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Elian Gonzalez Custody Case: Cuba Appears Calm in Wake of Elian's Reunion With Father; Elian and Father Remain at Andrews Air Force BaseAired April 22, 2000 - 4:21 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIAN NELSON, CNN ANCHOR: And we continue our coverage of the Elian Gonzalez saga. Cuba's government welcomed the long awaited reunion between Elian Gonzalez and his father, and within the next hour or two, we may get a statement from the Cuban President Fidel Castro.
In the meantime, CNN's Martin Savidge has more on the reaction now in Havana.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some of the first Cubans to hear of the news out of Miami were employees of Havana's tourist hotels, among the few places news generated from outside Cuba is allowed to be shown.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It had come to this point. I think the situation would have continued. Everything would have continued to have been delayed. I think the situation needed a drastic reaction.
SAVIDGE: Most Cubans got their information from the government controlled broadcast media. First, on Radio Rebelde, then in a communique read on Cuban television.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The Cuban government informs us that at 5:05 in the morning, a government operation of the United States entered the residence of Lazaro Gonzalez in Miami and took into their hands the kidnapped boy, Elian Gonzalez.
SAVIDGE: Cuban TV also broadcast images of the operation that seized Elian from the Miami home where he had been staying as well as the disturbances on Miami's streets that followed. The Cuban government encouraged people here to remain calm, saying there should be no spontaneous celebrations in the street, claiming such images could harm Elian's case in the legal struggle that still lies ahead.
Most people in Havana went about a typical Saturday, pleased by the news but not jubilant.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I think the people are happy. I expect the boy will be brought home soon with his father to our country, which is his real homeland.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It was abusive what they were doing with that child and this action should have been taken a long time ago.
SAVIDGE: Cubans are unaccustomed to such visible displays of force broadcasted on their televisions and some seem troubled by it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): They should have waited, been calm, not put themselves in such a violent situation, because the one who is suffering is the little boy. With those reactions, the boy is the one who suffers.
SAVIDGE (on camera): There's no question the government- controlled media were quick to show and tell of developments out of Miami, as Cuban President Fidel Castro has used the plight of Elian Gonzalez to his political advantage. But though Castro may be pleased, many Cubans say for them the celebration won't begin until Elian Gonzalez is back on Cuban soil.
Martin Savidge, CNN, Havana.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Washington, D.C. has also been in the spotlight today as the Elian Gonzalez case takes yet another turn.
CNN's Jeanne Meserve has the latest from the U.S. capital.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The photographs tell more about the reunion of Elian and his father than even eyewitness accounts.
GREGORY CRAIG, ATTORNEY FOR JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ: He was totally at ease. He was laughing with his little brother Hianny. He was hugging his father.
MESERVE: The pictures of the meeting a stark contrast with photos taken just hours before, photos of the boy's forcible removal from the home of his Miami relatives. Negotiations for a peaceful transfer of custody had gone on into the wee hours of the morning, Attorney General Janet Reno taking the lead.
JANET RENO, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Every step of the way the Miami relatives kept moving the goal post and raising more hurdles.
ERIC HOLDER, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: She asked everybody in the room what their opinion was and if there was unanimity in the room that we needed to go given all that we had gone through this evening and over the past five months, that there was the need for the enforcement action.
MESERVE: At 5:00 in the morning, armed federal agents swept into the home in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood, seized the boy and whisked him away. Eight law enforcement officials were in the house for only three minutes and no one was injured, but an Associated Press photograph captured Elian staring at an automatic weapon, raising concerns about the show of force.
RENO: We had received information that there were guns perhaps in the crowd, perhaps in the house. It was unclear. But that the safety of all involved was paramount and when law enforcement goes into a situation like that, it must go in prepared for the unexpected.
MESERVE: President Clinton had consulted with Reno twice last night when negotiations looked promising. He learned of the raid at 5:30 this morning from his chief of staff. He had only praise for the attorney general and what he called her "restraint, patience and compassion in a difficult situation."
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think she did the right thing and I'm very pleased with the way she handled it.
MESERVE: Praise also from lawyers for Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez.
CRAIG: The attorney general walked the extra mile and then walked yet another mile.
MESERVE: For now, the boy, his father, his stepmother and half brother remain sequestered at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, well away from the press and public.
(on camera): Still ahead, a thicket of legal action. Although this installment of Elian's story is over, his saga is not.
Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.
NELSON: A short time ago, CNN's justice correspondent Pierre Thomas spoke with the INS commissioner, Doris Meissner. She spoke of the meeting Friday between Attorney General Janet Reno and Elian's father. She says Juan Miguel Gonzalez made an emotional plea for his son's return.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DORIS MEISSNER, INS COMMISSIONER: My son is suffering. I am suffering. This can't go on. Please help me.
PIERRE THOMAS, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Did you feel for him?
MEISSNER: I have felt for him all of the way along. Now, we would have acted the way we did whether or not he had come in to see us, because it has been our goal from the very outset to reunify this child with his father and we have moved the process forward in as fair way as we could, but obviously we feel -- have felt very keenly for him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NELSON: That was INS commissioner Doris Meissner speaking with our Pierre Thomas.
KAGAN: And our coverage of the dramatic custody transfer of Elian Gonzalez will continue. Right now, we take a quick break.
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