fear the Cubans here. He lives in Cuba. How can he fear older citizens outside no matter how loud they get. They're going to support him meeting with his son. And I think he should come to Miami and meet with his son.

The family has already said they'll open the door to him and that he can be there with his son. I think that's the best thing for the boy.

KING: Congressman Waters, do you agree with Vice President Gore that this family should have come here months ago and they should be extended openness and come now?

WATERS: Well...

KING: That they hurt -- that the father hurts his cause in not coming?

WATERS: Well, first of all, let us just realize that we don't have normalized relations with Cuba, and people do not travel back and forth between these two countries freely. The United States does not allow its citizens to go without special licenses, and I guess the same thing is true in Cuba. And we don't allow Cubans in.

So to say to someone who has never been off the island, go to Miami, not knowing what to expect, seeing on television what we just saw a moment ago -- people breaking down barricades and shouting that he'll never get his son back. I mean, I don't know why we expect that he would easily know and understand what to do.

But we do know this: He's ready to come now. And he said, please, give me my child back. Let me come. Don't make me wait. Don't force me to have to go through crowds. Don't force me to have to go to that house. Just give me my son back.

KING: Well, but Gloria is saying why didn't he do that Thanksgiving. It's his son. Why didn't he come right away? They weren't breaking down barricades then.

WATERS: Well, the fact of the matter is, I just explained, we don't have normal relations with Cuba.

KING: But he could have gotten here, don't you think?

ESTEFAN: He had visas.

WATERS: Well, I don't know. I don't know. That's second- guessing. That's thinking, you know, after the fact.

I believe -- when I met him in Cuba, he was in tears, and I know he loves his son. I believe that with all of my heart. And I know he wants to get him. He's on his way now.

KING: And do you also -- do you also believe the people in Miami love him?

WATERS: Well, I think that the young lady, the cousin, now has claimed this child, and she's hysterical about it. And this is not her son. This is not her child. And it's unfortunate that she has bonded in such a way that she wants to keep him.

It is quite clear what is going on. It is not her child. She's going to have to deal with that in her own head and relinquish this child.

KING: Maria, thanks very much for joining us. We'll be calling upon you again. We'll be right back with Gloria and Alina and Congresswoman Waters and Bob Edgar right after this.

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Lucia Newman has called back from Havana. She wants to say something.

Lucia, I know we have a bad signal. So can you tell us quickly what your thought is?

NEWMAN: Yes, Larry. I would just like to correct something that Gloria and Alina said. I don't know what it was like when Alina lived here, but right now, starting from secondary school, children go every year to the countryside for one month, not to cut sugar cane but rather tobacco and other crops. And they're allowed to get visits from their parents every single weekend. And those who are in boarding schools in the countryside also do some agricultural work, and they're allowed to go home every weekend -- Larry.

KING: OK, we heard that. Alina, do you want to comment?

I can't hear Alina. Thanks, Lucia. Alina.

FERNANDEZ: I'm very happy things have changed like that, you know? But the way it was is not the way she's saying.

KING: Well, when was the last time you were in Havana?

FERNANDEZ: Six years ago.

KING: And Gloria, what do you understand the situation is? Lucia is there now.

ESTEFAN: Well, I hope the situation is better, but the bottom line is parents cannot refuse their children from going even for those two months. So the bottom line is...

KING: They don't have a say.

ESTEFAN: ... Fidel Castro controls what happens in that country. Everyone.

KING: Is that true, Bob?

FERNANDEZ: Every school -- every school is in the countryside. Every school is in the countryside. It's not the month. It's the whole year.

EDGAR: My understanding is that things are changing rapidly in Cuba. Canada has already opened relations...

ESTEFAN: Oh, that's good, after 40 years...

EDGAR: And things are moving fast, and I think you're going to see major changes over the next five to 10 years in Cuba.

KING: After Castro?

EDGAR: Maybe after Castro, but what's interesting, when the grandmothers were here, it was the first time that the Cuban government and the U.S. government were working hand in hand on a project. And it seems to me, when Elian goes back, maybe we will have opened some doors where we can have some rational conversations.

KING: His going back is not going to be so easy, is it?

EDGAR: No, it isn't.

KING: No one knows how it's it's going to be handled.

EDGAR: This is going to be a very difficult situation. I hope that it happens quickly.

KING: All right. We'll take a break and come back, and we'll spend the rest of the time having each of our panel members tell us what they think should happen.

This is LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: By the way, the famed Dr. Andrew Weil will be with us tomorrow night.

