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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
CNN Films: Elian. Aired 10p-12mn ET
Aired August 24, 2017 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONATO DALRYMPLE, AUTHOR: I remember that day very vividly. It was Thanksgiving. It was pitch black to the north and to the east was like this ray of light coming up where the sun was starting to come up. They called me the fisherman but I really hadn't been out fishing a lot.
My cousin Sam he's more of a fisherman than me. He said look for sea weed and look for debris, anything that was floating on the ocean surface. Maybe like three miles off the coast I said to him like that inner tube right there? He said, yes, go over there.
SAM CIANCIO, DONATO DALRYMPLE'S COUSIN: I said to my cousin look it was a sick joke. We thought it was a doll tied to an inner tube. We thought it was like a joke, you know.
DALRYMPLE: We're rocking all over the boat. And all of a sudden I see the hand move.
He goes hurry. Go. Go. Go. Before I can blink my eyes my cousin is not on the boat any longer. He's in the water. And he's screaming it's a baby.
CIANCIO: When I got underneath him, he reached over, he grabs me by the neck and I tried to get my way back to the boat.
DALRYMPLE: I'm trying not to fall into the water. And he's trying to push up. And I just grabbed this child and I held in my arms and then my cousin got on the phone with his wife.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nine-one-one, what's your emergency?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My husband found a 5-year-old child and he has him on the boat.
DALRYMPLE: All the local news stations they were out there on helicopters through thinking this is -- this is a little bigger than we thought it was.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't worry about me.
[22:05:07] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know this boy?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And from the ocean waters off the coast of Florida tonight a real life thanksgiving story to tell you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Found him clinging to an inner tube on Thanksgiving.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Part of a group of 13 Cuban rafters, only two others rescued alive.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Elian's mother is believed to have drowned. He has cousins he just met in Miami.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the story of a little boy from Cuba whose mother died bringing him to freedom in the United States. Or maybe it's the story of a boy ship wrecked in Miami whose Cuban father just wanted him back. It was always supposed to be Elian's story although a lot of other people would try and make it their own.
MARISLEYSIS GONZALEZ, ELIAN GONZALEZ'S COUSIN: The first thing that came to my mind how did he survive by himself when he's only five. And the only thing I could probably say that it's just a miracle. God wanted him here for freedom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he's here.
M. GONZALEZ: And he's here and he will get it.
I never forget. He was sitting there. He was about to have soup. The first thing I said was, don't eat that. So he just looked straight up at me and he's like is it bad? And I'm like, yes, don't eat that. We'll get you something better than that.
That moment was our first connection. And then after that he would always ask me for everything. Every raft that will come from Cuba he would always see on TV. So when I saw the press there, to me it was normal. That's what they're there for.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When Elian and his cousin Marisleysis waved good- bye from the hospital the next day the story could have ended there. Another Cuban rafter makes his home in Miami.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ready to go home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like so many Cuban familiars the Gonzalez clan had come apart in the years after Fidel Castro's revolution. From the small town of Cardenas on Cuba's north coast aunts and uncles of Elian's father have made their way across the Florida Straits settling into Miami enclaves of high (Ph) and middle Havana.
The eldest of Elian's great uncles, Delfin, had come in the late 1970s after spending years as a political prisoner in Castro's jails. He found a quiet left in the Florida Keys where he made his living selling lobster traps. Delfin's younger brother, Lazaro, followed with his wife and two children he worked mostly as an auto body repairman but struggled to find a steady job.
Lazaro's daughter, Marisleysis, had arrived in the United States when she was Elian's age. At 21 she processed loans at a local bank and dreamed of opening a hair salon.
I'm told of all the family members you're the one that Elian has bonded with the most. Do you feel that bond?
M. GONZALEZ: I sure do. I feel like he's been my brother since a little kid.
DALRYMPLE: Maybe two days later I got a call from Good Morning America and they asked me if I would like to reunite with Elian Gonzalez. I said I would love to.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your name, sir?
DALRYMPLE: My name is Donato, Donato Dalrymple.
[22:09:58] Now, some people go out fishing for fish and for treasuries. And for me this is a treasure in the deep right here, Elian. To see this gift of God -- I believe that's what he really is to hang on the water for that many days. I don't know how long it was, but, I mean, he definitely a gift from God. I'm really privilege to be next to him to touch him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's awesome.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is awesome. What a beautiful kid.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is beautiful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's weird to think when he grows up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So if this little boy has to go back to Cuba it would really break your heart, wouldn't it? Sorry.
M. GONZALEZ: We were all so scared to ask him what happened. There was that day where he said when I woke up and my mom was not there. She must have drowned. She drowned.
I swallowed real hard and grind my teeth not to cry. And I look to him and I said she's always watching over you. So don't ever say your mom is dead because she has to always live in your heart.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Cuba, Elian's father Juan Miguel hadn't known his ex-wife and her boyfriend had taken Elian away on a homemade boat hoping to start their lives over in the United States. Frantic to find them Juan Miguel and his parents immediately began
calling their relatives in Miami. But almost from the start the two side to the families were talking past each other.