Bob, as you understand it, the lawyer is on the way to get the father, come back with the father. Do you think this could all happen in 24 hours?

EDGAR: Yes, I think they're going to try to bring the father here before Thursday's negotiating session starts, and I guess my hope is that the father comes, he has access to the child, and he stays with the child for a little while and then goes back.

KING: With the child?

EDGAR: I think so.

KING: Alina, what do you want to happen?

FERNANDEZ: I would like this child to be happy. He has a right to be close to the -- to his, and I want the same sort of future for every Cuban children.

KING: And the answer to that would be you think the boy should stay in Miami?

FERNANDEZ: For me? That's what I would like, yes.

KING: By the way, no one can speak more firsthand than you. You think he'd be better off where he is?

FERNANDEZ: I think so. I think that the less changes he will endure will be the best for him.

KING: Maxine Waters, what's your -- what do you think should happen? WATERS: I think that the father should come, and they should arrange for the father and the child to meet in a neutral place. They should talk with the child ahead of time and tell him his father, who loves him, is coming to get him. They should let him have all of the toys and all of the goodies that they have piled on him and let him take them with him. And I think the father should come and greet his child.

And I believe that if the child has not been told bad things about his father, he's going to be delighted to see his daddy, and he will recall all the good times they had together. And hopefully, Elian with his toys and his daddy can get on a plane back to Cuba and resume whatever is normal for them in Cuba.

And if these two families work it out so that it is desirous on the part of the father and the Cuban -- the Miami family that they should see each other again and they can work that out, then so be it, that should be the case.

KING: All right, Gloria, what's your wish, and do you think if that happens, Miami, the people in Miami will let this go quietly?

ESTEFAN: Well, I would ask the people of Miami -- I am one of the people in Miami. We want this boy to be happy as well. I think it's important that his father see him and do things in the best way for the boy, not the best way for either government, the U.S. government or the Cuban government.

If that is eventually he would go back to Cuba, then it would be wonderful, you know, if they did have those rights where they could see each other.

But obviously, I think that the boy deserves his day and his appeal. If that boy still feels after his daddy comes that he wants to be a part of the United States, then the statute says that any alien, not any adult alien or not any alien with representation, any alien is entitled to an asylum hearing and his father should be there with him all the way. And hopefully, things will work out in the best way for the families.

I can assure you nobody in Miami wants to harm anyone, neither the father or anyone. What they want is the best for this little boy, and we really have to do what's in his best interests and try to for real put the politics out of this whole situation.

KING: And you're sure the father would be in no danger?

ESTEFAN: I am positive he would be in no danger. Who is going to want to harm this father?

KING: He didn't do anything wrong.

ESTEFAN: This is a misconception, no. Besides we understand more than anyone that this father is under a lot of pressure from the communist government. So, we can understand what he's going through. They probably have threatened his family in Cuba, and he's torn between both families. He's in a tough spot.

And the best thing would be for him to be able to come here with his family so he can express his thoughts in a free society.

KING: Probably the best thing, Bob, would be, selfishly, is he comes here and asks to be an American.

ESTEFAN: We would love that too, but we don't know what's in his mind, just like no one that spoke to him in Cuba really knows what he thinks because he was in a strange environment.

KING: You have to fear that, right?

EDGAR: Well, obviously, that's an option, but I hope that we're not saying that only people who live in the United States can rear children, that poor people can't rear children or children who live in a more modest environment can't be happy and can't live.

There are a lot of children in Cuba who are living happy lives, and we send children back to countries and to situations that are far worse than what Elian will go back and face.

What I would like to see is Elian to be reunited with his father, that his father and Elian return to their environment where there is comfort and caring and love in that family, and then I would like us to see ways that we can change the politics of this so that no child has to go to sea again.

KING: Gloria, do you know Elian?

ESTEFAN: I haven't met Elian. No, I haven't. I spoke to Marisleysis. I haven't had the opportunity. I want to invite him to my house. Right now, he's kind -- they don't want to leave the house with him. But I would love to meet him quietly and just be able to have him have some fun with my daughter, who's -- I know that as -- I have a 5-year-old, and she certainly knows what things are about. And I'm sure he does as well.

KING: He couldn't -- he couldn't meet a finer person than you.

ESTEFAN: Well, thank you very much, Larry. Thank you.

KING: Thanks to our whole panel for being with us.

Stay tuned for CNN NEWSSTAND. They're going to talk about Wall Street. Good night.

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