M. GONZALEZ: I remember my dad saying that you know when Miguel says to take care of him so he could come over here. In the beginning of everything I had a picture in my mind that he was going to come and stay. I was like, wow, my whole family is going to be reunited.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Juan Miguel's branch of the family were rooted comfortably in Cuba. He and his parents were loyal members of the ruling communist party and, Juan Miguel who had remarried had a good job at the nearby beach resort of Varadero. When they needed help, they didn't hesitate to ask the Cuban government.
[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How's it going? Good. Good to see you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got some gifts there that the congresswoman wants to give you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As soon as Elian's rescue made the local news, uninvited guests began to descend on the Gonzalez home in little Havana.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People are literally dying to flee Cuba.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Among the first was Jorge Mas Santos, the head of the most powerful exile group the Cuban American National Foundation.
JORGE MAS SANTOS, CHAIRMAN, CUBAN-AMERICAN NATIONAL FOUNDATION: When we saw the image of this young boy who lost his mother at sea I think the image of everything that the Cuban-Americans felt. I thought the Cuban American National Foundation should use this as messaging of a human story, of a human tragedy. That's why we brought up the post from the campaign to bring attention to something that we need to stop.
NINOSKA PEREZ CASTELLON, FORMER SPOKESWOMAN, CUBAN-AMERICAN NATIONAL FOUNDATION: This is a typical tragic Miami story that has to do with people trying to leave Cuba and drowning at sea. We sent it out to a lot of different media. All of a sudden it became a national story.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They made t-shirts with Elian's picture on it and they disseminate it and choosing to highlight Elian. It caught the interest of Fidel Castro immediately. And it made Fidel Castro focus laser beam on Elian and said, I am going to use this opportunity to get back at the Miami community and he did it perfectly.
[22:20:00] (FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: NBC News in-depth the struggle over a little boy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even his new puppy came from a member of Congress.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On Sunday, Castro demanded that the U.S. return the boy within 72 hours.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The local has no right to steal a boy from his father.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: White House officials clearly don't want this dispute to become a big international incident.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America has determined enemies who hate our values.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've just begun to fight.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Of course I would rather grow up in the United States, but there may be other considerations there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cuban officials are promising twice as many protesters today as this country unites around the powerful symbol of a 6-year-old child caught between two worlds.
RICARDO ALARCON, FORMER PRESIDENT, CUBAN NATIONAL ASSEMBLY: The Elian case was a very important national unifying front. There was a moment in the long history of confrontation between Cuba and the U.S.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The uprising that brought Fidel Castro to power in 1959 over through a brutal dictatorship that was closely allied with the United States. The revolutionary promised a more just and democratic society even as Castro consolidated his own power quickly and ruthlessly.
Well-off Cubans began fleeing to Miami as soon as he revealed to power and the exit has continued as Castro confiscated private property and nationalized American owned oil refineries.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you a communist, Fidel?
FIDEL CASTRO, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF CUBA: Wait for the history. The history will say what we are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With Castro drawing closer to the Soviets, the American government punished Cuba with an economic embargo. Then it backed an invasion by Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs. The bitter exiles would blame their defeat on the American's half-
hearted support. Castro revealed in his victory which made him a hero to revolutionaries around the world and gave him enemies in Miami and Washington that he would exploit for years to come.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New wave of Cuban refugees poured into Miami.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are conditions like there now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In Cuba?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bad conditions. We have no dress, we have no food. We have difficult for all seems there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where do you plan to settle in the United States?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In Miami where my mother lives and my sister.
CARL HIAASEN, COLUMNIST, MIAMI HERALD: It was really kind of a red neck town. It was a southern, tough, good old boy white town. Then into this atmosphere come thousands of Spanish speaking refugees bringing with him this fire in their heart from this experience that they have having to flee their home land.
[22:25:02] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Washington gave the refugees a special status with an easy path to citizenship. But the Cubans did not see themselves as immigrants. They were exiles just waiting for the chance to seize their country back from Castro.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are not here to set our bounds; we came here to fight for our freedom to get back to our home land.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hard line exiles turned violently in almost anyone they saw as being soft on the communists.
HIAASEN: There was fear. There was actual domestic terrorism directed at moderate voices in the Cuban community that would say something when Castro did the embargo isn't such a great idea. If you spoke out, you took your life in your hands. There were people getting blown up in their automobiles.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JORGE MAS CANOSA, FOUNDER, CUBAN-AMERICAN NATIONAL FOUNDATION: We will keep sending people into the island to keep the sabotage and the patriotic actions against the regime until Cuba be free again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After the years of infighting the Miami Cubans found their own charismatic leader in Jorge Mas Canosa. A wealthy businessman he united the exiles under the political banner of the Cuban National Foundation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Cuban National Foundation has provided an anti-dote to the big lie of Castro's Cuba.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With generous political donations in Washington and influence over voters in the key swing state the foundation would gain virtual veto power over U.S.'s policy towards Cuba.
HIAASEN: Every presidential candidate would come down to (Inaudible) and make a speech about how rotten and awful Fidel Castro was and we got to preserve the embargo. And it was totally cynical and shallow and nothing changed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, REAL-ESTATE MAGNATE: I saw Castro the other night on television and he's not looking good. You are going to win. I'm going to be down here and I'm going to watch you win. I don't know what capacity -- I'll either be the greatest developer in the country or the greatest president that you've had in a long time. I'm not sure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The collapse of Cuba's economy tore at the revolution's proud achievements in education and health and stirred popular discontent. Castro responded by unleashing a new wave of migrants to the United States. But he allowed them to leave only aboard whatever rafts or boats they could build themselves.
Sensing Castro's weakness, Mas Canosa had tried to ratchet up the pressure from Washington while other hard line exiles launch one last wave of the bombings and assassination blocks. But Castro did not fall and once again he propped up his regime by as sailing his favorite target.
HIAASEN: Castro was always looking for someone to blame. He was always waiting for Mas Canosa or someone in the exile community to say something inflammatory. If Mas Canosa hadn't existed, Castro could have invented him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In late 1997, Jorge Mas Canosa died of cancer, leaving his follower adrift and his eldest son, Jorge Mas Santos to lead a new generation of Cuban Americans.
MAS SANTOS: When my father passed away, our struggle continued. My father always looked forward. It was going to be tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow. Castro is going to fall tomorrow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As the millennium approach, weakened leaders on both sides of the Florida Straits were scanning the horizon looking for something to rally their tired supporters.
(CROWD CHANTING) MAS SANTOS: The Cold War never ended in Miami. A mother died getting her kid out of Cuba to get him to freedom. Of course we're going to hold that child. We don't want him to go back.
(MEXICAN MUSIC PLAYING)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want, we need him here.
[22:30:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he should stay here with the family. He has no future. He's got no life in Cuba.
CIANCIO: The mother died to be free. That is what she wanted in the last moment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a role to play in protecting freedom. And when people risk everything to come, even if they're a 5-year-old kid, they thought to be allowed to stay.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brothers of Elian Gonzalez say they saw a different side of the 6-year-old. A boy simply filled with joy and happiness at the Disney World visit. But family spokesman Armando Gutierrez says Elian showed some lingering signs of his ordeal and rescue at sea when he went on the It's a Small World water ride.
ARMANDO GUTIERREZ, GONZALEZ FAMILY SPOKESPERSON: He was a little frightened at one time with the boat and asked the question, is this boat going to sink.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Toys for a tot torn between two countries. Elian Gonzalez officially captivated a community.
MARISLEYSIS GONZALEZ, ELIAN GONZALEZ'S COUSIN: We wanted to give him a life where he felt comfortable and everything was normal. Then we got him to go to school. He was so happy to go to school.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They were summoned by President Fidel Castro for what he calls the second stage of the battle of the masses. Thousands demonstrated again in front of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The boy's father joined other Cubans at a weekend rally demanding the child be returned.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: American immigration officials will interview the father here in Cuba and give him a chance to assert his right and prove his paternity.
DORIS MARIE MEISSNER, FORMER COMMISSIONER, UNITED STATES IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE: We had this very unusual circumstance of a father in Cuba asking for the son to be returned to him. It was pretty unprecedented. I mean, typically people who came to the United States from Cuba came because they wanted to stay here.
As the immigration service, we had to determine whether this was actually the father and since the child had come to the United States with the mother whether the father had a relationship with the child. What was the family's story?
[22:35:00] (FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When Miguel and Elisa had married as teenagers and it had taken them years and seven miscarriages before Elian was born. Strains in the marriage eventually led them to separate. But they set aside their differences to build a new relationship around the son they both adored.
[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
M. GONZALEZ: For me seeing my cousin on TV speaking the way he used to speak about us and then seeing Fidel (Ph) next to him made me think, are you for real or you just have to play this role?
My uncle Delfin (Ph) said to me that's probably not even what he really wants to say. So don't take it to heart. Delfin (Ph) was the person that I listened to because that was the person that I knew that experienced the torturing of Cuba when he was in prison.
He would say that's how the government works. They try to destroy the family. They try to keep us apart. So I was fighting for both of their freedom because I was hoping for the day Juan Miguel could meet with Elian here and be free as well.
MEISSNER: The case of Elian Gonzalez has been a difficult one, complicated by the fact that several people other than Elian's father claimed to represent him.
INS has determined that Elian should be reunited with his father.
And then we said by January 14th he's to be turned over to the INS so that he can be returned to his father. What did I think at that time? Did I think it would happen? I don't know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Marisleysis, could we ask you about your reaction?
M. GONZALEZ: They're only letting his dad decide what's best for the kid and everything like that. As we all know when Elian came and found himself lonely in this country without no family, without his dad not having the freedom to get an airplane to come here to support his child when he most really needed it, because he couldn't even sit down in a bed because he will fall, I was there and so was my family supporting that. Until then they did let us support him and being there for him. Why
aren't we giving the opportunity at this point to speak for him? His dad doesn't have freedom because otherwise as a father as we all know, we would do the best for our child. We would have got on an airplane and come to this country and see how was our kid. And his words were I haven't lost anything there. What about your son?
JORGE MAS SANTOS, CHAIRMAN, CUBAN-AMERICAN NATIONAL FOUNDATION: A fight was on. A fight was on.
This community has for asked since day one the due process of Elian Gonzalez.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With help from Jorge Mas, the family tried to go around the immigration service turning to some of the Cuban-American National Foundation's powerful allies in Washington.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We thought the best way to make sure that the judicial process was followed with the issue of subpoena.
MAS SANTOS: This is a federal subpoena which we believe protects Elian Gonzalez from being forcibly and illegally removed from the United States back to Cuba.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In Miami, people celebrated the subpoena which orders little Elian to appear before U.S. Congress in an effort to delay his return to Cuba.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Several congressmen and at least one senator say they will offer bills as early as February to grant Elian Gonzalez permanent U.S. citizenship.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But it's not just Congress. At last night's republican presidential debate all the candidates demand that Elian be allowed to stay here and his father allowed to join him if he wishes.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The man ought to be brought to the United States and given a whiff of freedom so he can see how wonderful our country.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why has this become so political? Because Cuban- Americans are a critical voting bloc in Florida's republican presidential primary and a lucrative source of campaign money for both political parties. The six-year-old may have even more politicians as play mates.
[22:45:03] M. GONZALEZ: I know that this is where he wants to stay. And if that's the case, I will take care of him like if he would be my son, but I feel that we should have the right to take his chance to court.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you remember when you were six?
JANET RENO, FORMER UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: There were some days I wanted to run away from home. And there were other days I wanted my mommy so bad I couldn't stand it. I think the law has indicated and it's certainly I think the experience of most people that six years old is too young to speak for themselves.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Under U.S. law it was the Attorney General Janet Reno who had the final say on Elian's immigration case and she came to it with a unique perspective.
Born and raced in Miami, Reno empathized deeply with the struggles of Cuba's exiles. She also had a passion for child welfare issues which she had handled as a Florida prosecutor before joining the Clinton administration.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She devoted her life to making her community safer, keeping children out of trouble, reducing domestic violence and helping families.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As Reno stepped forward she made no secret of her competing sympathies. Trying to find a compromise she set aside the deadline for returning Elian to Cuba and invited his Miami relatives to plead their case.
SPENCER EIG, JUDGE, FLORIDA'S ELEVENTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT COURT: Today we have filed a very significant lawsuit in federal court. It is the case of Elian Gonzalez versus Janet Reno.
RENO: My hope is that people will look at this little boy and get him into a situation where he can live a normal life without television cameras and the world in his face.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Elian himself had said almost nothing in public during his time in Miami. But one night in January, a camera caught him yelling at a passing airplane and his words quickly became a point of contention.
The family disputed the initial translation by local television and insisted that Elian had really said he didn't want to return to Cuba.
ELIAN GONZALEZ (trough translator): He has been manipulated. That is what really concerns me. And it has been concerning me for a long time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has been suggested in some quarters. I'm going to give you the opportunity to respond. That the reason you do not come to Miami is because the Cuban government is afraid that once you get to Miami you would defect. How do you respond to that?
JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ, ELIAN GONZALEZ'S FATHER (trough translator): Who said that? I think I have been extremely clear here. People think or some people think that I'm under pressure here. I have always said I haven't lost anything in Miami and sometimes what I would like to do is go down there with a rifle I don't know to get rid of how many people.
Are you serious about that, sir? That's a very inflammatory remark.
J. GONZALEZ (trough translator): And what about, isn't it inflammatory what they are doing with my son? M. GONZALEZ: I did see his anger and I did see his frustration. But
as a parent you get on the first flight you can and you just come and get your child. He's not allowed to do that. I had to take care of his child. My dad had to shelter his child.
Juan Miguel's frustration should be with the Cuban government and not with me or with our family.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Neither Juan Miguel or the Cuban government offered any compelling reason why he couldn't just go and get his son. Cuban officials cited concerns for his safety in Miami. But the widespread belief there was that Fidel either feared Juan Miguel would defect or simply wanted to keep the battle going for as long as he could.
JOAN BROWN CAMPBELL, FORMER GENERAL SECRETARY, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF THE CHURCHES: This was not a simple matter of a parent saying I miss my child. I need to bring my child home. This was going to take time and there was always the possibility that they would not be able to get him home.
I've been involved in Cuba for almost 40 years. And if you've been to Cuba and you come to know Cuban people, you really have a very different view than if you've only live in the United States.
[22:50:00] I knew that the grandmothers had a passion about getting this little boy back home. So, I had to go to Fidel Castro and I had to ask permission to take them.
MEISSNER: The grandmothers came and we tried to arrange a visit for them with Elian who of course was in Miami. And then ensued a back and forth over the terms because in fact there was such tension and unresolved issues and disagreement within the family itself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was not a negotiation. It was dictated to them that they must present the boy tomorrow or his status would be changed and the boy would potentially be sent back to Cuba immediately.
M. GONZALEZ: I'm very concerned what's going to happen tomorrow because every night I go to sleep he tells me don't let them take me back and I am going to be the one taking him to this house where I don't know what's going to happen and that I don't have control of.
I wasn't allowed to stay in the room with them and this was the perfect time for him to tell her I want to live with you if that's what was in his heart. If that would have been me, I would have run to my grandma and tell her "take me." but he didn't.
Actually, he did the opposite. He ran out of that room and all he said to me is run, run. They're going to take us. Just make me feel why I need fight for his freedom just like his mom gave her life for it.
CAMPBELL: I think for the grandmothers the meeting was extremely frustrating and they felt that he was in danger. They felt he was drugged. But they did go home having seen Elian and they did go home more determined that they had to get him home. M. GONZALEZ: I feel great and I feel confident. Yes. Strong and that
I have more feeling that I had before. Now I feel that he's more to this side than to that side.
[22:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ALAN DIAZ, PHOTOGRAPHER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: At that time I was a freelancer for A.P. I got a call from my editor. All right, this is what I want you to do. You cover Elian every day. Miami police shut down the street. The whole half block was blocked off. There were TV stations that were paying 500 a day just to have a crew in front of the house.
CAROLE FLORMAN, FORMER SPOKESWOMAN, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: Back in 1999 and 2000 we weren't actually living in 24-hour news cycles. It was a very different landscape. All of a sudden we've got media stakeouts and they are using this child almost as a prop to tell a story having him out, playing with an American flag at 11 o'clock at night. So we've not seen anything like that.
DIAZ: The rewarding of this atrocious behavior, this prodding out this kid the way they did and then you're acting shocked and surprised that it's happening. They wanted a full media blitz and we gave it to them.
FLORMAN: We had things like, you know, Diane Sawyer going to have play dates with Elian.
DIANE SAWYER, ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: We spent some time drawing some waves. A dolphin himself in an inner tube. Me, he said. I was sinking.
M. GONZALEZ: I always tell him I'm his cousin.
SAWYER: He tries to call you mom.
M. GONZALEZ: Yes. He says 'moddy' stands for mom.
M. GONZALEZ: Nobody cares about a little boy who lost his mother, who lost everything and now is about to lose the only thing that he has, which is me. And it's hard to say when he tells me please don't ever leave me, people just say return to his father but people don't live with this little boy. People don't see how this little boy feels.
[23:00:00] MANNY DIAZ, FORMER MAYOR OF MIAMI: Just the family suffers enough to throw someone over the edge. When all that is being witnessed on a daily basis by the entire world, not easy. I mean I've been involved in politics all my life, I'm a practicing lawyer, public speaker. I have the training as best you can to be able to do something like that. This family had zero, zero training.
MARISLEYSIS GONZALEZ, ELIAN GONZALEZ'S COUSIN: I have been in this for four months. Not for political issues, not to look good in front of people but for the best interests of this child. DIAZ: Remember at today's show where I think we may have left the
show and gone to the hospital, because she really took a beating, emotional beating from that process.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a loving family. They got caught up in the collective hysteria. This was the battle against Castro.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What people saw in the Elian story often depended on where they stood. As the weeks passed, national polls showed a deep divide with more and more Americans outside south Florida in favor of returning the boy to his father. But in Miami the exile's fury continued to grow, spilling over into protests that blocked traffic on the highways. And exasperated many of the cities non- Cubans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a parent and I believe a child should be with his father. It's like -- you people have no -- you don't have a clue about what being in a free society is. You have no respect for other people's opinions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't know what happened to him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I, by now, had seen the anger in Miami, I have seen the determination by some of the Miami Cubans to make sure that Elian did not leave. Senator Lehigh came to me and said we're going to get that little boy back to his father and I'm going to help you but you're never going to make it happen, if you don't involve a lawyer in this. I have a lawyer for you. His name is Greg Craig. I'm calling him now. He won't say no.
GREGORY CRAIG, LAWYER OF JUAN MIGUEL: I went to the Justice Department and said I'm going to go to Cuba and I want to be able to tell Juan Miguel that when he comes back to the United States he will be able to take custody of his son within the space of a few days, that he is not going to have to sit in some room and watch his son on television being paraded around by these relatives. They were not willing to give me that commitment.
I had nothing going down to Cuba. Other than to say now is the time to do it. To be clear, Castro was in the middle of this decision making. Castro was waking up from a nap. You could just tell he'd been asleep and putting himself together. The meeting was forever. It lasted forever and we drank more coffee and more water and people would be getting up and going off to relieve themselves. Castro didn't move for four hours. I think perhaps he had a device. He would shake his finger at me and said why do you think an American court would ever rule in favor of a Cuban national? There has never been a case where a Cuban national has won.
My only argument was I don't know of any time when the government of the United States has been on the same side of a case of a Cuban national. Which in term on the same side of the government of Cuba. That is never happened in history. So maybe the results will be different.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're talking with Dr. Andrew Wild, the author of "Eating well for optimum health."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think its fine to lower cholesterol levels.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRAIG: My name is Gregory B. Craig. I'm pleased to report that Juan Miguel Gonzales, his wife and six month old son will arrive will be coming to United States, they will arrive tomorrow morning, Thursday April 6th, at 7:00 a.m. at Dulles airport.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[23:05:00] (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
[23:10:00] (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
CRAIG: It was the next day that we had the meeting with the Attorney General. I'm driving the car and I'm saying to myself now is the time to tell Juan Miguel what his options are. There's no Cuban diplomats. Fidel Castro is not in the room. It's just the family. So I said to Juan Miguel, do you want to get Elian back this afternoon and stay in the United States with your family? You will have that opportunity, because you're going to have the commissioner of INS and they will grant that request, if you want to do that. He says thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At a certain point the Attorney General asked that everybody else leaves the room.
CRAIG: Very powerful meeting. Very powerful.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He cut off the conversation almost when it started, saying I stand by my word. I have a family in Cuba. I have a life in Cuba. My son is going to grow up as a Cuban and I am not going to be claiming asylum. He was a very proud, very clear person.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I called my cousin and said look, we need go and meet with this father and find out what he really wants to do. This is our time to find out the truth.
SAM CIANCIO, DONATO'S COUSIN: He was instantly drawn to a camera. I begged him. No more shows. No more shows and got off the airplane at Dulles. And it was probably the biggest media center I've ever seen in my entire life. Once we got into the car from the airport, it was within 60 seconds that I knew. The Cuban national foundation were not only trying to brain wash me, they wanted to look like that once we got there that Juan Miguel refused to meet us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say the news conference is going to be in about five minutes. I would recommend since we've been going all Cuban all the time that we take it.
DONATO DALRYMPLE, AUTHOR: How are you guys doing today? My name is Donato Dalrymple. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you like a spelling for that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, please.
DALRYMPLE: If I have to get on my knees, I will get on my knees for this man because I want to get on my knees for Elian, I love this boy.
CRAIG: Juan Miguel said he wanted to thank them. If it was possible to arrange without a whole lot of hoopla. Juan Miguel came in and in a very sincere way thanked them for having saved Elian's life.
CIANCIO: Juan Miguel is a very, very heart warming, loving father with tears in his eyes when he would talk to me. My heart told me the right thing and he wants his child back.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're talking about a 6-year-old little boy here. It's a child. That is all we need to be concerned about, nobody else. We need to put this baby to rest right now. Donato has to speak for himself.
DALRYMPLE: I said I'm Donato the fisherman. I was there when your son was about to drowned. And man, this guy's eyes started to well up with water and I ran over there and grab and hugged him.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
CRAIG: We didn't kick him out but we had to urge him to leave.
DALRYMPLE: I don't stand in the way of this father but I can tell you this I don't feel that he is free outside of his lawyer here. Juan Miguel said he is not going to go down to Miami, so what's going to happen?
[23:15:00] JORGE MAS SANTOS, CUBAN-AMERICAN NATIONAL FOUNDATION: We needed a family meeting away from the media, governments pitted against each other. The Cuban American national foundation against the Castro brothers. We needed to get out of that and we needed a neutral third party which I thought was the Catholic Church. We got the blessing of the pope about using the Vatican embassy in Washington.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got a call saying to go to Elian's house and saying to bring Elian to Washington. I went into the house and said if you ask me, I wouldn't do it because if you're going to ask me for any guarantee, I can't give them to you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a new element to this story. The boy's Miami relatives released a video of Elian last night. It shows him on a bed. It's not clear who was in the room with him, whether he was coached or not.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After the Miami relatives refused to bring the kid to Washington, it became clear that if we wanted Elian, we were going to have to go into the house and take him.
JAMES GOLDMAN, FORMER INS SECURITY CHIEF, MIAMI: For the last couple of days we weren't even 100 percent sure Elian was even inside the home. He was not being brought out by family members, he didn't make appearances into the crowds. The less we saw of him, the more concern we had had as to his welfare.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it comes to taking Elian by force, U.S. Law enforcement officials have a plan.
The SWAT Special operations group is available and the Florida highway patrol has placed units on alert. The final go or no go order will come only from Attorney General, Janet Reno.
For weeks the government had had been assembling a shock force of federal agents to seize Elian if necessary. But Janet Reno had misgivings that went beyond her loyalty to Cuban exiles in Miami. Just after taking office as Attorney General, Reno had ordered federal agents to raid the religious compound of Waco, Texas. 75 people died, including 25 children.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We must all reflect how we, as a society, can prevent in the future such a horrible, tragic, senseless loss of life.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Janet Reno was somebody who made her decisions based on the facts and the law.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Instead of discussing how Elian should be united, they continue to demand that we revisit the issue of whether Elian should be reunited. That is not what the law provides.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Demonstrators break through those barricades to try to form a human chain in front of this house if federal agents came to seize Elian Gonzales.
GOLDMAN: There were people in the crowds that had violent police records. There were armed individuals in the crowd. The entire event was a potential powder keg. We wanted to effect this search warrant as soon as possible. The only delays were last stitch efforts made by the U.S. Government to negotiate a peaceful, so to speak, surrender to the child of the U.S. Government.
[23:20:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ms. Reno was willing to exhaust every option. So when members of the community came in and said we think we can broke her a deal, she was willing to talk to them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were afraid that this was going to bring a lot of harm to the community and the perception of the community. This was spinning out of control.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My focus was to get the community to have a unanimous position that we're going to do this peacefully. My view we were very close to doing in two days that which had not been done in five months.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to create a scenario where the two families would go to a military base, have an opportunity to talk to each other and look for an elegant solution. We developed the points and faxed them to Janet Reno.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We get the fax off and we had been instructed by Aaron Pothers, you guys are fine. Our expectations were that we'll be out of here in a couple hours.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The offer was the same as had been made repeatedly by the family and that ultimately not only had hadn't succeeded but was not willing to in any way concede turning over the child to the father.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was just another effort. I think most of us thought to delay.
GOLDMAN: We had identified 5:00 a.m. To be an optimal time to execute this search warrant. We were ready well prior to that and still awaiting a final green light from the Department of Justice.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're in the Attorney General's office. She stated in her open line and I stayed on an open line with the INS people in Miami, because I needed to give them the order that it was a go.
GOLDMAN: I had two lines. One to the house and one to Attorney General Janet Reno. It never occurred to me that there was a raid planned and I kept saying to the Attorney General, what's the big rush about?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She gave them deadlines. She told them after this point it's going to be too late and then you are out of time. You're running out of time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was the only night that Elian didn't sleep. He was scared that they would take him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's well past midnight and I tell Aaron, look, I'm beginning to feel very uncomfortable like there's a problem here because this is a one-page document.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was questions in the room are we on hold? Is it a go? And Ms. Reno said it's a go.
GOLDMAN: Then about 4:00 we got a call from Aaron and his voice is almost shaking. And he says to me you got five minutes to wake everybody up. I woke everybody up. And while we're having that conversation, there's a bunch of yelling and screaming outside. And I said to Aaron, Aaron, the feds are here.
[23:27:29] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can we go live? Can we go live? Are we shooting it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Behind the barricade. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hoards of people were going to do everything in
their power to prevent us from reaching the front door. They chanted, they screamed, lights went on. They formed human chains. We virtually had to push our way to the front door. Behind us there was a riot going on. It was clearly organized resistance. I pounded at the door. Federal agents were executing a search warrant. Open the door, open the door. I had to give the order to breach the door.
M. GONZALEZ: I clearly remember the lady that came into get him saying where's the f-kid? Where's the f-god damn kid? I did step forward a little bit aggressive like mad and she says if you take one more step, I'm going to shoot.
DALRYMPLE: If there was anybody, it shouldn't have been me to get Elian into my arms but everyone's running to shelter because they're hearing the same thing, get down or we'll shoot and we're thinking they're going to kill us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see in the closet Donato and Elian. The boy says to me -- I said nothing's happening. Baby but everything's going to be all right.
DALRYMPLE: The door busted open and there's a federal armed agent with an assault weapon and he is got that thing pointed directly at me and Elian. All I hear is choo choo.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm flashing. I'm strobing this guy in the face. Freedom of press. You can't touch that.
DALRYMPLE: He is screaming give me the kid. Give me the f'ing kid. Within second as woman appeared in the room and that is when I handed Elian over to the agent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get ready to get the boy. They've got the boy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go, go.
MARISLEYSIS GONZALEZ, ELIAN GONZALEZ'S COUSIN: All I could hear was Elian screaming, prima, prima, prima. Just calling out and I couldn't do anything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on. Over here.
M. GONZALEZ: Elian was just a kid and that day they risked his life I sometimes wonder what Juan Miguel felt about that. I would have never wanted my child to be taken out like that.
Elian Gonzales is as we speak being flown to Andrews's air force base just outside Washington where he will be reunited with his father.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These are the first pictures we have seen of young Elian.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We should have be known we didn't want to have a bunch of photographs.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Director of public affairs said if he is flashing a pretty ugly photo around the world right now and you should really get a camera and get some pictures out there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I took that picture. Yeah. Pretty good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pictures taken by an Associated Press photographer which they'll have to answer to.
M. GONZALEZ: There's a picture of that little boy's fear, scared. So Janet Reno and everybody else don't say you came here with no violence and this boy is ok. How can this boy be ok when he had a gun at his head?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Marisleysis Gonzales expressing her feelings on what happened, describing what happened this morning.
M. GONZALEZ: They treat us like criminals. They broke -- they broke Elian's bed.
DALRYMPLE: He was saying capasa, capasa I just kept holding his head like this. America, what did you do to this boy?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.
JANET RENO, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Up until the last, we tried every way we could to encourage Castro Gonzales to voluntarily hand over the child to his father. Unfortunately the Miami relatives rejected our efforts, leaving us no other option but the enforcement action.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got a fire. Another fire.
[23:35:11] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The crowd here very angry over the Elian Gonzales situation, extremely angry with the Justice Department's handling of this situation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After the Elian incident, I think the Democrats were terribly harmed by what happened.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stand by, stand by. CNN right now is moving Florida back to the too close to call column.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Elian Gonzales issue may have driven a lot of Cuban Americans back to the Republican Party.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An election in turmoil, a presidency on the ballots, a nation waits. Who will emerge a winner in the historic Florida recount?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were ten thousands Cuban Americans Democrats who became Republicans post Elian. Had the Elian event been handled better, we might not have had the Iraq war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Bush became the President of the United States in 2000, because of Elian Gonzales. There is no doubt in my mind and I think that numbers proved that out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's a much bigger issue than that. I think what cost al gore the election was a fiasco in palm beach county Florida with the ballots. Ralph nadir getting 100,000 votes in Florida. And I doubt it had anything to do with Al Gore not carrying Tennessee, his home state.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They would not see Elian again. In late June, almost seven months after his rescue at sea, the Supreme Court finally lifted the order keeping him in the United States. He and his father were back in Cuba before night fall.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
[23:43:57] (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Castro was in fact dedicated to getting that little boy home and it became a matter of his heart. It was not now just a government victory. And Elian became virtually like a child of his.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As Elian grew up, Fidel continued to celebrate the boy's return as a triumph in the bigger chapter of Cuba's revolution.
[23:45:00] (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know what Elian's life is like now in Cuba. He more prominent probably that he can ever imagine. But whatever he is, it was created here. It was created here in Miami.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In hind sight, it had a lot of impact because it became a pivotal point for many in the community to realize that we were not having a rational approach to Cuba, that it was getting out of hand and that we need to show a different view, a different approach.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the aftermath of the Elian affair, new Cuban leaders challenge the transient of the old guard. Even the Cuban national foundation retreated, appealing to an exile community less defined by the old hatreds and paving the way for historic changes in American policy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We definitely began focusing on a younger generation both here and in Cuba. We have to talk to their hopes and aspirations. They're going to be the key to the future.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First American President in 88 years touched down just a few moments ago here in Cuba.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have come here to bury the last remnant of the cold war in the Americas. Havana is only 90 miles from Florida. But to get here we had had had to travel a great distance. Over barriers of history and ideology, barriers of pain and separation. In many ways the United States and Cuba are like two brothers who have been estranged for many years. I want the Cuban people, especially the young people, to understand why I believe that you should look to the future with hope, hope that is rooted in the future that you can choose and that you can shape and you can build for your country.
[23:50:00] (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
DALRYMPLE: Did I won the state in America, selflessly, yes. He was going to have scholarships, he is going to go to college, he is going to have the American dream, but you know in the end I realized this American dream wasn't for him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As he lives out his life, what role he will play in Cuba, what role he will play in the Cuban revolution, that is to come inevitably, he'll be part of the new generation and how he will weather that, how he will respond to that is probably partly related to what will happen to Cuba and some of that depends on us.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
[23:55:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I shouldn't be happy because a person has died but he is separated my family, my parents never got to see Cuba again so today I rejoice for this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As Cuban Americans celebrated fide Fidel's deaths, Miami's talk show replayed his comments and revisited a long running question. What sort of man had the miracle boy become?
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We always said that is what he would become, a little trophy for the government when they roll out whatever they need to.
M. GONZALEZ: People have told me did you hear what Elian say? He is brainwashed. I say he is not a fault of what he is become where he is at right now, he doesn't know any better. So I don't judge him, I just sit and wait.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
M. GONZALEZ: I would love to see him here, even if it's just to visit, but I don't see myself going back to Cuba. I feel that I would be betraying his mother.
I'm not in his future, I'm in his past. Years could go by and it's the same thing over and over.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
M. GONZALEZ: Whether it's right or wrong, we're family and we love each other. I dream to the day comes that I can speak to him. I love him no matter who or what he chooses to be.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)